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Literacy Studies, Ph.D.

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The Literacy Studies Ph.D. Program at Middle Tennessee State University is designed to address one of education's most pressing needs—the shortage of scholars, practitioners, administrators, and policy-makers equipped to bridge the gap between the rapidly expanding body of scientific research on the development of literacy and educational practice, policy, and professional preparation. Drawing on the faculty from the College of Education, the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences, and the College of Liberal Arts, this interdisciplinary program offers a flexible framework of courses, field experiences, teaching, and research opportunities designed to provide professionals in various spheres of influence with the essential knowledge, skills, and abilities to effectively address the literacy crisis in the United States and beyond.

Recent Student Success  


What We're Doing

Dream job integrates developmental reading and writing instruction

Dream job integrates developmental reading and writing instruction

“In spring 2013, I was collecting data for my dissertation, an investigation of the impact of literature circles (classroom-based book clubs) on reading outcomes for college students. I was especially interested in how the reading-writing connection could enhance comprehension and skill transfer for struggling students,” remembers Davonna Thomas, who says she was “up to her eyeballs in coursework and dissertation” but dreaming of a position in which she could teach developmental integrated reading and writing. A series of events she attributes to fate resulted in her landing a position at Coastal Carolina Community College as their developmental reading and English coordinator. “The new developmental curriculum has been enormously successful, as evidenced by statewide performance measures and observation of our successful students. I am wildly fulfilled in my position at Coastal. I am entrusted to develop course materials and assessments. I get to teach an incredibly special student population in the way that I believe is most effective. I can honestly say that none of this would have been possible if I hadn't earned my Ph.D. in Literacy Studies at MTSU,” says Thomas, who describes the interdisciplinary program as “tight-knit and supportive” with a breadth of experiential opportunities.

Program takes a unique and multi-faceted approach to reading

Program takes a unique and multi-faceted approach to reading

“I like that this program takes a unique and multi-faceted approach to understanding reading.” says Casey Brasher, who holds both an M.S. and Ed.S. from MTSU and is completing her Ph.D. dissertation. “The component of the program most interesting to me is the emphasis on translation of research to practice,” says Brasher, explaining that she had to continue working as a school psychologist while enrolled in Literacy Studies. “The courses and experiences I had in the program have directly informed and improved my practice as a school psychologist.” Not only have faculty members guided her studies but have supported her personally. During her second semester in the program, she found out she was having twins! “The faculty was very understanding about my taking time off due to complications with the pregnancy. They helped and encouraged me throughout the re-entry process. My twin girls are turning 5 now. I started the program with three kids and will be graduating with five!” In 2014, Brasher started teaching as a graduate adjunct one class each semester in the Department of Elementary and Special Education.

Graduates from the Literacy Studies Ph.D. Program may be employed in a variety of professional positions. Examples include, but are not limited to

  • College/university faculty
  • Leaders in literacy reform
  • Materials/test developers at publishing companies
  • Professionals at federal/state/local education agencies
  • Researchers
  • School consultants
  • Teacher trainers

Employers of MTSU Literacy Studies Ph.D. program alumni include

  • Austin Peay State University
  • Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools
  • Coastal Carolina Community College
  • Colorado Department of Education
  • Gestalt Community Schools
  • Huntsville, Alabama, City Schools
  • Lebanon Special School District
  • Lipscomb University
  • MTSU Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia
  • MTSU College of Education, adjunct
  • New Hope Academy
  • Rutherford County Schools
  • Self-Employed
  • Sumner County Schools
  • Tennessee Department of Education
  • Tullahoma City Schools

MTSU’s College of Education offers the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Literacy Studies. Effective Fall 2019 this program will be a 75-hour, post-bachelor's, interdisciplinary program with faculty from the College of Education, the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences, and the College of Liberal Arts. (Applicants holding a master's degree may transfer up to 15 credit hours with approval) Within the new program are three concentrations:

  • Literacy Instruction and Staff Development
  • Reading Disabilities/Dyslexia
  • Literacy Measurement and Analysis

Admission to the program is based on qualifications including GRE scores, GPA, letters of recommendation, professional experience, career goals, and ability to communicate orally and in writing. Currently the program admits students in fall semester only. February 1 is the deadline for priority consideration for admission and graduate assistantships. General application for fall admission must be submitted by June 1.

