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Ph.D. Learning Sciences

Our graduate programs at Clemson University build on the rich experiences and expertise of faculty and students to provide an educational environment in which both groups share in research, exploration and inquiry. The result of this synergy is impact — on our community and beyond.

  • Overview

    The Doctor of Philosophy in learning sciences is a research degree intended to advance the understanding of how people learn by examining the culture, approaches and attributes of learners in a variety of learning environments. This program is designed for individuals who seek practical and theoretical training as tenure-track faculty, research scientists, developers, instructional designers and practitioners in professional, non-profit and academic settings. Students within the learning sciences program may seek answers to questions regarding best strategies for ensuring that students excel across a variety of subject domains. They may explore the underlying processes that support learning, the multiple contextual and social influences on learners, the use of digital media to accomplish cognitive tasks or create innovative environments for learning, and the diversity of methods for systematically studying complex learning in a variety of settings. Graduates may pursue employment in higher education, Fortune 500 companies, school settings, the military or a host of other industries, working in research and development, school administration, curriculum design, program evaluation, assessment design, or digital media and game development.

    The interdisciplinary nature of the learning sciences Ph.D. program offers students flexibility to customize a program of study tailored to meet their learning or career goals.

  • Program Goals

    Students in the Doctor of Philosophy program in learning sciences will:

    • develop, deliver, revise and evaluate effective learning experiences;
    • gain scholarly expertise through rigorous training in quantitative, qualitative and mixed method research;
    • design and implement rigorous research studies in areas related to the learning sciences;
    • analyze existing research and participate in scholarly discourse in the field; and
    • apply leadership skills in areas such as academia, business, government or health care.
  • Admission Requirements

    The learning sciences doctoral program admits for fall only. Only complete applications are considered for admission. The priority application deadline is January 15. The application deadline is April 15. To ensure consideration for an assistantship or University Fellowship, applicants are encouraged to apply early. Applications will be reviewed beginning January 15 and will be accepted for consideration until April 15. Meritorious applicants will participate in an on-campus or Skype interview.

    Admission requirements include the following:

    • A master's degree is preferred, but not required. Master's applicants with a GPA of 3.5 on 4.0 scale; bachelor's degree with a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. GPA exceptions are considered for applicants with extremely rigorous academic programs.
    • Two letters of reference.
    • Unofficial transcripts (Official transcripts will be required if recommended for admission.)
    • Competitive GRE or GMAT scores.
    • Current resume/vita.
    • Letter of intent – Writing sample that communicates the applicant's professional philosophy and goals, research interests and purpose for seeking the doctorate. The letter should be two to three pages in length.
    • Students whose native language is not English must submit acceptable scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), unless an undergraduate degree was completed in the United States.
    • In addition to the application packet, students may be required to participate in an on-campus or telephone interview. Interviews are conducted in February and May.
  • Program Requirements

    Please see the Learning Sciences Graduate Student Handbook for more information.

    Doctor of Philosophy: minimum of 60 credit hours

    Research Courses (minimum 12 credit hours):
    EDF 9270 Quantitative Research Designs and Statistics for Educational Contexts
    EDF 9770 Multiple Regression/General Linear Model in Educational Research
    EDF 9790 Qualitative Research in Education
    One advanced research methods course – approved by committee

    Core Courses (12 credit hours):
    Two doctoral seminars:
    EDF 9010 Seminar in the Learning Sciences I – fall, 3 credits
    EDF 9020 Seminar in the Learning Sciences II – spring, 3 credits
    Two doctoral-level Learning Theory Courses – approved by committee
    EDF 9070 Sociocultural Theories of Learning
    EDF 9300 Bioecological Perspectives on Development and Learning
    EDF 9550 Theoretical Bases of Instruction

    Cognate Courses (minimum 18 credit hours):
    Cognate courses will be selected from the following programs: Architecture; Communication Studies; Computer Science; Digital Production Arts; Education; Early Childhood Education; Elementary Education; Educational Foundations; Educational Leadership; Literacy; Middle Level Education; Secondary Education; Special Education; Family and Community Studies; Graphic Communications; Health, Education, and Human Development; Human-Centered Computing; Psychology; Rhetoric, Communication, and Information Design; and Sociology.

