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Hiller Spires

Executive Director and Professor Emerita


Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professor of Literacy Education

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Dr. Hiller Spires, who joined NC State in 1986 and retired in 2022, is currently Executive Director and Professor Emerita. She served as associate dean of NC State’s College of Education and executive director of the Friday Institute from 2019 – 2022.  She was also Alumni Distinguished Professor of Literacy and Technology in the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences. She served as the founding director of The William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation from 2002-2006 and served as FI Senior Research Fellow from 2006-2019. Dr. Spires’ research focuses on digital, disciplinary, and global literacies with diverse learners; and Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global using the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Dr. Spires has received numerous awards during her academic career. She received NC State’s Award in Outreach and Engagement for providing professional development seminars for K-12 teachers in rural NC.  In 2011 she received NC State’s Jackson A. Rigney International Service Award for her work with Chinese teachers and students. In 2012, she was the first woman in the College of Education to receive NC State’s Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professor Award, and in 2015 she received NC State’s Centennial Campus Partnership Award for her international work with Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School. In 2019, she was inducted into the Academy of Excellence in Global Education at NC State. She was honored with the 2023 Champions of Education Alumni Award from her alma mater, the College of Education at the University of South Carolina.

Dr. Spires has published over 200 refereed articles, chapters, and papers. Her publications have appeared in Journal of Educational Psychology, Cognition & Instruction, Journal of Educational Computing Research, Literacy Research and Instruction, Computers and Education, Information Sciences, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, Journal of Literacy Research, among others. She was the founding director for the Friday Institute’s New Literacies Collaborative, where she created the Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global process. She also led the development of the New Literacies & Global Learning masters degree program, including the K-12 Literacy Cohort. Her collaboration with educators in China since 2007 resulted in her groundbreaking book, Digital Transformation and Innovation in Chinese Education, and her serving as honorary principal of Suzhou North America High School, which she helped design and create in 2013 (see documentary here). She is the lead author on Read, Write, Inquire: Disciplinary Literacy for Grades 6-12, which was published by Teachers College Press in 2020.  She is co-editor with Dr. Shea Kerkhoff on Critical Perspectives in Global Literacies: Bridging Research and Practice, which was published by Routledge in 2023. She is founding director of Margie’s Books, which provides books to underserved educational communities. See


Recent Refereed Publications


  • Spires, H. (2018). (Ed.) Digital transformation and innovation in Chinese education. Hershey, PA: IGI Global Publishing.
  • Spires, H., Kerkhoff, S., & Medlock Paul, C. (2020). Read, write, inquire: Disciplinary literacy in grades 6-12. Teachers College Press.
  • Kerkhoff, S. & Spires, H. (Eds). (May, 2023). Critical perspectives on global literacies: Bridging research and practice. Routledge.


  • Spires, H., Gambino, A., Himes, M., & Wang, Lilly. (May, 2023). Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global: Border-crossing discourse within a collaboration of students from China and the US. In S. Kerkhoff & H. Spires (Eds). Critical perspectives on global literacies: Bridging research and practice. Routledge.
  • Kerkhoff, S. N., Spires, H., & Wright, S. J. (2020). A world of difference: Teaching global citizenship through inquiry in a rural junior high school. In A. Cordova W. Reynolds (Eds.) Educating for social justice: Field notes from rural communities. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
  • Spires, H., Green, K., & Liang, P. (2018). Chinese parents’ perspectives on international higher education and innovation. In H. Spires (Ed.), Digital transformation and innovation in Chinese education. Hershey, PA: IGI-Global Publishing.
  • Spires, H., Himes, M., & Wang, L. (2018). Connecting to the future: Designing a state-of-the-art high school in Suzhou, China. In H. Spires (Ed.), Digital transformation and innovation in Chinese education (pp. 191-210). Hershey, PA: IGI-Global Publishing.
  • Spires, H., Kerkhoff, S. & Zheng, M. (2018). Creating a community of inquiry with teachers in China: New literacies, new complexities. In H. Spires (Ed.), Digital transformation and innovation in Chinese education. Hershey, PA: IGI-Global Publishing.
  • Spires, H., Paul, C., & Yuan, C. (2018). Project-based inquiry: Professional development with Chinese EFL elementary teachers. In P. Roberson & T. Huber (Eds.), Inquiries into literacy learning and intercultural competency in a world of border tensions. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
  • Spires, H. A., Paul, C., & Kerkhoff, S. N. (2018). Digital literacy for the 21st century. In M. Khosrow-Pour (Ed.), Encyclopedia of information science and technology (4th ed, pp. 2235 – 2245). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
  • Spires, H., & Kerkhoff, S. (2016). New literacies. In S. B. Mertens, M. M. Caskey, & N. Flowers (Eds.), The encyclopedia of middle grades education (2nd ed., pp. 282-286). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
  • Spires, H., Zheng, M., & Bartlett, M. (2015). Digital gameplay: Effects on young adolescents’ science content learning. In K. Malu & M.B. Schaefer, (Eds.), Research on teaching and learning with the literacies of young adolescents (Vol. 10, pp. 75-95). Handbook of research in middle level education. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
  • Spires, H. & Bartel, J. (2015). Digital literacy and engagement in business education. National business education research handbook (pp. 211-225). 2015 National Business Education Yearbook. Reston, VA: National Business Education Association. (Invited Chapter)

    Editor for Special Issue of Journal of Media and Communication

    Spires, H. (2019). (Ed.) Critical perspectives on digital literacies: Creating a path forward. Journal of Media and Communication.

