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Ph.D. Literacy, Language and Culture

 ***The LLC Program will NOT be accepting applications for Fall 2021***

The Literacy, Language and Culture Program concentrates on issues related to learning about literacy and language in formal and informal settings such as schools, communities, and families. Some of the issues that can be explored within the Literacy, Language, and Culture program include biliteracy and bilingualism, children’s and young adult literacy, digital literacy, diversity and critical literacy, early literacy development, elementary literacy development, English education, literacy assessment, literacy in the disciplines, and writing. This program provides rich experiences and expertise of faculty and fellow students to provide a student-centered environment in which both groups engage in research, exploration, and inquiry.

  • Overview

    The Literacy, Language and Culture Ph.D. program at Clemson University is grounded in research and inquiry, and built on the rich experiences and expertise of its faculty and students who acknowledge the centrality of culture on literacy and language practices. We seek strong applicants with potential and drive to serve as innovative leaders in the field of literacy. Applicants with unique personal and professional experiences and diverse perspectives are expected to engage with and be challenged by faculty and fellow doctoral students.

    The program provides in-depth, advanced education to individuals who hold a master’s degree in education and are pursuing careers as researchers and teacher educators at the college and university levels. The Ph.D. in literacy, language and culture prepares knowledgeable and skilled educators who promote equitable and effective instruction to improve literacy and language for students of all ages in a myriad of educational and community contexts.

  • Program Goals

    The program prepares educators and scholars with sophisticated understandings of the relationships among literacy, language and culture, and the ability to use this knowledge to improve learning in in- and out-of-school contexts.

    Program graduates will be able to:

    • Review, analyze and synthesize empirical research and theoretical literature in literacy, language and culture.
    • Apply theories and research to policy and current issues in the field.
    • Use knowledge of cultures’ influence on in- and out-of-school language and literacy practices to
      • capitalize on the cultural and linguistic strengths of learners and their families as resources for literacy teaching and learning; and
      • foster relationships with learners, families and communities in ways that honor the culturally specific ways of knowing and being in the world.
    • Analyze the relationships among economic and social inequality and literacy, and language development.
    • Critique and conduct research relevant to language, literacy and culture.
  • Admission Requirements

    The LLC Ph.D. Program will not be accepting applications for the doctoral program for 2021

    The M.Ed Literacy program is accepting applications for both summer and fall 2021

    Admission to the Program
    Literacy, Language and Culture applicants may only begin the program each fall. Only complete applications are considered for admission. To ensure consideration for an assistantship or University Fellowship, applicants are encouraged to apply by the priority deadline.

    The Literacy, Language and Culture PhD program accepts students in cohorts.

    Application Deadlines
    All application materials must be submitted by the following deadlines:

    • January 15, priority deadline
      • Applications will be reviewed and considered for assistantships
    • April 15, traditional deadline
      • Applications will be reviewed, but assistantships may or may not be available

    Application Requirements
    To be considered for the program, applicants must:

    • Have a minimum of three years teaching experience or the equivalent
    • Have completed a master’s degree with a GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale
    • Submit a Graduate School application which requires:
      • Unofficial transcripts (Official transcript will be required if you are accepted into the program.)
      • Competitive GRE scores
        • GRE scores accompanying a Ph.D. application will be considered as part of a holistic application review. However, due to current testing challenges, the submission of GRE scores will be optional for Fall 2021 Ph.D. applicants.
      • A current resume
      • Three letters of recommendation
      • A sample of professional writing
      • A letter of intent communicating the following: (a) professional goals, (b) teaching philosophy, (c) research interests and (d) purpose for seeking the doctorate degree
      • Official TOEFL/IELTS scores for international students
    • Participate in an on-campus or Skype interview (meritorious applications only)

    Additional information concerning supporting materials can be found at:

  • Program Requirements

    Participants are immersed in a culture of intellectual curiosity aimed at developing the next generation of scholars who will advance knowledge leading to innovative, adaptive and transformative practices in schools and communities. The program focuses on acquisition of deep and critical knowledge of various theoretical perspectives, current data and diverse research methodologies in an effort to further literacy as a means for enhancing personal and social wellbeing. Public, civic and social engagement is expected as a necessary and natural extension of academic scholarship within and beyond the program.

