Doctoral Degree Programs

PhD in Curriculum and Instruction: Literacy, Language, and Culture

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The Literacy, Language, and Culture (LLC) concentration within the PhD in Curriculum and Instruction program is grounded in the commitment that reading, writing, language and other literacy skills are essential to every aspect of human development and consciousness. Candidates research the assets (instruction, curricula, family, community or cultural) that enable high levels of academic, identity and social development, as well as the factors that place children and youth at a disadvantage. LLC faculty members are leading multi-year, grant-funded projects related to their research interests, which provide opportunities for doctoral students to nurture their research and scholarship.

For more information, sign up for our email list below and contact the Office of Student Services at 312-996-4532 or email Elise Wilson at elise@uic.edu.

Degree Requirements

The LLC program concentration requires a minimum of 96 semester hours beyond the bachelor’s degree or, depending on the focus and quality of a student’s master’s degree program, a minimum of 64 semester hours beyond the master’s degree. Specifically, this includes:

  • College Core: 12 semester hours: ED 504, ED 505, and ED 506
  • Methodology Requirement Core: 12 semester hours: ED 502, ED 503, and one additional course to be selected in consultation with faculty advisor
  • Literacy, Language, and Culture Concentration Program Core: 20 semester hours: CI 556 and CI 557 are required courses. An additional 12 hours of selective courses are required that directly relate to literacy, language, and/or culture.  Additional coursework is necessary for students who enter the program without an approved master’s degree. 
  • A 4-hour research project
  • A minimum of 16 hours of dissertation research

College Core and Methodology Coursework Requirements (24 semester hours)

The College Core and Methodology courses are shared among the five College of Education doctoral programs. 

The 12 semester hour College Core consists of the following three courses:

  • ED 504. Urban Contexts and Educational Research (4 semester hours). This course prepares researchers with foundational knowledge, both empirical and theoretical, for conducting inquiry into learners and learning, schools and schooling, families and communities in urban contexts..
  • ED 505. Introduction to Educational Research: Paradigms and Processes (4 semester hours). This course introduces students to the purposes, history, basic processes, philosophies, paradigms and orientations (quantitative and qualitative), epistemological and ethical considerations, and audiences of education research.
  • ED 506. Introduction to Educational Research: Designs and Analyses (4 semester hours). This course extends the content of ED 505 include and introduction and analysis of different types of research designs, analyses, and related matters (e.g., validity, reliability, sampling) in the field of education.

In addition to the College Core, all students must take an additional 12-semester hours of College Level Methodology Coursework.  The Methodology Coursework is designed to allow students the necessary degree of flexibility in learning to use different research techniques to conduct original research.  The Literacy, Language, and Culture Concentration requires all students to take ED 502, a qualitative methodology course, and ED 503, a quantitative methodology course.  In addition, students must select, in consultation with their advisor, an additional 4-semester hour methodology course that focuses on a specific research method.

Literacy, Language, and Culture (LLC) Program Concentration Core (20 semester hours)

All students entering the PhD program with a concentration in Literacy, Language, and Culture are required to take the following yearlong sequence of 2 courses:

  • CI 556 Proseminar I - 4
  • CI 557 Proseminar II - 4

In addition, the LLC concentration requires between 12 and 36 hours of selective and elective courses depending on whether a student has completed a master’s degree approved by the program faculty. Students with approved master’s degrees are required to take a combination of at least three of the selectives and electives listed below. More of these courses may be required at the discretion of a student’s Doctoral Program Committee. Students with a master’s degree that is not approved, and students with only a bachelor’s degree are required to take 12 hours of selectives listed below and 24 additional hours of elective courses. Literacy, Language, and Culture selectives are focused seminars taught by LLC faculty in their respective areas of specialization. Selectives include:

  • CI 581  Perspectives on Reading Instruction Theory, Research and Practice - 4
  • CI 568  Research in Children’s and Adolescent Literature - 4
  • CI 583  Early Literacy: Theory, Research, and Practice - 4
  • CI 582  Research Perspectives on Literacy in the Disciplines - 4
  • CI 558  The Historical and Philosophical Bases of Literacy and Literacy Instruction - 4
  • CI 559  The Social and Cultural Contexts of Literacy and Literacy Instruction - 4
  • CI 577  Literacy In and Out of School - 4
  • CI 579  Bi-literacy: Theory, Research, and Practice - 4
  • CI 561  Genre Theory and Practices – 4
  • CI 562  Design and Conduct of Literacy Research – 4
  • CI 563  Analysis of Research in Literacy – 4
  • CI 584  Semiotics, Literacy, and Learning – 4
  • CI 585  Seminar in Literacy Studies
  • CI 586  Perspectives on Writing Instruction: Theory, Research, and Practice - 4
  • CI 587  Literacy Assessment:  Theory, Research, and Practice
  • CI 588  Design Research in the Study of Literacy - 4
  • CI 589  Literacy and Learning Technologies: Theory, Research and Practice - 4
  • CI 585  Seminar in Literacy Studies - 4
  • CI 592  Apprenticeship in the Teaching of Literacy, Language, and Culture - 4

Annual Reviews

To effectively monitor student progress and to provide a vehicle through which students and their faculty advisors can reflect on their progress in a structured way, each student in this program is required to prepare and submit a formal review of progress each year. Student progress is assessed on the basis of two sets of criteria:

  • The quality of performance in coursework and on other LLC benchmarks (see LLC Doctoral Portfolio Activities below)
  • Progress in completing coursework and other program benchmarks (i.e., research project, qualifying exams, dissertation) in a timely matter.

At the end of each academic year students prepare a brief (1-2 pg) narrative summary of progress for that year. The LLC faculty review and discuss each student summary along with other supporting documentation and then provide individual feedback regarding their progress in the program. It is the responsibility of a student’s doctoral program chair (or temporary advisor) to provide a prompt written summary of these proceedings and meet with the student to discuss his/her performance.

Progressing Through the Program

Upon admission into the LLC doctoral program a student is assigned a temporary advisor who serves in that capacity until the student chooses a person to chair his/her Program Committee by the end of the first year of studies. The student, in concert with this chairperson, will select a minimum of two additional faculty members who together will constitute the student's Doctoral Program Committee. 

A student’s Doctoral Program Committee serves four major functions:

  • Design a course of studies compatible with both the LLC program and a student’s specific professional goals.
  • Provide guidance regarding the experiences and deliverables that best prepare a student for entry into the profession. A student’s Doctoral Portfolio (detailed below) serves an important function in creating a “roadmap” of both in- and out-of-course activities and products.
  • Write and evaluate questions comprising the “specialization” portion (discussed below) of the Qualifying Exam taken toward the end of a student’s coursework (See The LLC Qualifying Examination discussed below).
  • Oversee and provide feedback in the annual review of a student’s progress.

Toward the end of formal coursework and upon successful completion of the Qualifying Examination (see details below), a student will choose a chairperson and committee to direct his/her Preliminary Examination (see details below). Prelims will consist of both a written component and an oral component. The written component of the Preliminary examination is a student’s dissertation proposal and the oral part is the oral defense of the proposal. Successful completion of both components of the Preliminary examination constitutes formal admission of candidacy for the doctoral degree. From this point forward in a student’s program, the Prelim committee serves as members of the dissertation committee through the final defense of the completed dissertation.

LLC Doctoral Portfolio Activities

Core Optional^
Research & Inquiry Publishable* quality critical review of literature Design research of educational environments
Literacy position paper Evaluation of literacy-related program
Publishable* quality review of literacy-related book Grant proposal (individual or collaborative)
Doctoral research project/IRB proposal Fellowship proposal
Publishable* quality paper for a professional journal  
Dissertation proposal/IRB  
Presentation of research at national conference  
Teaching Lead Literacy Matters discussion of article, chapter, etc. Mentoring beginning level doctoral student
Development and justifcation of a detailed course syllabus Professional development in educational contexts
(Co)-teaching (undergraduate and/or masters-level) literacy-related course  
Professional Leadership Membership in literacy organizations Publishable* quality review of literacy curriculum
  Design, implementation and evaluation of curriculum
  Participation on school, district and/or state committees, panels, etc.
  Membership on professional committees
  Peer review of conference proposals
Cross-cutting Intellectual Activities Collection of representative papers Preliminary examination (individualized component)
Preliminary examination Development of personal home page
Annual leter summarizing progress  
Development and ongoing revision of curriculum vitae  
Statement of teaching philosophy  
Statement of 5 year research plan  
Job talk (LM)  

^ By definition “negotiated portfolio activities” may be individualized and thus open-ended in nature.