    Dissertation: minimum 18 credit hours

  • Faculty

    Nicole BannisterNicole Bannister

    Nicole Bannister (Ph.D., University of Washington) is an assistant professor of mathematics education and mathematical sciences at Clemson University. Bannister's work as a mathematics educator and learning scientist rests on three empirically grounded premises. First, the implementation of novel teaching practices is best understood as an issue of teacher learning. Second, teachers’ practices are shaped, in part, by the affordances and limitations of their work environments. Finally, both students and teachers learn best when they have opportunities to engage in their own understandings and are given access to richly represented concepts to support new learning. In light of these premises, Bannister pursues research to specify the practices and conditions supporting equitable mathematics teaching, especially in high-needs settings where teachers and students are underserved. By studying professional learning in teacher communities in ways that are linked to instructional change, her research and related outreach activities contribute to better outcomes for students and teachers. Bannister is a 2014 AMTE STaR fellow, and was the 2012-2013 recipient of the Eugene T. Moore School of Education Excellence in Teaching Award. She has forthcoming articles in the Journal of the Learning Sciences (JLS), the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education (JRME), and the Educational Forum.

    David BarrettDavid Barrett

    Dave Barrett, Alumni Distinguished Professor, has been a member of the Clemson faculty since 1986. Previous academic appointments are Laboratory of Developmental Psychology, National Institute of Mental Health (1974-1980) and Harvard Medical School/Children’s Hospital, Boston (1980-1986). Barrett’s research has been published in Child Development, Developmental Psychology, Pediatrics, Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, Remedial and Special Education, and Teaching and Teacher Education as well as in other journals. Barrett is Associate Editor of Journal of Disability Policy Studies. A licensed psychologist, Barrett has served as Chair of the South Carolina Board of Examiners in Psychology (1996-2003) and member of the Item Development Committee of the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (2004-2013).

    Matthew BoyerMatthew Boyer

    D. Matthew Boyer (Ph.D, Michigan State University) is an assistant professor of digital media and learning at Clemson. Matthew teaches an undergraduate teacher education course, Foundations of Digital Media and Learning, and graduate courses in qualitative research methodology and the learning sciences, including game-based learning research, design and development. As a committed generalist, his research integrates a range of academic concepts and areas of study. His current research projects include work with game-based learning, learning analytics, professional learning and learning environments, which are all seen in connection with digital media. He is interested in mediated learning: how we use digital tools to better connect to information and communicate with others in the process of learning.

    Danielle HerroDanielle Herro

    Danielle Herro (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison) is an assistant professor of digital media and learning at Clemson University. She is currently an Edmund W. Gordon/MacArthur Foundation Fellow for 21st Century Learning and Assessment, and an invited Playful Learning Fellow, helping advance game-based learning in schools. Dani teaches courses on social media, games and emerging technologies, recently developing and teaching, “Theoretical Foundations of Games for Learning.” At Clemson, she co-designed and opened Digital Media and Learning and Gaming Labs in the College of Education. Her current research interests involve investigating stealth assessments in games, the efficacy of teacher professional development towards integrating digital media and ways to foster computational thinking practices in adolescents. Dani has published in the Journal of Research on Technology in Education (JRTE), the Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education (JDLTE) and Educational Media International (EMI), and written book chapters on game-based learning in schools. She has articles forthcoming in Tech Trends, the Journal of Computing Teachers and Theory into Practice.

    Faiza JamilFaiza Jamil

    Faiza M. Jamil is an assistant professor of educational foundations – psychology in the College of Education. Jamil’s research interests include the measurement and professional development supports for teacher effectiveness and psychosocial functioning, with a particular focus on teacher stress and well-being. She is also interested in the influence of classroom processes, especially teacher-student interactions, on development of students. Jamil is a trainer for the classroom assessment scoring system at the Pre-K, upper elementary, and secondary levels, and has extensive experience using it in research contexts. During her time at Clemson, she has published in journals such as Elementary School Journal, Child Development, and Early Childhood Research Quarterly, and has been principal investigator of a professional development project using reflective writing to improve the psychological well-being of Head Start teachers.

