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Learning, Development, and Instruction

Goals of the Program

The Learning, Development, and Instruction specialization of the Doctoral Program in Educational Psychology is designed to provide students with background in theory and research and to teach students to design and conduct empirical studies to address important theoretical or practical questions and issues.

(1) The program prepares students to study, analyze and explain human cognitive, language, literacy, and learning processes in both formal and informal instructional contexts ranging from preschool through adulthood.

(2) The program prepares students to design and study instructional procedures that enhance learning, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the interventions.

Processes of special interest include language and symbolic development, how children achieve communicative competence, reading and writing acquisition and instruction, use of computer-based multimedia environments to improve instruction in science and other content areas, and application of educational videogames to improve learning.
Processes characterizing special populations (e.g., second language learners, low SES urban students enrolled in NYC public schools, students with a reading disability) are of special interest as well.


Students must enroll on a full-time basis in the LDI program as described below. To be considered full-time, students must take at least 9 credits (three courses) per semester. Our courses are offered in the late afternoon (4:15 p.m.-6:15 p.m.) and early evening (6:30-8:30 p.m.). Each class meets for two hours, one day per week, between Monday and Thursday. This makes it possible for teachers working in schools and others who are employed to complete our program.

Years Required to Complete the Program

Full-time students may complete the program in approximately five years. This would involve completing 60 units in seven semesters (9 units per semester) followed by a dissertation in 3 semesters.


Prior to entering the program, students must complete three prerequisite courses: an upper division course in psychology, a course in statistics, and a course in experimental psychology. Students may apply to the program without these courses but they must complete the courses before they begin the program. In addition they must take the Graduate Record Exam.

Course Requirements in the Program (60 credits total)

Students in Learning, Development and Instruction first complete 8 basic level courses. These include the following:

General Educational Psychology requirements (12 credits)
These courses are completed during the first year by all Educational Psychology students:
- History and Current Systems in Educational Psychology (3 credits)
- Statistics and Computer Programming (two semesters) (6 credits)
- Research Methods in Educational Psychology (3 credits)

Core LDI Courses (12 credits)
- Cognitive Development and Learning Processes in Education
- Social and Motivational Development in Education
- Instructional Issues: Individual Differences, Group Processes and School Contexts
- Language and Communicative Development: Research and Education

Students also complete more advanced-level courses that enrich their background in Learning Development and Instruction and prepare them to conduct research. These courses are small and involve a seminar format. The following are possible topics: Communication and Cognitive Development; Communication in Development and Learning; Language Processes in Learning and Instruction; Theory and Research in Early Literacy; Theory and Research on Literacy in School Settings; Theory and Research on Reading Disabilities; Issues at the Intersection of Cognition and Assessment.

In selecting advanced-level courses, students may elect to pursue a sub-specialization in research on the acquisition of literacy. The focus here is on the development of reading and writing processes from the preschool years through adulthood. Topics include the following: prerequisites and predictors of learning to read in pre-readers (e.g., phonemic awareness, letter knowledge, listening to storybooks), word reading, spelling, reading comprehension, vocabulary acquisition, fluency, causes of reading disabilities, and instructional effects. The faculty adviser of this program is Linnea Ehri (see her website).

Another sub-specialization involves communication in development and learning. The focus is on the complex social and cognitive processes in which symbol systems (e.g., language, literacy, and numeracy) are acquired. Particular attention is given to the specific practices and contexts in which these systems are used. It also includes the emergence of new modes of representation and communication that are enabled by the newly acquired symbolic practices. The instructional implications of this body of work are also considered, especially the implications of digital media for learning and development, including the development of web-based environments, such as simulations and video games. The faculty adviser of this program is Bruce Homer (see his website).

RESEARCH TOOLS: (6 or more credits)
To equip students with the research tools needed to conduct empirical studies, students complete a least two, more advanced level, quantitative courses. These might be selected from the following list: psychometrics; general linear model; categorical data analysis; hierarchical linear models; path analysis, factor analysis structural equations. These courses are taught in a user friendly way enabling LDI students to grasp the information and statistical procedures.