    Literacy, Language and Culture Ph.D. (66 credit hours minimum):

    Core Literacy, Language and Culture courses (15 credit hours)

    EDLT 9000 Sociocultural Theories of Learning
    EDLT 9100 Theoretical Models of Reading and Writing
    EDLT 9110 Academic Writing
    EDLT 9140 Language Development, Diversity and Discourse
    EDLT 9440 Reading Research: Review and Critique of the Literature

    Cognate courses (12 credit hours)

    Students select four additional courses that will constitute a cognate. Please note that the cognate courses should be approved by the committee. Examples of cognates include areas of study such as dual language learners, disciplinary literacy, reading and writing instruction, early literacy, children’s literature, and digital literacies. The cognate courses can be selected from those offered in the College of Education or outside the College in other disciplines such as sociology, psychology, English, and linguistics. 

    Research methods courses (16 credit hours)

    The following three courses (10 hours) are required:

    EDF 9270 Quantitative Research Designs and Statistics for Educational Contexts
    EDF 9271 Quantitative Research Designs and Statistics for Educational Contexts Lab
    EDF 9770 Multiple Regression/General Linear Model in Educational Research
    EDF 9790 Qualitative Research in Education

    Two courses (6 hours) selected from the following list are options:

    EDF 9080 Educational Tests and Measurements 
    EDF 9710 Case Study and Ethnographic Research Methods and Design
    EDF 9720 Phenomenology and Grounded Theory Research Methods and Design
    EDF 9730 Narrative and Historical Research Methods and Design
    EDF 9750 Mixed Methods Research
    EDF 9780 Multivariate Educational Research
    EDF 9810 Design-based Research Methods
    EDSP 9360 Single-Subject Research Design
    MATH 8070 Applied Multivariate Analysis
    PSYC 8730 Structural Equation Modeling in Applied Psychology

    Departmental doctoral seminar (2 credit hours)

    ED 9030 Introductory Doctoral Seminar I
    ED 9040 Introductory Doctoral Seminar II

    Teaching internship (3 credit hours)

    EDLT 9290 College-Level Teaching in Literacy, Language, and Culture

    Dissertation course (18 credit hours minimum)

    EDLT 9340 Doctoral Dissertation Research in Literacy, Language and Culture

    In addition, students will:

    • engage in scholarly writing, publication and presentation of research and papers at national and international professional conferences;
    • complete qualifying examinations and/or projects;
    • develop an approved dissertation research proposal; and
    • successfully conduct original research and write and defend a dissertation.
  • Financial

    Tuition and Fees

    Explore information on tuition and fees using the Student Financial Services’ tuition and fee calculator. ( Be sure to choose the ‘graduate’ tab at the top of the page.)

    Financial Aid

    For information regarding Financial Aid, please contact the office of Student Financial Aid.


    A limited number of graduate assistantships are available each year through the department, and they tend to be competitive. Assistantships are available to full-time students (enrolled in at least nine credit hours per semester) and typically require a 20-hour per week work commitment. To be considered for an assistantship, we encourage applicants to submit their applications by the priority deadline.

  • Faculty

    Lisa Denise Aker Lisa Denise Aker, Ph.D.

    Aker received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Literacy from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2018. Lisa worked in Virginia public schools for 11 years as an elementary classroom teacher, reading specialist, and leveled literacy intervention coach. Her research focuses on teacher professional development, literacy coaching, early literacy intervention, and metacognition. She is currently serving as the Co-Editor of Reading Matters, the Journal of the South Carolina State Council of the International Reading Association.


