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Doctor of Philosophy

Elementary Learning Sciences

Expand your knowledge and deepen your understanding of teaching while focusing on children’s and teachers’ learning in mathematics or science.

Prepare to be a scholar leader in elementary learning sciences through this doctoral program designed to help you improve learning opportunities for all elementary ages children through researching, designing and enhancing the learning environments in which they interact.

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Application Deadlines:

January 1

Fall Enrollment

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Why Elementary Learning Sciences at NC State:


  • Quality instruction that incorporates research and best practices you can immediately apply to your classroom

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  • Earn your affordable degree from a public university recognized by U.S. News & World Report and Money as the best value


  • Study at the top producer of STEM educators in North Carolina

Program Details

The doctoral program area of study focused on the Elementary Learning Sciences (ELM-LS) aims to prepare scholars with expertise in elementary mathematics education OR elementary science education who are committed to improving opportunities to learn for elementary aged children. Students in the elementary learning sciences program engage in coursework, research studies and practical experiences that deepen their knowledge and understanding of teaching and learning, specifically focusing on children’s and teachers’ learning in mathematics or science.

While students in the elementary learning sciences program primarily focus on one discipline (mathematics or science) throughout their doctoral studies, coursework and other opportunities are structured such that students explore and analyze the cross-disciplinary connections among all the core content areas. By nature, elementary schools are interdisciplinary, and teachers typically are responsible for teaching all subjects. The cross-disciplinary nature of the elementary learning sciences program allows faculty and students to leverage the natural setting of elementary schools. Additionally, research and experiences in the elementary learning sciences program are not limited to formal “brick-and-mortar” learning environments but also include informal learning environments (e.g., home, museums, outdoor education).

Our elementary learning sciences program builds on the successful work of NC State’s undergraduate elementary teacher preparation program and the elementary education master’s program. Together, the programs form a cohesive line of research, development, and instruction across all university-level degrees. Our elementary learning sciences program provides opportunities for highly qualified individuals interested in researching, designing, and improving elementary-level learning environments. Simultaneously, it strengthens faculty research in elementary mathematics education and elementary science education, feeding directly into the quality of the undergraduate and Master of Education program.

Our curriculum incorporates research and practical principles and requires you complete a minimum of 78 hours of coursework. Up to 18 hours of coursework may be transferred in from an approved master’s curriculum.

Core Courses

  • Professional Learning in Elementary STEM Education
  • Elementary STEM Learning in Informal Settings
  • Action and Cognition in Elementary STEM Teaching & Learning
  • Examining Researchers and Teacher Educators as Learners

Master Level Courses (Transfer or Complete as part of PhD)                     

  • Courses to transfer must be equivalent to the six courses required for the K-6 Mathematics or Science Specialist graduate level add-on courses.

College of Education Required Core Courses                             

  • Scholar Leader 1: Diversity and Equity in Schools and Communities                   
  • Scholar Leader 2: Systemic Change in Education and Society                                

College of Education Required Research Methods Courses      

  • ED 710: Applied Quantitative Methods in Education (or its equivalent)
  • ED 711: Applied Quantitative Methods in Education II                              
  • ED 730: Introduction to Qualitative Research in Education (or its equivalent) 

Two or more advanced research methods courses taken from the following

  • ED 712: Survey Methods in Educational Research                                                 
  • ED 731 Advanced Qualitative Research and Data Analysis in Education             
  • ED 750 Mixed Methods Research in Education                                         
  • ED 795 Special Topics in Education Research   
  • Course outside the College at the 500 level or above

Teacher Education and Learning Sciences (TELS) PhD Required Seminars  

  • ECI 709: Special Problems, Seminar in Teacher Education  
  • ECI 709: Special Problems, Seminar in Learning Sciences    

PAS – Elementary Learning Sciences with emphasis on mathematics and/or science  Required Core Courses and Experiences

  • ELM 709: Professional Learning in Elementary STEM Education  
  • ELM 709: Elementary STEM Learning in Informal Settings  
  • ELM 709: Action and Cognition in Elementary STEM Teaching & Learning
  • ELM 709:Examining Researchers and Teacher Educators as Learners  
  • ECI 830: Independent Study
  • ELM 654 Internship in Elementary Education                                                      


The 4 ELM-LS PAS Core Courses will be offered on a 2-year rotation basis.

