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University of Pittsburgh    
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jul 14, 2024
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Learning Sciences and Policy, PhD

*PhD students admitted prior to Fall 2023 are eligible to follow these revised requirements to qualify for graduation.*

The Learning Sciences and Policy (LSAP) PhD program brings three groups of faculty expertise together into a collaborative research and training environment: learning sciences in education; content-based educational research; and education policy and organizational change. The goal for the program has been to produce a yearly cohort of 5 to 8 nationally-competitive research scholars who have the training, track-record, and vision to become leaders in understanding and promoting educational change.

Our program is based on the belief that understanding learning, teaching, and organizations is best undertaken as an interactive system, and that an integrated and coordinated interdisciplinary approach is best suited to understand, design, and implement educational change. The program combines disciplines in learning sciences, teaching in the content disciplines, and organization and policy studies with the goal of improving instruction at scale, and is predicated on the idea that successful policy solutions will require learning on the part of educational professionals at all levels of the system.

Innovative features of the LSAP PhD Program:

  • Students will be immersed in rigorous interdisciplinary research and training experiences from their first day in the program.
  • Access to Pittsburgh’s rich talent pool of analysts and research in education policy and learning including research scientists at Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC), policy specialists at the RAND Corporation, research methodologists at Carnegie Mellon, and education reform specialists at the Institute for Learning.
  • Admitted students will be guaranteed full funding (for three years) through research assistantships that will allow them to work alongside active researchers on funded research programs.
  • Students will be provided opportunities to participate in a semester of field placement and/or a semester of teaching practicum at the college level. Field placements provide experiences outside the university (e.g., museums, school districts, community centers, and research centers).
  • Active involvement in ongoing research projects.
  • Integrated coursework that covers the fields of Learning Sciences, Learning Policy and Organizations, and Content Area Learning.
  • Rigorous training in quantitative, qualitative, and mixed research methods.


For additional degree requirement information, refer to the School of Education section on Doctoral Degree Requirements.


Degree Requirements

Doctoral students in the Learning Sciences and Policy program who enter the program without a master’s degree in a relevant field are required to take six core courses, a minimum of six research methods courses, and eight advanced seminars in an area of specialization. Students also participate as part of a faculty member’s research team throughout their time in the program. As part of that research team, students engage in every phase of the research process, apprenticing under the active mentoring of the faculty member. Additionally, doctoral students are expected to complete at least two independent research projects under the supervision of the faculty. Students will be provided opportunities to participate in practica/internships, the purposes of which are to expose students to a range of kinds and forms of research and build students’ professional skills. Students with a Masters degree in a related field can transfer credits toward the PhD with approval by the LSAP faculty.

Requirement Classes Credits
A. Core Courses 4 12
- Learning Sciences and Educational Change (1)  
- Education Policy (1)  
- Organizational Perspectives on Educational Improvement (1)  
- Design (1)  
- First Year Seminar (EDUC 3102  and EDUC 3105 )1 2 3
- Writing Seminar2 9 9
B. Research Methods 6 18
- Required coursework in year 1 includes Quantitative 1 (EDUC 3100 ) and 2 (EDUC 3103 ); Qualitative 1 (EDUC 3104 ) (3)  
C. Advanced Seminars/Directed Studies in Area of Specialization3 12 30-36
- Supervised Research (2)  
D. Internship 2 0-6
E. Doctoral Dissertation Research 6 18
Total   90

1 First Year Seminar meets every other week, with 1 credit in fall and 2 credits in spring, taken over and above the typical 9-credits course load.

2 Writing Seminar taken over and above the typical 9-credit course load beginning in the second year of study. 

3 This includes courses taken outside the School of Education.

Total Credits: 90

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