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School of Education - George Mason University

The PhD in Education with a specialization in literacy(ies), culture, and reading is individualized, interdisciplinary, and experiential. Students plan their own programs to meet self-defined goals with the guidance and support of faculty advisors. Literacy(ies), Culture, and Reading Specialization courses can be applied to primary or secondary specialization areas.

If you have questions about this specialization, please contact the specialization representative, Allison Parsons.

About the Specialization

Faculty in the Literacy(ies), Culture, and Reading Specialization have research interests spanning teachers’ beliefs, literacy coaching, teacher education, professional development, adolescent literacy best practices, social equity through science education, adaptive teaching, digitally supported reading and writing, urban teacher education, social justice education, elementary students and fiction reading, and coding literacy. They have served as president of the Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers, led international literacy education boards, published dozens of articles and books, served as educational consultants at school systems at home and overseas, garnered numerous awards for literacy learning research, and been awarded millions in research grants from the National Department of Education.

The Literacy(ies), Culture, and Reading specialization prepares scholars for careers in research and teaching at colleges and universities as well as roles in public policy and school leadership. 

What Will You Learn? 

The specialization features coursework and applied internships that enable you to learn:  

  • Theory and research in reading and literacy across the developmental spectrum 
  • Foundational knowledge about literacy teaching and learning at all levels 
  • Research methodologies to address a variety of literacy topics 
  • Specialized knowledge in literacy related to your area of interest 

How Will You Learn? 

Your advisor will guide your doctoral experience by supplementing coursework with professional experiences, including:  

  • Attending and/or presenting at professional conferences 
  • Graduate Research assistantships or internships 
  • Independent study 
  • Teaching and/or co-teaching 
  • Writing, editing, and reviewing for scholarly journals 

Where Can This Specialization Take You? 

Graduates of this program work to improve literacy education and public policy while advancing the global conversation on the topic of literacy. They hold professional positions such as:  

  • Academic faculty at post-secondary institutions 
  • Consultants with private companies, education and research think tanks, and non-government organizations
  • Curriculum leaders in major K-12 school districts 
  • Literacy policy analysts for the National Education Association 
  • Research fellows at the Fulbright Institute 
  • Senior researchers at the American Institutes for Research 

Specialization Courses

Each student prepares an individual program of study in consultation with their Program Advisory Committee. The following courses can be taken as part of a student’s primary or secondary specialization coursework:

See additional coursework required as part of the PhD in Education degree.

Our Graduates

Vilma LePelch, PhD 2021

  • Dissertation Title: Sharing Cultural Knowledge Through Intercultural Competence: A Collective Case Study of Exemplary Content Area Teachers Working with Latina Immigrant Youth in Grades 9-12
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Seth Parsons
  • Award: 2022 Outstanding Dissertation Award: Research in Reading Special Interest Group of AERA
  • Employment on Graduation: English as a Second Language Teacher, Manassas Public Schools

Zahra Alhuwairini, PhD 2020

  • Dissertation Title: Mainstream Teachers’ Perceptions of the Effectiveness of Professional Development Programs in Meeting the Academic and Literacy Needs of Adolescent English Language Learners
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. William Brozo

Ellen Clark, PhD 2020

  • Dissertation Title: The Interactions between Anti-Refugee Rhetoric, Monolingual Language Ideologies, and Refugee Literacy in the United States and Australia: A Comparative Case Study
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Kristien Zenkov

Jennifer Lindenauer, PhD 2020

  • Dissertation Title: An Exploration of How First Grade Children from Diverse Linguistic and Cultural Backgrounds Use Play to Construct Literacy Learning in One Elementary School
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. William Brozo

Michael Richardson, PhD 2020

  • Dissertation Title: The Crescent and the Dynamo: The Cultural and Linguistic Attitudes of Muslims in the Washington Metropolitan Area
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Kristien Zenkov

Fahima Choudhry, PhD 2019

  • Dissertation Title: Choosing a Road Less Travelled: Portrayals of Social Studies Teachers Integrating Inquiry-Based Instruction
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Rebecca Fox

Jan Ainger, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Exemplary Teachers of Reading: Their Inclusion of Students with Disabilities and Their Collaboration
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Seth Parsons

Joanna Newton, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Teachers’ Experiences with Professional Development and a Morphological Approach to Vocabulary Instruction
  • Dissertation Chairs: Dr. Elizabeth Sturtevant & Dr. Seth Parsons
  • Employment on Graduation: Educational Specialist, Elementary School Language Arts; Fairfax County Public Schools