The Literacy Studies Ph.D. Program is prepared to supply a limited number of graduate assistantships to qualified applicants. Two types are available:  full-time and part-time assistantships. The full-time assistantship provides full tuition plus a stipend of $14,000 per year and requires 20 hours of work commitment per week. The part-time assistantship offers partial tuition and stipend and requires a reduced number of hours of work commitment per week. Apply now using the application form.

For complete curriculum details, click on the REQUIREMENTS button to the right.  

Other graduate degrees

The College of Education also offers a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Assessment, Learning, and School Improvement [Ed.D].

Graduate Assistantships

The Literacy Studies Ph.D. Program is prepared to supply a limited number of graduate assistantships to qualified applicants.  Two types are available:  20-hour and 10-hour.  The 20-hour assistantship provides full tuition plus a stipend of $14,000 per year and requires 20 hours of work commitment per week.  The 10-hour assistantship pays half tuition plus a stipend of $7,000 per year and requires 10 work hours per week.

Application Process for Graduate Assistantships in Literacy Studies

Applicants wishing to be considered for a graduate assistantship, in addition to supplying the materials for general application (including a general application form), must fill out an application for an assistantship. The graduate assistantship application form may be found at the back of the Graduate Catalog as well as at the College of Graduate Studies website.

Merit Based Awards

Applications will be awarded by merit. The merit of applications will be judged based on students' grades, GRE scores, letters of reference, availability of students during daytime on campus and skills that students have developed in prior graduate study and professional experience.

Term of Assistantships

Full-time students entering the literacy studies doctorate may apply for up to four years of support through an assistantship. The four year limit is an appropriate amount of time for full-time students to complete a 60 hour degree program. Students who have been taking courses on a part-time basis may apply for support that is proportional to the number of credits remaining to be completed. For instance, a student who has completed 21 of 60 credits may apply for no more than two years of full-time support.

Termination of Assistantships

Students who are awarded an assistantship will typically receive all four years of support, unless their academic performance or performance of duties within the assistantship warrants termination. The MTSU College of Graduate Studies specifies that retaining support is dependent on maintaining a 3.25 cumulative GPA in graduate courses.  Graduate assistants found responsible for academic misconduct will have their assistantship terminated.

To be a candidate for the graduate research assistant position, please submit your application materials to the following address:

Literacy Studies Ph.D. Program - Director 
MTSU Box 402
Murfreesboro, TN 37132

Application Materials due by:

February 1 

More information about Graduate Assistantships can be found on the Graduate Studies website.  

 

Student Success

Outstanding Student Award

2018-2019 - Natalie M. Griffin, Collin S. Olson and Ping Wang
2017-2018 - Stacy Fields and Qian Wang
2016-2017 - Weon H. Kim and Adam B. Rollins
2015-2016 - Heechun Moon and Summer K. Talbert
2014-2015 - Jennifer L. Cooper and Katie M. Schrodt
2013-2014 - Michelle M. Hasty and Kyungtae Kim 
2012-2013 - Casey F. Brasher
2011-2012 - Davonna M. Thomas
2010-2011 - Melissa L. Brock

Dissertations

P. Kelli Wallace - Spring 2019

Teachers' Knowledge and Implementation of Response to Intervention Practices: Graph Literacy and Data-Based Decision Making
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Eric L. Oslund, Chair
Dr. Amy M. Elleman
Dr. Jwa K. Kim

Summer K. Talbert - Spring 2019

The Relationship of Reading Strategies and Content Knowledge in Models of Integrated Instruction
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Amy M. Elleman, Chair
Dr. Eric L. Oslund
Dr. Katherine A. Mangione

Timothy S. Nelson - Spring 2019

Building a Corpus-Based Instructional Vocabulary Model: Interdisciplinary Academic Words in University Reading Support Courses
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Mohammed Albakry, Chair
Dr. Cyrille L. Magne
Dr. Terri J. Tharp

Perry F. Louden - Spring 2019

Morphological Word Chunking Versus Syllable Types: Understanding the Effectiveness of Two Approaches to Polysyllabic Word Reading Instruction for Middle School Struggling Readers
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Cyrille L. Magne, Chair
Dr. Amy M. Elleman
Dr. Timothy N. Odegard

