Educational Psychology Ph.D.


Learning is not exclusive to schools; humans learn continuously throughout our lives and across multiple contexts. Understanding what facilitates this process – how people learn and how others support that learning – is the goal of educational psychology. Our interdisciplinary Ph.D. program focuses on the learner, the instructor, the context for learning, and the journey of learning including learning theory, motivation, human development, cognition and the role of culture. You'll also have the chance to explore contemporary issues such as social-emotional learning, culturally responsive practices and classroom management. Our program requires a minimum of 63 hours beyond the master's degree, including a minimum of 12 hours for your dissertation.

You must hold a master's degree, and we expect you to have taken coursework in learning theory, theory of development, research methods, basic statistics and foundations of education. If you successfully completed your doctoral track of our M.S.Ed. degree in educational psychology, you've fulfilled that requirement. You'll also need to submit:

  • Your scores for the GRE or MAT.
  • Three letters of recommendation from knowledgeable professors, employers or supervisors.
  • A three- to four-page personal statement describing career goals and research interests.
  • A graduate-level academic writing sample of 10 to 20 pages in the domain of education or social science.

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During your program of study, you will:

  • Set and attain individual goals for professional growth and development
  • Demonstrate knowledge of research methodologies
  • Demonstrate knowledge of theory and expertise in a domain within educational psychology
  • Demonstrate effective communication and presentation skills, both oral and written
  • Demonstrate knowledge and application of ethical standards
  • Demonstrate evidence of successful internship experience
  • Design, conduct and analyze an original research study in educational psychology using current technologies
  • Our students have opportunities for assistantships, both working on research projects funded by federal and private agencies, and teaching college-level courses with assistance from faculty mentors.
  • Financial support might be available on a competitive basis.
  • Our degree opens professional doors: You're prepared for faculty positions in higher education; school leadership through coaching, mentoring and curriculum development; research positions with government and nonprofit organizations; and simply improving your own classroom practices in alignment with current theories of learning and development.

A common misconception is that educational psychology is the same as school psychology, but they are quite different. Our faculty and students explore questions about the nature of teaching and learning processes as well as innovative practices for supporting these processes. Recent dissertation topics have covered a broad range of interdisciplinary topics including the resilience of first-generation Latino students in community college; experiences of students who struggled with online learning; the impact of teacher feedback on students' mindset and goals; implementation of trauma-informed practices among middle school teachers; and the integration of a garden-based science curriculum. Faculty research agendas include reading motivation and engagement, bilingualism and language learning, cross-cultural models of teaching and learning, and the intersection of social-emotional needs with learning. If you are interested in how humans learn, our program is a great place to explore your own questions.

  • Content Core Courses (15 hours)
    • EPS 701 Professional Practices in Educational Psychology
    • EPS 710 Seminar in Lifespan Human Development
    • EPS 713 Advanced Educational Psychology
    • EPS 715 Education and Human Cognitive Processing
    • EPS 718 Research Seminar in Motivation and Education
  • Methods Core Courses (12 hours)
    • ETR 522 Educational Statistics II
    • EPS 524 Ethnographies in Human Development and Learning Within Educational Settings
    • EPS 723 Design of Research on Human Development and Learning in Educational Settings
    • EPS 739 Fieldwork Methods in Educational Research
  • Elective Coursework in Cognate Area, Selected In Consultation With Advisor. (18 hours)
  • Research Internship (6 hours)
  • Dissertation (minimum 12 hours) 

Educational Psychology Ph.D. and Ed.D. Notable Alumni

Northern Illinois University offered an Ed.D. in Educational Psychology until 2014 when we started granting the Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.

