Education, Ph.D.
(Learning Sciences and Psychological Studies)

Program Description

Learning Sciences and Psychological Studies (LSPS)

The Learning Sciences and Psychological Studies (LSPS) PhD program draws upon the relatively new field of learning sciences that has emerged to address the increasingly inter- and multidisciplinary nature of work within and beyond the academy.  Program faculty represent a diverse set of academic backgrounds and fields (e.g., critical theory, educational psychology, psychometrics, school psychology, socio-cultural studies, mathematics and science education, technology studies, statistics).  LSPS focuses on learning, a cognitive, social, and cultural activity that is distributed among the participating actors as individuals and groups within a specific context.  The strand examines formal and informal learning within and across multiple contexts (e.g., teaching and learning in classrooms, centers, communities, homes, museums, schools, virtual environments) from multiple perspectives (e.g., critical, disciplinary, design-based, post-positivist, post-structuralist, and structuralist).  The rigorous study of formal and informal learning utilizes multiple paradigms and employs quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods approaches most appropriate for the questions investigated.  The examination of formal and informal learning seeks to understand how people learn and how this learning is influenced by knowledge, networks, social and societal structures, tools (e.g., technology), and an array of socio-cultural factors.  The goals of this examination of learning is to produce theory, generate research, inform policy, and develop practice that lead to the construction and design of environments that facilitate optimal opportunity, and access for and development of all participants, within the contexts in which formal and informal learning occurs.  LSPS is committed to the preparation of doctoral students who develop an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary-based expertise within a concentration (e.g., mathematics and science education, education and technology, cognition and learning, quantitative methods and evaluation).  LSPS intends to develop doctoral candidates who thoroughly understand theory, research, the paradigmatic underpinnings of each, and the plausible implications of each for policy and practice; who are able to generate scholarship and design and conduct rigorous theory-driven research appropriate for the issues identified; and who are able to foster mutually informative, translational relationships among the diverse stakeholders in academic, policy, and practice communities.

Students interested in LSPS can elect to concentrate in a number of areas including Mathematics Education, Science Education, Educational Technology, Cognition, and Quantitative Methods and Evaluation.

The Ph.D. program in Education, Learning Sciences and Psychological Studies (LSPS), prepares students to: a) conduct rigorous theory development and research that spans multiple academic disciplines, using multiple and mixed methodologies, to understand how people learn in an array of formal and informal educational settings, b) integrate and critique these multiple perspectives on learning, c) design environments, contexts, and interventions that facilitate learning and development in these educational settings, and d) foster mutually informative, translational relationships between academic, policy, and practice communities. The design of the LSPS program requires committed engagement on the part of students, and faculty, in order to benefit from the dynamic interaction that occurs when multiple, interdisciplinary perspectives are used to inform learning and achievement.

The faculty of the LSPS program represent diverse of academic backgrounds (e.g., educational psychology, sociocultural studies, STEM education, technology studies, educational testing, statistics). The faculty are committed to the preparation of multidisciplinary doctoral students who will be highly competitive for top positions in academia, research organizations, private industry, non-profits, and school and other environments. A key aspect of that preparation is the engagement of doctoral students as key participants in maintaining robust research agendas around the both the science and practice of learning.

Learning Sciences Partners at UNC

Morehead Planetarium

We are fortunate to share a campus with one of the largest planetariums in the United States, the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. Morehead provides curriculum and traveling exhibits to North Carolina schools and conducts after school programs, summer science camps, and science outreach programs for learners of all ages throughout the region. LSPS students interested in pursuing training and research in informal science education will be helped and encouraged to participate in numerous informal science education activities at the Morehead. The Director, Todd Boyette, holds a faculty position in LSPS.

Eshelman School of Pharmacy

The SOE and the LSPS program share a campus with the top-ranked School of Pharmacy in the United States, and its Center for Innovative Pharmacy Education Research (CIPhER). The overall mission of CIPhER is to enhance the effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of pharmacy education practice by improving the quality, relevance, and applicability of pharmacy education research and scholarship. CIPhER supports several LSPS graduate students engaged in education research initiatives at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Jacqui McLaughlin, an assistant professor of educational innovation and research at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and Director of Education Research for CIPhER, holds a faculty position in LSPS.


Applications for the Fall 2019 Admission Term are due
February 12, 2019

A bachelor’s degree is required for application to the Ph.D in Education program. Applicants with Master’s degrees are also encouraged to apply.

For detailed application instructions please visit our Admissions page.