Timothy Nokes-Malach

Timothy J. Nokes-Malach is an Associate Professor of Psychology and a Research Scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh. He received his Bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Post-doctoral training at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research focuses on human learning, problem solving, and knowledge transfer, and most recently on the interactive effects of motivation and social interaction on those processes. His work has been supported with grants from the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences.


Academic Title

Associate Professor


Other Titles

Research Scientist, LRDC

Member, Executive Committee, Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center (LearnLab)


Contact Information


Learning Research & Development Center
3939 O'Hara Street

University of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA 15260


Program Affiliations




Associated Research Groups

Higher Order Cognitive Collective


Research Interests

My research examines human learning and problem solving with an aim to understand, predict, and promote knowledge transfer. Specific topics include: 1) identifying the cognitive processes underlying transfer success and failure, 2) exploring the relationship between motivation, cognition, and transfer, and 3) examining social and ecological processes that support or inhibit transfer. An overarching goal is to develop instructional theories to promote learning and transfer in mathematics and science.



"… So if everyday transfer can be so easy, fluid, and fundamentally a part of human activity, then why do we have so many apparent failures of finding and demonstrating this ability in the psychologist’s laboratory? In this article we aim to address this paradox by synthesizing and integrating several lines of research into a general framework for interpreting and analyzing transfer. We constrain our examination of transfer to novice problem solvers because we are particularly interested in how students learn and transfer their knowledge in the domains of math and science. Our goal is to articulate a framework that can be used as a research tool to shed light upon the features and issues that a successful model of transfer must address.We hypothesize a set of general cognitive processes—a transfer cycle—that is activated in both situations of transfer successes and failures. Which outcome occurs depends upon the frame that is generated, the knowledge components (KCs) activated and their use in the construction of context, and the cognitive mechanisms triggered to adapt and apply that knowledge. …"

From : Nokes-Malach, T. J., & Mestre, J. (2013). Toward a model of transfer as sense-making. Educational Psychologist48(3), 184-207. doi: 10.1080/00461520.2013.807556



  • Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellow, 2004-2007, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Ph.D., Cognitive Psychology2004, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • M.A., Cognitive Psychology2001, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • B.S., Psychology1998, University of Wisconsin at Whitewater


Time at University of Pittsburgh

Since 2007


Professional Experience

Associate Professor, Psychology (Primary) and Learning Sciences and Policy, University of Pittsburgh (2013-present)

Assistant Professor, Psychology (Primary) and Learning Sciences and Policy, University of Pittsburgh (2007-2013)

Research Scientist, Learning Research & Development Center, University of Pittsburgh (2007-present)


Recent Publications

Richey, J. E. & Nokes-Malach, T. J. (in press). Comparing four instructional techniques for promoting robust learning. Educational Psychology Review. doi: 10.1007/s10648-014-9268-0

Nokes-Malach, T. J., & Mestre, J. (2013). Toward a model of transfer as sense-making. Educational Psychologist48(3), 184-207. doi: 10.1080/00461520.2013.807556

Alfieri, L., Nokes-Malach, T. J., & Schunn, C. D. (2013). Learning through case comparisons: A meta-analytic review. Educational Psychologist48 (2), 87-113. doi: 10.1080/00461520.2013.775712

Belenky, D. M., & Nokes-Malach, T. J. (2012)Motivation and transfer: The role of mastery-approach goals in preparation for future learning. Journal of the Learning Sciences21 (3), 399-432. doi: 10.1080/10508406.2011.651232

Nokes, T. J., Hausmann, R. G. M., VanLehn, K., & Gershman, S. (2011). Testing the instructional fit hypothesis: The case of self-explanation prompts. Instructional Science39 (5), 645-666. doi: 10.1007/s11251-010-9151-4