    Alison LeonardAlison Leonard

    Alison E. Leonard, assistant professor of arts and creativity, holds a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from University of Wisconsin-Madison and a M.A. in performance studies from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. At Clemson, Leonard has taught courses on the arts in schools and qualitative research. Currently, she is a co-investigator on a project called VEnvI (Virtual Environment Interactions) that works to engage middle school students in computer programming through embodied ways of thinking and is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation. Leonard also researches arts education models in schools, how students perceive the arts in learning, and ways in which the arts can be used in transformative ways to foster democratic education and in promoting social justice. In Godfrey Hall, she designed and maintains the College of Education’s Arts and Creativity Lab. In a “former life," she worked as an arts/dance instructor and danced professionally. She still dances today…but more often at her laptop.

    Meihua QianMeihua Qian

    Meihua Qian is an assistant professor of educational psychology at Clemson University. She received her Ph.D. in educational psychology and inquiry methodology (dual majors) from Indiana University at Bloomington. She joined Clemson University in 2013, and teaches courses on educational psychology, assessment and statistics. Her current research focuses on creativity assessment, gifted education, technology, descriptive and explanatory multi-level item response theory models, and multiple level modeling. She has published her research in several highly ranked journals, including Creativity Research Journal, Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts (PACA), Journal of Creative Behavior, Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment and Psychology and Marketing. With her expertise in creativity and statistics, she has been serving as a reviewer for PACA since 2011. She is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards including several research fellowships from Indiana University and Travel Award from the American Psychological Association. In 2013, she received the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) Outstanding Doctoral Student Award. This highly competitive award recognizes recent graduates of programs in gifted education, who have demonstrated exemplary work in research, publications and educational service, and have outstanding potential for future scholarship.

    Debi SwitzerDebi Switzer

    Debi Switzer is a professor of education at Clemson University. She teaches educational psychology courses, including learning and motivation theory, and tests and measurements. She spent the first nine years of her career as a secondary mathematics and computer science teacher. She received her Ph.D. in educational psychology (quantitative and evaluative research methodology) from the University of Illinois Urbana. She has been at Clemson University since 1990. In 2000 she was named a Distinguished Professor by the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, and in 2003 she received the Prince Award for Innovation in Teaching presented by the Clemson University student government. She served as a consulting editor for the Journal of Educational Research for two terms. In research projects she has collaborated with faculty in engineering, psychology, education, recreation, counseling, public health and business, supplying expertise in assessment and experimental design. In 2000, she received the Harold E. Mitzel Award for Meritorious Contribution to Educational Practice Through Research. Her interests in motivation, assessment and research design include the instructional benefits of virtual worlds and other technologies.

    Phil WilderPhil Wilder

    Phillip Wilder is an assistant professor in adolescent literacy at Clemson University. He received his Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2013. While at Illinois from 2007-2013, his work in a school-university partnership through the Center for Education in Small Urban Communities used collaborative practitioner inquiry to design responsive teaching practices, which expand notions of literacy and learning in secondary schools. Now at Clemson University, his primary research involves partnering with schools to improve responsive teaching practices and the disciplinary literacies of adolescents.

    Affiliated Faculty

    Sociology and Anthropology

    Ellen GranbergEllen Granberg, Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs

    Ellen Granberg, Ph.D., is a social psychologist interested in health and mental health. Her research focuses on two key questions. First, how do people navigate experiences that involve dramatic change in health related identities such as being overweight or obese? Second, how can families help adolescents and young adults cope effectively with the transition between childhood and adulthood? Currently, she is investigating the role of family racial socialization as a buffer assisting children when coping with the mental health consequences of social stress and discrimination. She studies these questions using both qualitative and quantitative data. Research interests include: self and identity processes involving obesity and weight loss; mental health consequences of obesity; mental health consequences of racial discrimination.

    Melissa VogelMelissa Vogel, associate professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

    Melissa Vogel, Ph.D., has worked at various sites in Latin America since 1995, including Nicaragua, Belize and Peru. From 2004-2012, she directed Project El Purgatorio on the north coast of Peru, the proposed capital of the Casma polity. This project focused on the development of Andean cities and the effects of urbanism on the local populace. Taking a public interest approach to archaeology is an essential aspect of her projects, which work closely with local Peruvian communities. Her previous research examined frontiers and border zones in ancient Peru. In addition to her primary focus of anthropology, Vogel has a background in women's studies and experience working in applied anthropology.