Community College Leadership

  • Michelé Smith, Ph.D., 2020, Vice President of Workforce Solutions/Associate Provost for Curriculum, Harper College
  • Amy Diaz, Ed.D., 2013, Vice President of Academic Affairs, GateWay Community College
  • Purva Rushi, Ed.D., 2005, Executive Director of Strategic Planning and Accreditation, Triton College

Government & Politics

  • Aldo Rodríguez, Ph.D., 2018, Director of Language Policy, National Education Administration of Uruguay
  • Litesa Wallace, Ed.D., 2013, State Representative for Illinois' 67th Legislative District

Institutional Research & Assessment

  • Schwartz, Ph.D., 2017, Director of Assessment and Visiting Professor of Research, Concordia University Chicago
  • Lisa Mehlig, Ed.D., 2013, Executive Director of Assessment/Outcomes & HLC Liaison, Rock Valley College
  • Judith Murphy, Ed.D., 2003, Research Analyst, College of DuPage (retired)
  • Cheruta Wertheim, Ed.D., 1998, Research & Evaluation Unit Head and Senior Lecturer, Beit-Berl Academic College, Israel

K-12 School/District Leadership

  • Julie Esparza, Ph.D., 2015, Gifted and Talented Program Coordinator, Roselle School District 12
  • Kelly Talaga, Ph.D., 2015, Project Manager, Naperville Community Unit School District 203
  • Janel Grzetich, Ph.D., 2015, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Minooka Community High School District 111
  • Anna Strati, Ph.D., 2015, Anna has a accountCoordinator for Data and Evaluation, Glenbard Township High School District 87
  • Jolie Burns-Casey, Ed.D., 2004, Special Education Division Chair, Tinley Park School District 231
  • Gongshu Zhang, Ed.D., 2003 (deceased), Chief Accountability and Research Officer, Guilford, NC County Schools

Nonprofit Organizations

  • Neil Naftzger, Ph.D., 2018, Principal Researcher, American Institutes for Research
  • Iwona Lech, Ph.D., 2017, Digital Humanities Postdoctoral Research Associate, Language and Culture Learning Center, University of Illinois Chicago
  • Diana Zaleski, Ed.D., 2012, Instructional Resource and Professional Development Director, Illinois Education Association
  • Angeline Stuckey, Ed.D., 2010, Executive Director,
  • Karen Barbee-Dixon, Ed.D., 2001, Chief Operating Officer, Habilitative Systems, Inc.

University Faculty

  • Sean Tikkun, Ph.D., 2018, Assistant Professor, Curriculum and Instruction, North Carolina Central University
  • Jenn Jacobs, Ph.D., 2016, Assistant Professor, Sport and Exercise Psychology, Northern Illinois University
  • Matthew Lange, Ph.D., 2015 (deceased), Associate Professor of Psychology, Lewis University
  • Solanlly Ochoa Angrino, Ed.D., 2012, Associate Professor, Social Sciences, Pontífica Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia
  • Joyce Laben, Ed.D., 2012, Instructor, Educational Psychology, Northern Illinois University
  • Elena Lyutykh, Ed.D., 2011, Associate Professor of Research, Concordia University Chicago
  • Stacy Kelly, Ed.D., 2008,Professor, Special Education, Northern Illinois University
  • Martha Strickland, Ed.D., 2006, Associate Professor of Education, Penn State Harrisburg
  • Jerald Thomas, Ed.D., 2004, Professor of Education, Aurora University
  • Peg Gallagher, Ed.D., 2003, Associate Professor of Nursing, Saint Xavier University
  • Clara Fitzpatrick, Ed.D., 2002, Adjunct Professor, Humanities, History and Social Sciences, Columbia College Chicago
  • Jill Cole, Ed.D., 2000, Professor of Education & Department Chair, Wesley College (retired)
  • Deborah Pumo, Ed.D., 1997, Professor of Nursing, Illinois Valley Community College
  • Kathleen Covalt, Ed.D., 1996, Instructor, Northampton Community College, Bethlehem, PA

Other Fields

  • Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D., 1996, Psychotherapist, Labyrinth Counseling, Naperville, IL

We want to keep in touch!

Program alumni are encouraged to contact the Educational Psychology program coordinator, Lindsay Harris, Ph.D.,, with updates about their current positions.