Students may also enroll in courses at neighboring institutions through a university consortium. If courses are not offered in our program, and if the courses provide additional preparation for the conduct of a dissertation, then at CUNY tuition rates, students may enroll in courses at Teachers College, Fordham University, New York University, Rutgers University, Princeton University, and SUNY Stony Brook.

Towards the end of students' coursework, to prepare for their dissertations, they take a supervised research course (3 credits) in which they conduct a pilot study. This work is supervised by an adviser they have selected as their dissertation mentor. Students review the literature on a topic, issue, or problem, formulate questions or hypotheses, design a study to address their questions or test their hypotheses, conduct the study, and write up a report. If the study or a revision of it holds promise, then this provides the basis for designing a dissertation study.

The program requires students to complete at least 60 credits (20 3-credit courses). Students entering with a Masters degree may apply for transfer credit of courses they have taken. Up to 9 transfer credits are routinely granted for graduate-level courses in the domain of Learning Development and Instruction. This leaves students with 51 credits to complete in the program.

Level 1 and Level 2 Examinations

Basic courses combined with reading lists enable students to prepare for Level 1 written exams. These exams are taken prior to the beginning of the 5th semester in the following areas: (1) Statistics, (2) Research Methods, (3) Cognitive and Motivation, and (4) Instruction and Language Development. Exams are given twice a year, at the end of January and August.

Once LDI students complete 60 credits of coursework including their supervised research, then they take the Level 2 written exams, one exam in Learning and Development, and another in Instruction. Reading lists and sample questions as well as coursework assist students in preparing for the exams. These exams are also given twice a year, at the end of January and August.

Advancement to Candidacy and Completion of the Dissertation

Upon successful completion of the Level 2 exams, students are advanced to candidacy and move to Level 3 to begin their dissertation research. This involves having their topic approved by the department, writing a research proposal in consultation with their adviser and two other members of their dissertation committee, presenting the proposal to the department, obtaining approval from their committee, conducting the study, and writing it up as their dissertation. The written dissertation is submitted to five members of a dissertation defense committee. The committee meets with the student for an oral defense of the dissertation.

Before they conduct their pilot study and dissertation study, students must submit an application and obtain approval from the Graduate Center's Institutional Review Board (IRB) to conduct research with human subjects.

Research Experience

Full-time students may be hired to work on research grants with faculty or staff at the Center for Advanced Study in Education (CASE), a research center at the Graduate Center. Students may elect to conduct and report on studies as term papers in their courses. Most importantly, students will complete a pilot study followed by a dissertation.

College Teaching Experience

Often our students are hired as adjunct instructors to teach undergraduate or graduate courses at one of the CUNY senior colleges (i.e., Hunter, Queens, City, Brooklyn).

Financial Assistance

Full-time students who are admitted to the LDI program will be considered for financial aid in the form of an Enhanced Chancellor's Teaching Fellowship. This provides funding for five years. During the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years, students teach on one of the senior college campuses. Additional sources of financial aid are available for minority students.

Employment after Graduation

Our graduates have assumed faculty or research positions in universities, public school systems, agencies devoted to education and evaluation and private corporations. (See student profiles of graduates.)

Academic Climate and Culture

The Educational Psychology program is relatively small. We admit about 16-20 students per year in the fall. Students work cooperatively in their courses. They spend time in the student lounge collaborating on projects and working on computers provided by the department. Faculty offices are nearby and faculty members are accessible. A child care center enrolls young children of grad students. Some housing is available for grad students.

A restaurant is open on the top floor with a glass ceiling revealing a view of the Empire State Building located across the street. The Graduate Center in located in midtown Manhattan, near Macys and Lord and Taylor department stores, Herald Square, and many other shops and restaurants. Penn Station and Grand Central Station are close by for commuters to Connecticut and New Jersey. Broadway theaters and museums are within walking distance as well as the NYC Public Library.

Student Profiles

Student Dissertations