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College of Education

Learning Sciences, Ph.D.


The Doctor of Philosophy in learning sciences is a research degree intended to advance the understanding of how people learn by examining the context, 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. Our world-class faculty have expertise in a broad range of topics related to learning technologies, educational psychology, and advanced research methodologies.

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  • Overview

    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. Our graduate program builds 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.

  • 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
    • Apply leadership skills in areas such as academia, business, government or health care.
  • Admission Requirements

    Admission to the Program
    The Learning Sciences doctoral program admits students for a fall entrance term. 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.

    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 1, traditional deadline – Applications will be reviewed, but assistantships may or may not be available

    Application Requirements

    • Have completed a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale or a recognized international university with a baccalaureate degree equivalent to a U.S. bachelors.
      • A master's degree is preferred, but not required. Master's applicants with a GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale;
      • GPA exceptions are considered for applicants with extremely rigorous academic programs.
    • Submit a Graduate School application which requires:
      • Unofficial transcripts – Official transcripts will be required if you are accepted into the program.)
      • Competitive GRE or GMAT scores – GRE scores accompanying a Ph.D. application will be considered as part of a holistic application review. 
      • A current resume
      • Two letters of recommendation
      • 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.
      • Official TOEFL/IELTS scores for international students
    • Participate in an on-campus or Skype interview (meritorious applications only)

    Additional information concerning supporting materials

  • Program Requirements

    For more detailed program information, please refer to the program handbook.

    Learning Sciences Ph.D. (61 credit hours minimum):

    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 – suggestions: 
    EDLT 9000 – 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.

    Research Courses (minimum 13 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

    Dissertation course (minimum 18 credit hours):
    EDF 9910 – Doctoral Dissertation Research

  • Financial Information

    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.

  • Information Sessions & Calendar

    Review our College of Education Graduate Calendar to view upcoming events and information sessions.

  • Find Out More

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

Department of Education and Human Development
Department of Education and Human Development | 209 Gantt Circle