    Refereed Articles

  • Bausell, S., Himes, M., & Spires, H. (2023). Teaching K-8 English Learners literacy and academic content: Educator beliefs and discursive engagement in an online teacher professional development course. American Journal of Distance Education, 38(2), 92-115.
  • Himes, M., Spires, H.A., Krupa, E., Borden, M.L., & Eagle, J. (2023). Project-based Inquiry (PBI) Global during a pandemic: A new learning ecology perspective. Education Sciences, 13(11), 1099.
  • Lee, S., B. Mott, B., Vandenberg, J., Spires, H. & Lester, J. (2023). Examining the Relationship of Gameplay and Learning in a Narrative-Centered Digital Game for Science Education, 2023 IEEE Conference on Games (CoG), Boston, MA, USA, pp. 1-8, doi: 10.1109/CoG57401.2023.10333202.
  • Spires, H., Krupa, E., & Himes, M. (2022). Supporting students’ science content knowledge through project-based inquiry (PBI) Global. Education Sciences, 12(6), 412;
  • Bausell, S., Himes, M., Huggins, E., Spires, H. (2022). Literacy teachers address broadband gap through broadcast pedagogy. Journal of Literacy and Technology, 23(2), 51-86.
  • Spires, H., Himes, M., & Lee, C., & Gambino, A. (2021). “We Are the future”: Embracing the potential for critical literacy and social action. Journal of Literacy Research, 53(2), 219-241.
  • Himes, M., Spires, H.A., Krupa, E., & Good, C. (2020). Project-based inquiry (PBI) global: Interdisciplinary science learning on water and sanitation. The Science Teacher, 88(2), 36-41.
  • Kerkhoff, S., Spires, H., & Wanyonyi, P. (2020). Teaching new literacies and inquiry: A grassroots effort to bring about educational change in Kenya. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 64(2), 145-156.
  • Spires, H., Nesbitt, K., Paul, C. & Lester, J. (2019). Game-based literacies and learning: Towards a transactional theoretical perspective. Journal of Literacy and Technology, 20(4), 81-134.
  • Spires, H., Himes, M., Paul, C. & Kerkhoff, S. (2019). Going global with project-based inquiry: Cosmopolitan in literacies practice. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. Early release.
  • Johnson, L., & McHugh, S., Eagle, J., & Spires, H. (2019). Project-based inquiry (PBI) global in the kindergarten classroom: Inquiring about the world. Early Childhood Education Journal, 47(5), 607-613.
  • Spires, H., Medlock Paul, Himes, H. & Yuan, C. (2018). Cross-cultural collaborative inquiry: A collective case study with students from China and the US. International Journal of Educational Research, 91, 28-40.
  • Spires, H., Kerkhoff, S., & Fortune, N. (2018). Educational cosmopolitanism and collaborative inquiry with Chinese and US teachers. Teaching Education. DOI: 10.1080/10476210.2018.1506431
  • Spires, H., Kerkhoff, S., Graham, A., Thompson, I., & Lee, J. (2018). Operationalizing and validating disciplinary literacy in secondary education. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 31(6), 1401 – 1434.
  • Graham, A., Kerkhoff, S., & Spires, H. (2017). Disciplinary literacy in the middle school: Exploring pedagogical tensions. Middle Grades Research Journal, 11(1).
  • Pruden, M., Kerkhoff, S., Spires, H., & Lester, J. (2017). Enhancing writing achievement through a digital learning environment: Case studies of three struggling adolescent male writers. Reading and Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Difficulties, 33(1), 1–19.
  • Spires, H., Himes, M., & Wang, L. (2016). Cross-cultural inquiry in science. Educational Leadership, 74(4), 72-74.
  • Spires, H., Himes, M., & Lyjak, E. (2016, July). Connecting classrooms to the future: Developing cross-cultural understandings through project-based inquiry. Literacy Today, 34(1), 26-27.
  • Spires, H., Kerkhoff, S., & Graham, A. (2016). Disciplinary literacy and inquiry: Teaching for deeper learning. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 60(2), 51-61.
  • Spires, H. & Lester, J. (2016). Game-based learning: Creating a multidisciplinary community of inquiry. On the Horizon, 24(1).
  • Kerkhoff, S. & Spires, H. (2015). Getting close to close reading: Teachers making instructional shifts in early literacy.  Journal of Language and Literacy, 11(2).
  • Spires, H. (2015). Digital game-based learning: What’s literacy got to do with it? Journal of Adolescent and Adult Learning, 59(2), 125-130.
  • Lee, J., Spires, H., Wiebe, E., Hollebrands, K., & Young, C. (2015). Portrait of a one-to-one learning environment within a new learning ecology.  International Journal of Learning, Teaching, and Educational Research, 10(3), 78-101.
  • Lester, J., Spires, H., Nietfeld, J., Minogue, J., Mott, B., & Lobeni, E. (2014). Designing game-based learning environments for elementary science education: A narrative centered learning perspective. Information Sciences, 264, 4-18. 

Recent Media

Persohn, L. (Host). (2024, Jan 9). A conversation with Hiller Spires (Season 4, No. 7) [Audio podcast episode].
In Classroom Caffeine Podcast series.
DOI:10.5240/C461- CC0F5-B173-B4AB-75E4-2

Spires, H. & Kerkhoff, S. (2023, Aug 22). Defining global literacies: Pathways for engaging and transforming
our world. [Blogpost]. EdPrepMatters, AACTE.

Courses Taught

  • ECI 546 New Literacies & Media
  • ECI 541 Content Area Reading
  • ECI 545 Theory and Research in Literacy
  • ECI 803 Advanced Seminar in Literacy Research
  • ECI 655 Internship in Reading

Area(s) of Expertise

Dr. Spires' research focuses on digital, disciplinary, and global literacies with diverse students; and Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global using the UNC Sustainable Development Goals.