ASU professor wins national psychology award

woman speaking to students

Michelene “Micki” Chi, the Dorothy Bray Endowed Professor of Science and Teaching in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, has been named the winner of the 2015 E.L. Thorndike Award for Lifetime Contribution in Research from the American Psychological Association.

Considered the association's most prestigious award for Division 15, it is given to living recipients for substantial career achievements in educational psychology. Chi will receive the award and deliver the award address at the association’s annual convention in August 2016 in Denver, Colorado.

“I am still totally in shock and it’s awe-inspiring to be included among icons such as Jean Piaget, B.F. Skinner, Benjamin Bloom, John Bransford and David Berliner,” Chi said. “I am especially proud that two of us (Berliner) at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College are recipients of the Thorndike Award.”

The award is named for Edward Lee Thorndike (1874-1949), an American psychologist and educator at Teachers College, Columbia University. Thorndike’s groundbreaking work on comparative psychology helped lay the scientific foundation for modern educational psychology, and was a pioneer of employee exams and testing. Thorndike was also a former American Psychological Association president.

Tim Urdan, who is the current chair for the association’s selection committee, said the Thorndike Award is based on three major criteria: contributions to educational psychology; sustained level of contribution to the field; and original, scientific, empirically-based research that contributes to knowledge, theory or practice in educational psychology.

“It’s recognition for [Chi's] entire career as a senior scholar,” Urdan said. “The selection committee felt her contributions to the field are substantial as well as influential.”

Mari Koerner, dean of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, praised Chi as an innovative academic leader.

“In a college where teaching and learning are of paramount importance, Dr. Chi’s work is especially significant and valued,” Koerner said. “Her research focuses on active learning as a model fits so well with the philosophy of what good educators have discussed for years. She is a modest person whose hard work and intelligence has constantly led the way for the learning sciences.”

Chi is the author of more than 120 academic publications. Her collective work has now been cited over 30,000 times. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Education and has five pending grants under review by the National Science Foundation and the Institute of Education Sciences. She has also won several awards and recognition for her work, most recently the Sylvia Scribner Award for work that has influenced the thinking and research in the field of learning and instruction, and the Wickenden Award for highest standards of scholarly research in engineering education. In 2001, Chi was cited in Carnegie-Mellon University’s Centennial Magazine as one of its most successful undergraduates.