We are an academic home for informal learning. Our works ranges from basic learning research, to research/practice partnerships, to field-building and professional development for the informal learning world. We also offer a part-time Ed.D. degree in Out-of-School Learning for those who want to be transformational leaders in educational practice, and full time Ph.D. training in Learning Sciences and Policy for those who want to be researchers.

UPCLOSE is a project of the Learning Research and Development Center and School of Education.




Kevin Crowley, Director, is a professor of Learning Sciences and Policy in the School of Education and a Research Scientist at LRDC. His research focuses on all things informal. He holds a Ph.D. and MS in Developmental Psychology from Carnegie Mellon, and a BA in Psychology and Education from Swarthmore College.

Karen Knutson, Associate Director, is a Research Associate at LRDC. Her research interests are in museum learning, art education, and organizational change in informal institutions. She holds a Ph.D. in Education from the University of British Columbia and an MA in Art History from Queen's University. 

Rachel Nicole Bonnette is interested in researching informal learning experiences and their relationship to problem solving, creativity, and related skills, and is focused on improving outcomes and equity in education for disadvantaged children. She has an MPP and JD with certification in Child and Public Interest law from Loyola University Chicago.

Marijke Hecht focuses on environmental education, youth development, and nature. Marijke worked for nearly 20 years in a variety of educational settings, including teaching middle school math and science in NYC public schools, teaching adults English in Bolivia, and educating community members about local environmental health and stewardship of Pittsburgh's greenspaces. Most recently she was the Director of Education for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. She received her Master of Science in Botany from the University of Vermont and her Bachelor's degree from Hampshire College.

Mary Ann Steiner focuses on informal learning and community engagement. She has a background in youth developoment, and has worked at the Science Musuem of Minnesota, the National Science Foundation, and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. She has a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, an MEd from the University of Minnesota and a BFA from Bard College. 

Marti Louw is Director of the Learning Media Design Center at Carnegie Mellon University. Marti is a design researcher, with a background in science communication, exhibition design, and film-making. She holds an MDes from Carnegie Mellon and a BS in Biology from Carleton College. 

Lisa Brahms is Director of Research and Learning at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. She focuses on making and tinkering in informal settings, and leads national initiatives on creating making spaces in museums and libraries. She has a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, and an MSEd in Childhood and Museum Education from Bank Street College and a BA in Jewish Studies from Vassar College.


Kevin Crowley, LRDC 822, University of Pittsburgh, 3939 O'Hara St., Pittsburgh PA 15260

Interested in informal learning? You should also check out informalscience.org