Daren Li - Spring 2019

Impacts of Socioeconomic and ELL Status on English Language Arts
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Jwa K. Kim, Co-Chair
Dr. Eric L. Oslund, Co-Chair
Dr. Amy M. Elleman
Dr. Ying Jin

Zachary T. Barnes - Fall 2018

Cognitive Flexibility and Working Memory's Longitudinal Prediction of Reading Achievement
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Amy M. Elleman, Co-Chair
Dr. Eric L. Oslund, Co-Chair
Dr. Timothy N. Odegard
Dr. Jwa K. Kim

Stacy Fields - Summer 2018

Effects of Adapted Self-Regulated Strategy Development and Focused Vocabulary Instruction for Second Language Adolescents
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Amy M. Elleman, Chair
Dr. Eric L. Oslund
Dr. Laura Clark 

Karen N. Reed - Fall 2017

Empowering School Librarians to be Literacy Instruction Leaders Through Professional Development
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Eric L. Oslund, Chair
Dr. Amy M. Elleman
Dr. Charles D. Milligan
Dr. Terri J. Tharp

Weon H. Kim - Summer 2017

Application of the IRT and TRT Models to a Reading Comprehension Test
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Amy M. Elleman, Chair
Dr. Ying Jin
Dr. Mohammed Albakry 

Casey Brasher - Spring 2017

Beyond Screening and Progress Monitoring:  An Examination of the Reliability and Concurrent Validity of Maze Comprehension Assessments for Fourth-Grade Students
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Amy M. Elleman, Chair
Dr. Jwa K. Kim
Dr. Aimee Holt

Laura Clark Briggs - Spring 2017

A Comparison of Narrative and Expository Text Comprehension for Students at Varying Levels of SES: A Latent Growth Curve Analysis
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Jwa K. Kim, Chair
Dr. Amy M. Elleman
Dr. Ying Jin

Sang Hee Jung - Spring 2017

Metrical Stress Sensitivity and Reading Skills in Adults
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Cyrille L. Magne, Chair
Dr. Amy M. Elleman
Dr. Aleka A. Blackwell

Holly B. Marshall - Spring 2017

The Effectiveness of Readers’ Theatre on Fluency, Comprehension, and Motivation on Primary Students
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Amy M. Elleman, Chair
Dr. Jwa K. Kim
Dr. Alyson Bass
Dr. Joan Boulware

Melanie Maxwell - Spring 2017

Examining Professional Development and Teacher’s Learning About Literacy Instruction
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Cyrille L. Magne, Chair
Dr. Terri Tharp
Dr. Joanna Durham-Barnes
Dr. Amy M. Elleman

Andrea Milligan - Spring 2017

A Psychometric Analysis of Teacher-Made Benchmark Assessment in English Language Arts
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Jwa K. Kim, Chair
Dr. Amy M. Elleman
Dr. Cyrille L. Magne

 Joanne Coggins - Summer 2016

Measurement of Morphological Awareness Use of Fourth and Fifth Grade Students with Reading Difficulties
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Eric Oslund, Chair
Dr. Amy M. Elleman
Dr. Cyrille L. Magne

Heechun Moon - Summer 2016

The Influence of Implicit Speech Rhythm Sensitivity on Reading Comprehension
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Cyrille L. Magne, Chair
Dr. Amy M. Elleman
Dr. Jwa K. Kim

Jennifer L. Cooper - Spring 2016

Examining Incidental Vocabulary Acquisition by Person- and Item-Level Factors in Secondary Students 
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Amy M. Elleman, Chair
Dr. Jwa K. Kim
Dr. Aleka A. Blackwell

Tyra W. Pickens - Spring 2016

The Impact of Race and Socioeconomic Status on the Reading Comprehension Growth Trajectories of Adolescents
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Jwa K. Kim, Chair
Dr. Amy M. Elleman
Dr. Eric Oslund

Melissa Stugart - Spring 2016

Common Core State Standards Benchmark Assessments:  Item Alignment to the Shifts in Tennessee
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Jwa K. Kim, Chair
Dr. Amy M. Elleman
Dr. James Herman

