Department of Surgery

Eliza Beth Littleton, PhD

  • Research Associate Professor
  • Learning Scientist in Surgical Education

The Department of Surgery’s education agenda can be thought of as spread across four kinds of efforts: Assessment, Curriculum, Research, and Translation. Dr. Littleton’s current objective is to design comprehensive, integrated assessments of learning. Insightful measures are needed to evaluate education, and often technology is required to implement them. The focus of the Pittsburgh Surgical Education Research Program (PSERP) is “what learners do to learn, and what teachers do to teach.” The PSERP team treats these as dynamic processes of reasoning, performing, and interacting and examines the needs and prior knowledge of learners and teachers because neither learners nor teachers are blank, identical slates. The goal is to produce an environment in which learners and teachers can develop not only competencies in surgery and education, but also insight and innovation - one in which surgeons perfect their surgical expertise by teaching others; develop as educators; and profess Surgical Education as a distinct and intellectually challenging discipline.

Education & Training

  • BA, English, Writing Concentration, University of Tennessee
  • BA, French, University of Tennessee
  • PhD, Rhetoric and Instructional Science, Carnegie Mellon University

Representative Publications

Dr. Littleton's publications can be reviewed through ORCID.

Selected Publications

  1. Sutkin G, Littleton, EB, Kanter SL. Maintaining Operative Efficiency While Allowing Sufficient Time for Residents to Learn. Am J Surg (in press).
  2. Sutkin G, Littleton EB, Kanter SL. Intelligent cooperation: a framework for pedagogic practice. Am J Surg 2018 Apr;215(4):535-54.
  3. Hill, KA, Littleton, EB, Hamad, G. Differences in Mindset between Teachers and Learners in the Operating Room. Journal of the American College of Surgeons 225(4):S174.
  4. Sutkin G, Littleton EB, Kanter SL. How surgical mentors teach: a classification of in vivo teaching behaviors part 1 verbal teaching guidance. J Surg Educ 2015 Mar-Apr;72(2):243-50.
  5. Sutkin G, Littleton EB, Kanter SL. How surgical mentors teach: a classification of in vivo teaching behaviors part 2 physical teaching guidance. J Educ Surg 2015 Mar-Apr;72(2):251-7.

Research, Clinical, and/or Academic Interests

  • Medical and surgical education
  • Resident education
  • Learning and assessment
  • Faculty educator development
  • Expert/novice differences
  • Cognitive task analysis
  • Social network analysis
  • Distributed team training and team science
  • Sociolinguistics and communication        

Research Grants

  • Provost’s Personalized Education Grant Program, University of Pittsburgh, a recommender system to gather social network data of students’ interests and faculty research projects and recommend Netflix-style faculty as potential mentors and advisors. Project title: “It’s Who You Know: Feasibility of a Hybrid Recommender System to Connect Students with Informal Social Networks of Pitt Researchers”