* “Publishable” in the present context means that his/her doctoral committee evaluate a text to be of publishable quality.

Teaching Internship

An apprenticeship in teaching is strongly recommended for those individuals intending to pursue a career in higher education. The apprenticeship in teaching requires that you register for CI 592 (up to 8 hours) and co-teach a university course under the direction of a faculty sponsor. The course that you teach should be related to your interests and future career objectives.

A faculty member will be the instructor of record and will supervise you closely throughout the internship. You will assume responsibility for course instruction, student interaction, and evaluation to the extent negotiated with the instructor. In addition to this apprenticeship in teaching, students are also encouraged to seek opportunities to deliver guest lectures in other classes offered by the LLC faculty.

PhD Research Project (minimum of four semester hours)

The research project is an important beginning experience in conducting research on actual problems in one’s chosen area of study. The research project may also give you an opportunity to explore and pilot ideas for your dissertation research. All students specializing in LLC conduct a research project in collaboration with a LLC faculty member or a team of faculty members and students.

Students are required to receive IRB approval of a proposed research project before beginning the data collection process. Each student will make a formal presentation, oral, and/or written, of the project findings. Students are encouraged to use this work as a basis for a manuscript to be submitted for a scholarly conference presentation and/or a publication.

The LLC Qualifying Examination

The Qualifying Examination serves as the first step in determining a student’s readiness to undertake dissertation research. It is administered at or near the end of the time the student has completed most of the coursework (but has not yet made a major investment toward the dissertation research). A minimum of one year must elapse between passing the Qualifying Examination and the defense of the dissertation. Only students in good academic standing are permitted to take the examination.

The Qualifying Exam in Literacy, Language, and Culture is offered semi-annually, once prior to the beginning of the academic year and once during spring semester. It is designed to be educative as well as evaluative. The exam consists of two components: a Common Knowledge Component given to all students seeking doctoral candidacy and a Specialization Component focusing on a student’s area of specific inquiry in literacy. The qualifying exam is taken over a four-day period, with three days devoted to the common component and one day to the specialization component. 

The Common Knowledge Component assesses the breadth of a student’s knowledge in Literacy, Language, and Culture; knowledge that the LLC faculty believe any doctoral candidate, regardless of area of specialization, should be able to demonstrate. Members of the LLC faculty identify major areas as well as seminal texts that delineate the reach of this common knowledge. This knowledge is not confined to that acquired through coursework. 

A Qualifying Exam Committee consisting of 3 LLC faculty members creates questions for the Common Component, which are then reviewed by the entire LLC faculty. The Common Knowledge Component consists of 3 integrative essay questions. Students receive these questions and have 72 hours to complete their answers. They do so with the full benefit of whatever textual resources they have at hand. Although students are free to work collaboratively in preparation for the Qualifying Exam, once presented with the actual exam questions, each student answers the questions without the benefit of any human interaction (including face-to-face, electronic, and other forms). Students sign an honor statement acknowledging their agreement to these terms.

The Specialization Component consists of questions created and graded by a student’s Doctoral Program Committee and is designed to evaluate the student's knowledge relative to his/her area of specialization. The student’s Program Committee determines the number of questions comprising the Specialization Component. To insure equity, these questions are reviewed by the LLC Qualifying Exam Committee. Students have 24 hours to complete the Specialization Component and are to abide by the same honor system described above for the Common Component.

Members of the Qualifying Exam Committee assess students’ answers to the Common Knowledge Component of the exam, and members of the student’s Doctoral Program Committee assess the student’s answer(s) to the Specialization Component. A grade of "pass" or "fail" Is assigned to each component. Upon unanimous agreement of committee members, a candidate may “pass with distinction.”

Both components must be passed in order to pass the Qualifying Examination. Each component of a candidate’s examination cannot be passed with more than one "fail" vote from the committee members. The committee may require that specific conditions be met before the "pass" recommendation becomes effective. On the recommendation of the committee, the head or chair may permit a second examination for a student who does not pass the exam. A third examination is not permitted.

The LLC Preliminary Exam

The purpose of the Preliminary Examination is to determine the candidate’s readiness to undertake the dissertation; passing it constitutes formal Admission to Candidacy. The examination serves as the last major step toward the PhD, degree except for the completion and defense of the dissertation. 