Students should prepare a paper for publication as part of their independent study.

Students should engage with external partners and other stakeholders in their internship.

Student and Graduate Committee selected focused courses or experiences 

  • Combination of courses (ECI, EMS, EAC, CSC, EDP, PSY) to fulfill students’ research and career goals


The Graduate School outlines basic requirements for admission.

  • Current resumé
  • Personal statement detailing background and experiences with goals and commitment to doctoral studies. If relevant, please include a description of the target ELM faculty with whom you hope to engage.
  • Three reference letters detailing relationship to applicant and discussing your work ethic/potential as a doctoral student.
  • Master’s degree or equivalent from an accredited institution of higher education
  • 3.0 grade point average or higher at the master’s level
  • Completed application to the NC State Graduate School (found here)
  • Official GRE scores from within the last 5 years*

* Preferred scores are at or above the mean for doctoral students in the department within the curriculum and instruction program areas. However, GRE scores provide only one piece of information used by the admissions committee in making its recommendation.

Provost’s Fellowships

Provost’s Fellowships are one-year awards with a stipend level to be determined by the Fellow’s respective college. These Fellowships are designed to help in college and departmental efforts to recruit outstanding new doctoral students to NC State University. Prospective students cannot apply directly for these fellowships, but are nominated by their respective colleges.

Only doctoral students are eligible to receive a Provost’s Fellowship. Fellowships cover tuition and health insurance. The out-of-state portion of tuition (where applicable) also is covered by the fellowship. Tuition and health insurance associated with the Fellowship will be covered in accordance with Graduate Student Support Plan (GSSP) guidelines.

Graduate Research Assistantships (RA)

Research assistantships are awarded by an individual faculty researcher to doctoral students who are interested in working on research projects in the faculty member’s area for which the researcher has external funding. Research Assistantships are either 9 or 12 month appointments; have a stipend award which varies depending upon funding source; and includes tuition, fees, and health insurance

Graduate Teaching Assistantships (TA)

Most teaching assistantships are granted from a pool of applicants who have received a recommendation from a faculty member who has agreed to advise the applicant on their research. These assistantships are skill-based and granted based on the background information each TA applicant submits via their Graduate Application and Application for Doctoral Support. Proficiency in spoken English is required for all teaching assistantships.

Teaching Assistantships are 9 month appointments (August 16 – May 15); have a stipend award which varies depending upon department; and includes tuition, fees, and health insurance.

For more information on the financial aid options open to you:

Explore the fellowships, traineeships and grants available to NC State graduate students.

Students benefit from collaborating with program faculty who are nationally recognized scholars actively engaged in research on children’s and/or teachers’ learning. Example areas of scholarship that appear in our research and coursework include:

  • How should we conceptualize, enact, and measure “effective” science and mathematics instruction in elementary classrooms?
  • How do different learning environments and pedagogies enable or constrain various constructs, such as motivation, creativity, memory, transfer, and identity in elementary teachers and students?
  • How can we use what we know about how people learn to design professional development that fosters the knowledge and beliefs needed to be an effective elementary teacher of mathematics or science?

View the Elementary Learning Sciences Graduate Student and Faculty Handbook for more information about coursework, the electronic thesis and dissertation, and graduate faculty.

I’ve already had experience learning how to write grant proposals….I’ve worked with students that are going into teaching…This program is preparing me for my future in academia.

Teresa Leaven

Teresa Leavens, Ph.D. Candidate in Elementary Learning Sciences
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Prepare to be a scholar leader with one of the leading colleges of education in the nation.


In Education Research Productivity by Faculty in N.C. (U.S. News)

Top 12%

In Active Grants among all colleges of education in the nation


Ranked in Value Among Colleges of Education in N.C.

Contact Us

Sarah J. Carrier
Associate Professor
Irene Armstrong
Graduate Student Services Specialist