    Stephanie SouthworthStephanie Southworth, Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

    Her educational background includes:

    - Ph.D. Public Policy, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2008
    - M.A. Sociology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2004
    - B.A. Sociology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2001


    June PilcherJune Pilcher, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Psychology

    June Pilcher’s, Ph.D., research interests include the effects of stress and fatigue in educational and workplace settings. She is interested in many types of potential stress in modern society including sleep loss, poor sleep habits, cold or hot temperature exposure, lack of self-regulation and sedentary behavior. Her research team has recently started a FitDesk (stationary bicycle with a desk top) initiative on campus that is expanding to K-12 educational settings where students, faculty and staff can use the FitDesk to remain active while working. Please see Pilcher’s web page for more information/publications.

    School of Computing

    Kelly CaineKelly Caine, assistant professor, School of Computing

    Kelly Caine is director of the Humans and Technology Lab and assistant professor in the Human-Centered Computing Division of the School of Computing at Clemson University. Her current research interests include the psychology of privacy, and usable privacy and security with a focus on human factors issues related to designing privacy-enhanced systems. She is the recipient of grants the National Science Foundation, the Institute for Information Infrastructure Protection (I3P) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, and awards from the National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, Product Design and Marketing Association, American Public Health Association and GVU Center. Prior to joining Clemson, she was principal research scientist in the School of Computing at Indiana University and a UX researcher at Google. She holds degrees from the University of South Carolina (B.A.) and the Georgia Institute of Technology (M.S. and Ph.D.).

    Shaundra DailyShaundra Daily, assistant professor, School of Computing

    Shaundra Daily, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the School of Computing at Clemson University. She received her doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering from the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University - Florida State University College of Engineering, as well as a S.M. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Currently, Daily is the director of Morphlab, which focuses on designing, building and evaluating interactive technologies to support shifts in perspectives, attitudes, emotional dispositions and cognitive habits. Currently, her group is designing and implementing a system to support teachers in understanding classroom engagement from a physiological perspective, as well as a virtual environment to support students in learning computational thinking as they program three dimensional characters to perform choreography.

    Graphic Communications

    Suzanne EdleinSuzanne Edlein, visiting lecturer, Graphic Communications

    Suzanne Edlein’s career in the printing industry has been spent predominantly in teaching. She is an alumni of the Clemson graphic communications program, graduating in 1991, after which she continued her work at Clemson for six years running technical symposia, conducting industry research and teaching hands-on print training classes to industry clients through the Print/Con Center and the GC Industry Training Program. She spent the following seven years as a training specialist and consultant to the flexography print segment. Suzanne returned to Clemson as a visiting lecturer, working primarily as lead instructor in the introductory graphic communications classes where she gives students the opportunity to experience screen printing, lithography and flexography first hand.

    Dr. Sam IngramSam T. Ingram, professor, Graphic Communications

    Sam T. Ingram, Ph.D., is a professor of graphic communications (GC) and department chair at Clemson University, where he has been a faculty member for 28 years. He received his undergraduate B.S. degree from Appalachian State University in 1978. He received his doctorate from Clemson University in 1985. He served as chair of the graphic communication department from 2002 to 2015. His primary responsibilities at Clemson are administration for the department, teaching, research and interaction with the printing industry. Ingram teaches all printing processes with a special focus in color reproduction, color science, process control and production workflow. Ingram was a primary planner in the development of the Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics on the Clemson University campus. He has held membership in a number of technical and trade associations, including the Technical Association of the Graphic Arts (TAGA), Flexographic Technical Association, Gravure Association of America, Graphic Arts Technical Foundation, Screen Graphics and Imaging Association, National Association of Printing Leadership, Printing Industries of America, Printing Industries of the Carolinas, Packaging and Label Gravure Association, Southeastern Prepress Association and the International Graphic Arts Education Association. He is a member and co-chair of the Flexographic Quality Consortium Executive Committee. Ingram has served two terms on the board of directors for TAGA and numerous technical committees in other organizations. He received the Mentor Award from the Screen Printing Association International (now SGIA) in 1988. Ingram’s research in color measurement, color management systems and print process modeling continues. He has co-authored five TAGA technical papers detailing color reproduction work. PIA/GATF published his book, A Screen Printing Primer, in 1999. He was presented the President’s Award by the FFTA in 2007. The Academy of Screen Printing Technology elected Ingram to membership in 2003. He has participated in the United States Technical Advisory Group since 1997 (effort regarding ANSI and ISO print standards). Ingram, with three Clemson colleagues, was awarded U.S. Patent 8,691,116, April 8, 2014–Conducting Polymer Ink.