Penny S. Thompson - Spring 2015

Scaffolding Emergent Literacy Skills in Pre-Kindergarten through Writing Instruction
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Amy M. Elleman, Chair
Dr. Jwa K. Kim
Dr. Joanna Durham-Barnes
Dr. Robin Ridgley

Katie M. Schrodt - Spring 2015

The Relationship Among Mindset Instruction, Kindergarteners' Performance, and Motivation in Writer's Workshop
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Amy M. Elleman, Chair
Dr. Joanna Durham-Barnes
Dr. Jwa K. Kim
Dr. Terri Tharp

Kyungtae Kim - Spring 2015

Model Comparisons Among Testlet Response Theory (TRT) on a Reading Comprehension Test
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Jwa K. Kim, Chair
Dr. Amy M. Elleman
Dr. Cyrille L. Magne

Melissa L. Brock - Spring 2015

The Relationship between Prosodic Sensitivity at the Discourse Level and Reading Skills: An Electrophysiological Investigation
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Cyrille L. Magne, Chair
Dr. Aleka A. Blackwell
Dr. Amy M. Elleman
Dr. Jwa K. Kim

Michelle M. Hasty - Spring 2014

How Students’ Critical Engagement with Text and Self-Perceptions as Literate Learners 
Can Explain Literacy Performance and Inform Classroom Literacy Practice
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Cyrille L. Magne, Chair
Dr. Jeanne G. Fain
Dr. Aleka A. Blackwell

Rachel Peay Cornett - Spring 2014

Psychometric Analysis of the Elementary Experience Scale and its Predictability of Elementary Literacy Scores
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Jwa K. Kim, Chair
Dr. Amy M. Elleman
Dr. James O. Rust

Danica W. Booth - Spring 2014

Scaffolding Content-Area Vocabulary Instruction for English Learners
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Amy M. Elleman, Chair
Dr. Jwa K. Kim
Dr. Laura Clark

Ling Wang - Fall 2013

The Effects of Single and Dual Coded Multimedia Instructional Methods on Chinese Character Learning
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Aleka A. Blackwell, Chair
Dr. Jwa K. Kim
Dr. Cyrille Magne

Davonna M. Thomas - Spring 2013

The Effects of Literature Circles on the Reading Achievement of College Reading Students
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Jeanne Gilliam Fain, Chair
Dr. Aleka Akoyunoglou Blackwell
Dr. Amy M. Elleman
Dr. Jwa K. Kim

Erica Dion Powell - Spring 2013

Predicting College Students’ First Year Success: Should Soft Skills be Taken into Consideration 
to More Accurately Predict the Academic Achievement of College Freshmen
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Amy M. Elleman, Chair
Dr. Jwa K. Kim
Dr. Aleka A. Blackwell
Dr. Jeanne G. Fain
Dr. Charles Milligan

Rachel G. Anderberg - Spring 2013

The Effects of Cross-Age Tutoring on the Reading Achievement of First and Second Grade Students
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Amy M. Elleman, Chair
Dr. Jwa K. Kim
Dr. Stuart E. Bernstein

Stacey J. Miller - Spring 2012

Literacy Practices as Predictors of Reading Achievement
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Jeanne G. Fain, Chair
Dr. Dana Fuller
Dr. Cyrille Magne

Danielle Thompson - Summer 2011

Contributions of Prosodic Sensitivity and Morphological Awareness to Word Level Reading: 
A Perceptual Task Development Study
Dissertation Committee
Dr. Jwa K. Kim, Chair
Dr. Stuart Bernstein
Dr. Cyrille Magne
Dr. Dana Fuller

Contact Information

Dr. Jwa K. Kim
Director
615-904-8419
Jwa.Kim@mtsu.edu

Angela Morrell
Secretary
615-904-8434
Angela.Morrell@mtsu.edu

Who is My Advisor?

Dr. Jwa K. Kim
Director
615-904-8419
Jwa.Kim@mtsu.edu

Mailing Address

Literacy Studies Ph.D. Program
Middle Tennessee State University
MTSU Box 402
Murfreesboro, TN 37132 

College of Graduate Studies
Middle Tennessee State University
MTSU Box 42
1301 East Main Street
Murfreesboro, TN 37132

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