    Celest (C.C.) Bates Celeste C. (C.C.) Bates, Ph.D.

    Bates’s research interests include use of technology in teacher training, classroom management and differentiated reading instruction in the primary grades. Bates is an associate professor of literacy education, and is also the director of the Reading Recovery® and Early Literacy Training Center for South Carolina.


    Mikel Cole Mikel Cole, Ph.D.

    Cole's areas of interest include English language learners in K-12 settings, equitable and effective pedagogies for emergent bilinguals, the preparation of teachers to work with culturally and linguistically diverse students, and the intersection of language policy and practice in schools and classrooms. He is an associate professor in Literacy, Language and Culture.


    Emily Howell Emily Howell, Ph.D.

    Howell has taught English and writing at the secondary and collegiate level and currently teaches pre-service teachers and graduate students in education employing both online and face-to-face classroom environments. Her research interests include multiliteracies, adolescent literacy, writing instruction, and digital tools. Emily approaches research through partnerships with teachers using methodologies such as design-based research. Her research has been published in journals such as Journal of Literacy Research, The Reading Teacher, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, and Professional Development in Education.


    Susan Crindland-Hughes Susan Cridland-Hughes, Ph.D.

    Cridland-Hughes’ areas of interest include adolescent literacy; morality-literacy studies, history of literacy, culture and literacy, and English education. She is an assistant professor in English education.


    Pamela Dunston Pamela J. Dunston, Ph.D.

    Dunston’s research focuses on struggling readers, digital literacy, and adolescent literacy and reading motivation. She is an associate professor of literacy education.


    Susan King Fullerton Susan King Fullerton, Ph.D.

    Fullerton’s research interests include strategic reading processes, comprehension instruction, literary response and discussion, struggling learners (including deaf/hard of hearing), and teacher expertise and decision making. She is an associate professor of literacy education.


    Kathy Headley Kathy Headley, Ed.D.

    Headley’s research interests include adolescent literacy, writing, and interdisciplinary specializations in comprehension and vocabulary. As professor of literacy, she is actively involved in literacy policy and implementation at the state, national, and international levels. Beginning July 1, 2019, Headley will serve as president of the International Literacy Association (ILA).


    Jacquelynn Malloy Jacquelynn A. Malloy, Ph.D.

    Malloy’s current research emphases include learner engagement, particularly as related to instructional design, and discussion as a tool for learning and developing communities of learners – particularly in the content areas. She is also investigating teacher visioning and transformative teaching practices with a focus on equity education. She is enthusiastic about the contribution of formative and design experiments in advancing transformative educational goals.


    Jonda McNair Jonda C. McNair, Ph.D.

    McNair specializes in literature intended for youth with an emphasis on books written by and African Americans. She is a past chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee and was recently appointed to serve as chair of the 2021 John Newbery Medal Award Selection Committee. She is a professor of literacy education.


    Rachelle Savitz Rachelle Savitz, Ph.D.

    Prior to receiving her doctorate from the Department of Theory and Practice in Teacher Education at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 2017, Dr. Savitz was a public school educator for 12 years. Her research explores teacher self-efficacy and professional development, student-centered pedagogy that focuses on inquiry and equity for all students, adolescent literacy, culturally sustaining pedagogy, and young adult literature.


    Phillip Wilder Phillip Wilder, Ph.D.

    Wilder received his Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis in Literacy, Language, and Culture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2013. A former secondary teacher and literacy coach, his work from 2007-2013 in a school-university partnership through the Center for Education in Small Urban Communities supported how middle and secondary teachers employed responsive pedagogy to support the disciplinary literacies of adolescents. Now at Clemson, his research explores the intersection of humanizing pedagogy, mindfulness, and literacy.


  • Find Out More

    For more information regarding the program or questions associated with applying to this program, please contact Alison Search at or 864-250-8880

View the Brochure


Program Handbook

Download the LLCU Handbook