History of Center

The conception of the center began in 2013 when a group of faculty members at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education discussed the need for an interdisciplinary hub of leadership on studies connected to motivation, learning, and child development. With tremendous support from the Provost Beeson and Dean Lesgold, faculty members from the School of Education, Learning Research and Development Center, the School of Social Work, and the School of Arts and Sciences were recruited to form the center’s steering committee. The purpose would be to organize research in the development of cognitive factors and learning in formal and informal settings for students from the pre—K to the undergraduate level. The steering committee is currently headed by Dr. Ming-Te Wang. At the core of the center lies the desire to apply research on motivation in learning into education, and positively affect the educational experiences of students locally and beyond.

Mission Statement

The Motivation Center (MC) at the University of Pittsburgh is an interdisciplinary research center with the aim of promoting basic and applied research on learning in its motivational, socio-cultural, and affective aspects and to make research and child development links to formal and informal settings from infancy to higher education. MC advances the science of learning by bringing together leading researchers in the learning and prevention sciences, cognitive, social, and developmental psychology, and behavioral economics and addresses questions of how motivation can be leveraged as an integral part of students’ learning.

The Goals of the Center

  1. Develop mechanism-based theorizing in motivation science and identify mechanisms that are amenable to interventions;
  2. Advance the quality and use of empirical evidence on innovations and interventions to improve teaching, academic and socio-emotional learning, and education policy;
  3. Establish partnership with communities and schools to develop effective means of incorporating research into education.
  4. Provide training opportunities for undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students interested in studying the social and psychological origins of individual and group differences for motivation


The Motivation Center currently structures its research within these five concentration areas:

  1. Cognitive skills and learning
  2. Early childhood education and school readiness
  3. Race, poverty, inequality, and achievement gap
  4. Affective arousal, emotions, and cognitive learning
  5. Educational access and transition from childhood to adolescence to adulthood