Michael Skirpan

PhD Student, Research & Evaluation Methodology (REM) and Educational Foundations, Policy & Practice (EFPP)


My interest in education started during my undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh where I studied philosophy, economics, and physics and did my honors thesis on the philosophical foundations of curriculums, particularly critiquing the teaching of facts versus learning skills.  Afterwards, I was a researcher at the Learning Research and Development Center under Julie Fiez where we studied the neurological and psychological foundations of math learning.  During this time I developed online systems for large-scale experimental data collection.  

Now as I graduate student at CU-Boulder, I am a PhD candidate in the School of Education with an academic plan to also receive a JD from the Law School and a Masters from the Computer Science Department. My research will go between these three areas, specifically looking into the creation of free online resources for public educators, the nature of public vs. private ownership of educational materials, and how to shape academic evaluation to promote citizenship, social responsibility, and empathy.


Entering into the program my interests lie at the intersection of education, law, and computer science.  They span the legality of public/private ownership of educational materials, creating free online spaces to aid public educators in finding and creating classroom materials, generating new methods of assessment that include empathic and social skills, and understanding how to make schools a place that empowers students to improve their communities.  I am also interested in the gap between the language of policy and academic research, and making explicit the relativity of the term 'achievement' as it pertains to various evaluation standards.  

Previously, I researched the neurological and psychological foundations of mathematical learning at University of Pittsburgh's Learning Research and Development Center.  During this time I also worked on developing methods to crowd source large volumes of data reliabilty for behavioral experiments using Amazon TURK.


Tutor - University of Pittsburgh (2008-2010)

Service & Outreach

Co-founder of a non-profit organization interested in creating open source materials for educators, scientists, and writers, and instructible models for DIY and sustainability projects (2013)

Featured Spoken Word Poet in SKIN - a Pittsburgh community outreach show about race and ethnicity (July-August 2011)

Selected Publications

Learning How to Learn: An Essay on the Philosophy of Education (2011) [BPhil Thesis]