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Development, Learning, and Diversity Specialization

Who are we?

The Development, Learning, and Diversity (DLD) faculty engage in research and support doctoral students as they build a sophisticated understanding of how individuals learn subject matter, gain facility using language and literacy, acquire representational capacities, and develop social competencies in diverse socio-cultural contexts. We conceptualize learning from a developmental perspective that spans early childhood to adulthood and view development as shaped and supported in profound ways by context, culture, tools, and instruction.

In the DLD concentration, students investigate and experience the variety of ways in which diversity plays out in human learning. We employ an interdisciplinary approach as we examine a broad range of sources of diversity, including variation in racial and cultural backgrounds, learning environments, organizational supports, and developmental and learning histories.

This concentration is designed to provide students and affiliated faculty opportunities to better understand multiple dimensions of learning and to examine the interplay among cognition, social and personal development, organizations, and contexts. Development, learning, and diversity are considered through the lens of both theory and action, with responses to pressing educational and social challenges central to our research and teaching focus.

What educational problems do we study?

  • Learning in classrooms. What pedagogical strategies, teacher-child interactions, and child-child interactions support the learning of children of different ages?  How do classrooms foster or inhibit development of self-regulatory skills?  How teachers engage children in play that fosters learning, social growth and creativity?
  • Learning in non-school settings. What role do out-of-school contexts such as families, museums, zoos and botanical gardens, broadcast television and radio, after-school programs, and youth-serving organizations play in supporting learning?
  • Racial identity. How do our racial identities shape and influence opportunities to learn in a context, particularly urban classrooms? How do teacher education programs structure learning to provide teachers with the necessary knowledge and pedagogical skills to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student population?
  • Literacy development. What features of classrooms support language and literacy development? What are the interrelationships among language, self regulation, and early literacy? What are the long-term relationships between early abilities and later academic success?
  • Math. How can young children's actions in, and representations of, the world support long-term development of mathematical and scientific reasoning? How can young children be introduced to, and participate in, scientific and mathematical practices, such as modeling and reasoning about mathematical systems?
  • Children's interests. What are the sources of children's interests in learning about different topics? How does interest relate to the emergence of self-regulation and how can interest and self regulation be fostered in classrooms? How do teachers develop responsive and relevant curricula and instruction to scaffold student interests in teaching and learning?
  • Professional development. What methods are effective in helping teachers' capacity to reflect on practice and improve their classroom practices? Do children show improved growth as a result of teachers' implementation of new practices?
  • Learning and development at work. How is learning organized in schools and other workplaces? Who has access to this learning, and how do institutional structures shape this learning?

What is the program of study like for doctoral students in the DLD program?

The DLD concentration provides students broad understanding of central issues of learning, development and diversity, and flexibility as they the gain expertise required to achieve their career goals. Students in the DLD concentration engage in a program of studies that draws on perspectives from multiple disciplines and is designed to foster a sense of affiliation with a cohort.

Students work with their faculty advisers to create a statement that outlines how their course of studies will enable them to acquire the skills, knowledge, and experiences needed to achieve their long-term career objectives. Beginning in the first year, students engage in mentored research projects with faculty and other students. Students are supported throughout the program in conducting independent and collaborative research and are given departmental support to attend and present at professional conferences.

What do DLD graduates do when they complete their doctoral work?

Graduates of our program take leadership roles in university, school, and community settings. These may include:

  • University faculty positions as researchers and professors in areas including early childhood education, learning sciences, conceptual development, curriculum and instruction, teaching and learning, and foundations of education
  • Program development in community-based learning institutions such as museums and zoos
  • Program development or research associated with television or publishing
  • Administrative or research positions in research institutions and foundations
  • Early childhood leadership roles in municipal, state, or federal programs