Robyn Thomas Pitts

Assistant Professor

What I do

I am an evaluation scientist who studies how people learn to do community-engaged research and evaluation

Specialization(s)

Professional education for methodologists

Professional Biography

Dr. Thomas Pitts, PhD, MEdT, is an assistant professor at the University of Denver (DU). She began her career as secondary science educator, earning a professional Master of Education in Teaching (MEdT) degree from the University of Hawai’i at Manōa. She specialized her studies through an emphasis on secondary science and a research focus on scientific literacy. During her career as an educator, Dr. Thomas Pitts designed and implemented more than 10 unique science courses, trained 3 cohorts of new teachers in summer training institutes, and founded the first Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) charter high school in Colorado as part of a 7-member founding team. Dr. Thomas Pitts leveraged her student learning outcomes (SLO) assessment expertise as a clinical skills coordinator at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM).

In both institutions, Dr. Thomas Pitts streamlined systems and logistics for SLO assessment and facilitated educational programming centered on developing competencies through interim, formative, and summative assessment. At KDC, she was responsible for leading the site-level K-12 state assessment program and for school report card-based action plans required by Denver Public Schools. At VTCSOM, she was responsible for facilitating medical education (MedEd) performance assessments known as objective, structured clinical examinations (OSCEs) and for partnering with medical educators to align content, instruction, and assessment with medical licensing examination (USMLE) requirements.

Through her doctoral training at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Dr. Thomas Pitts explored the use and influence of assessments within educational organizations while working on a number of studies involving assessment in higher education, standardized testing, accountability reporting, and educational evaluation. As an assistant professor, she has developed courses on research design, ethics, and evaluation and created extracurricular learning opportunities for aspiring evaluation and assessment methodologists. Dr. Thomas Pitts annually hosts Evaluating Better Together for regional evaluators and engages in program assessment using SLO evidence as a DU assessment fellow. She also serves as Vice-Chair for the International Society for Evaluation Education (ISEE), a role through which she represents ISEE within the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE).

Currently, Dr. Thomas Pitts studies evaluation education and evaluator education programs, teaches evaluation and mixed methods, directs REACH (the Research, Evaluation, & Assessment Collaboratory Hub at DU), and provides evaluation consultation services on grant-funded projects advancing equity and promoting culturally responsive educational models. Outside of the university, she spends her time parenting, hiking, biking, camping, and skiing.

Degree(s)

  • Ph.D., Educational Research Methodology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 2017
  • M.Ed.T., Professional Teaching Degree, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2009
  • BS, Biological Sciences, University of Alabama, 2007

Professional Affiliations

  • American Evaluation Association
  • Colorado Evaluation Network
  • American Educational Research Association
  • National Council on Measurement in Education
  • International Society for Evaluator Education
  • Colorado Collaboratory
  • National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity
  • The American Association for Teaching & Curriculum

Research

I research how and why people learn evaluation in the university setting, including a focus on student learning outcomes assessment, organizational learning, and the use of evaluation to support classroom learning. In this context, I research how evaluation affects people and situations with an overall focus on culturally responsive and reflexive practices. I currently teach graduate-level courses in research methods and evaluation, including many experiential learning courses, and manage a student interest group, a collaboratory hub serving the community, and annual conference for local evaluation students/practitioners.

Areas of Research

Mixed Methods Research
Assessment in Higher Education
Research Ethics

Featured Publications

Presentations

  • Experiential learning: How novice evaluators apply their studies in fieldwork
  • Let's meet where you are: Building community-engaged learning opportunities for future practitioners
  • Instructor perspectives: Understanding learning priorities in evaluator education programs
  • Navigating the unknown: Curricular design for inclusion and differentiation in evaluation education
  • Prioritization of training by instructors of evaluation: Initial findings
  • Wicked issues in university-based evaluation training

Awards

  • Teaching Excellence, Morgridge College of Education
  • Faculty Career Champion [Nominee], The Office of Career & Professional Development, University of Denver