    Nona WoolbrightNona Woolbright, associate professor, Graphic Communications

    Nona Woolbright, Ph.D., has been a faculty member at Clemson University since 2002 and has over 20 total years of teaching experience. She is currently lead instructor for Senior Seminar and Advanced Flexography. She is also co-instructor for Computer Art and CAD Foundations. Over the past six years, Woolbright has coordinated the Phoenix Challenge college team – an international competition for flexographic printing where her team has won multiple awards. Recently, she developed the department’s first study abroad program which it is now in it’s third successful year. Past classes she has taught includes Planning and Controlling Printing Functions and Introduction to Graphic Communications. She has also been a judge for the Flexographic Technical Association (FTA), as well as served on several FTA committees. Woolbright is also the department’s graduate studies coordinator and has been appointed to a number of other departmental and University-wide committees over the years. She has a strong interest in management and personnel practices for the printing industry, as well as developing creative problem solving techniques for teaching package printing and design.


    Dr. Joseph MazerJoseph P. Mazer, assistant professor, Department of Communication

    Joseph P. Mazer, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Clemson University. He is also the director of the Social Media Listening Center, an interdisciplinary research lab and teaching facility that provides a platform to listen, measure and engage in more than 650 million sources of social media conversations across the web by capturing publicly available data from Facebook, Twitter, blogs, online communities and mainstream news outlets. His scholarly interests are in instructional communication, new communication technologies/social media, interpersonal/family communication and quantitative research methods. Mazer’s research has encompassed a range of topics including effective teacher communication behaviors, emotion in teaching and learning, teachers’ use of social media to engage students, college student academic support, effective communication practices between parents and teachers at the K-12 level, communication trait predictors of social media usage, and measurement and data analytic issues and trends in communication research. Mazer is listed among the top 1 percent of prolific scholars in the discipline of communication studies spanning 2007-2011, according to a study published in the October 2012 issue of Communication, a national journal published by the National Communication Association. His research has been recognized through top paper and panel awards from the National Communication Association and Central States Communication Association, as well as the Lightsey Fellowship and Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research from Clemson University’s College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities. He joins William Seiler and Melissa Beall as a member of the authorship team for Communication: Making Connections, an introductory communication course textbook (in its 9th edition) published by Pearson. He has received international, regional, University-wide and departmental recognition for outstanding teaching. Mazer is an active member of the National Communication Association and Central States Communication Association where he has held several leadership roles.


    Cynthia HaynesCynthia Haynes, professor of English, Department of English

    Cynthia Haynes is Director of First-Year Composition and Professor of English. Her research interests are rhetoric, composition, multimodal pedagogy, virtual worlds, critical theory, computer games studies, serious design, and the rhetoric of war and terrorism. With Jan Rune Holmevik she co-chairs the RCID PhD program Serious Games Colloquium. Her book, The Home/Sick Phonebook: Addressing Rhetorics in the Age of Perpetual Conflict, is forthcoming in Oct 2016 from Southern Illinois University Press.

    Dr. Sean WilliamsSean D. Williams, professor of professional communication, Department of English

    Sean D. Williams, Ph.D., is professor of professional communication and Spiro Faculty Fellow at Clemson University where his research considers user experience design (UXD) and its implications for humanizing technology, specifically within startup businesses. His most recent research investigates the role that affective and design issues play in online usability and learning, particularly in 3D virtual worlds, and the possibilities for creating a more expansive communication practice in this new medium. He also publishes on communication issues for entrepreneurship strategy, manages multiple communication consulting and contracting projects and has been a co-founder of three ventures. His thoughts have appeared in trade magazines, trade journals, academic journals, professional books and academic books.

  • Find Out More

    For more information regarding the program or questions associated with applying to this program, please contact Julie Jones at or 864-656-5096.