The Preliminary Exam consists of a written and an oral component. The written component of the Prelim Exam is a candidate’s formal dissertation proposal; the oral component is the oral defense of this written proposal. The committee for the Preliminary Exam is appointed by the Dean of the Graduate College upon receipt of Committee Recommendation Form three (3) weeks prior to the Preliminary Examination. 

The faculty member chairing the student’s Preliminary Exam after consultation with the student requests committee appointments. The committee consists of the at least 5 members, of whom at least 3 are UIC graduate faculty with full membership, and 2 of whom must be tenured. The chair of the committee must be a full member of the graduate faculty. A minimum of 2 members from this committee must come from the Literacy, Language, and Culture faculty. Each member of the examining committee assigns a grade of “pass” or “fail” based on the student’s performance on both the written proposal and the oral defense of the proposal.

A candidate cannot be passed with more than 1 “fail” vote. The committee may require that specific conditions be met before the “pass” recommendation becomes effective. On the recommendation of the committee, the head or chair may permit a second examination. A third examination is not permitted. The results of the examination must be submitted to the Graduate College within two weeks of the completion of the exam. 

Once the student has passed the examination, the dean of the Graduate College will notify the student that s/he has been admitted to candidacy.

Dissertation (16 hours)

Successful completion of the dissertation is the penultimate experience in a candidates doctoral program. The dissertation is based on original research and involves both a formal presentation of the proposed research and a find oral defense of the written dissertation. A student may begin his/her dissertation research upon successful completion of the oral portion of the preliminary examination and receiving approval from the IRB. A student must register for a minimum of 16 hours of dissertation credit during the time that the study is conducted and written up.

Having registered for the minimum of 16 hours of dissertation credit and passed both written and oral portions of the Preliminary Examination, a student may petition the Graduate College to be permitted to register for 0 (zero) hours of dissertation credit. Even if a student is eligible and has successfully petitioned the Graduate College to register for 0 hours, s/he still must register for 0 hours each semester until having successfully defended the dissertation. Failure to register continuously may result in being administratively dropped from the program.

Note: Final decisions concerning specific courses and the number of semester hours required of a student entering with a master's degree are determined by a student's Doctoral Program Committee.

Handbook

For more information on the program and degree requirements, please consult the Doctoral Student Handbook.

Advising Guide

PhD Curriculum Studies-Literacy, Language and Culture Advising Guide Fall 2013 admits and onward

PhD Curriculum Studies-Literacy, Language and Culture Advising Guide all admits prior to Fall 2013

Options and Outcomes

Graduates of our program are prepared to assume research positions in colleges and universities, in state and local educational research agencies, and in various research and development settings in the private sector. Our graduates take key positions including:

  • Faculty members at colleges and universities across the nation
  • Active leadership roles in professional national and international literacy organizations including the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English
  • Leadership positions in other public and private entities
  • Providing literacy leadership in schools and school districts across several regions of the United States.

Application Process

Application Deadlines

Fall Deadline:  December 1
NOTE:  Faculty recommend new doctoral students for University Fellowships and Abraham Lincoln Fellowships.  In order to be considered for a faculty recommendation, you must submit your application by November 15.  Read more about the Fellowships.

  1. Applicants who are not currently registered graduate students at UIC must complete the UIC Graduate School application. Submit your application fee when completing the application.
  2. Complete the online College of Education application.
  3. The following documents should be uploaded online upon receiving email instructions after completing the UIC Graduate School application. View the Document Upload Guide for more information.
    • Upload undergraduate transcripts for your last 60 hours of the undergraduate degree and all graduate transcripts.
    • TOEFL or IELTS test scores for international applicants only
    • Three letters of recommendation.  These letters should address the applicant's academic qualifications, research ability/experience and ability to carry on advanced degree studies. Letters may be from current or former professors or supervisors. At least one letter should be from someone who can address your experience working with children.
    • Goal Statement. Discuss the kinds of skills, abilities, and understandings that you would anticipate acquiring in a doctoral program. Describe how this interest relates to your personal experience and to your professional and scholarly goals at this time.  Faculty will evaluate your essay in terms of its clarity and cohesiveness, and how well your interests match those of the faculty. Please limit your essay to no more than 2,000 words.
  4. Submit GRE test score to UIC.

Program FAQs