Academics
Areas of Study

Overview

Overview

Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto, Steering Committee Chair
Sorenson Language and Communication Center, Room 1224

Dr. Melissa Herzig, Program Assistant Director
Sorenson Language and Communication Center, Room 1222

The PhD Program in Educational Neuroscience (PEN) was founded at Gallaudet University by Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto (Chair, PEN Steering Committee) and Dr. Melissa Herzig (Assistant Program Director, PEN).

Students in our pioneering PEN program gain state-of-the-art Cognitive Neuroscience training in how humans learn, with a special strength in the neuroplasticity of visually guided learning processes. While Cognitive Neuroscience includes studies of learning and higher cognitive processes across the lifespan, its sister discipline, Educational Neuroscience, includes intensive study of five core domains that are crucial in early childhood learning, including language and bilingualism, reading and literacy, math and numeracy, science and critical thinking (higher cognition), social and emotional learning, and includes study of action and visual processing. PEN students become expert in one of the world’s cutting-edge neuroimaging methods in the discipline of Cognitive Neuroscience (e.g., fNIRS, EEG, fMRI, and beyond), study Neuroethics, gain strong critical analysis and reasoning skills in science, and develop expertise in one of the core content areas of learning identified above. While becoming experts in both contemporary neuroimaging and behavioral experimental science, students also learn powerful, meaningful, and principled ways that science can be translated for the benefit of education and society today.

This doctoral program is a research-focused program where students develop a specific research focus, conducting supervised research within their mentor’s lab as well as developing their own lines of research through independent research projects. Students accepted into the program receive four years of funding as follows: tuition scholarship for up to the domestic rate + $25,200 annual stipend + health insurance option.

Our students benefit from access to an in-house, research-dedicated neuroimaging facility in the Brain and Language Laboratory for Neuroimaging (BL2), founded and directed by Professor Laura-Ann Petitto. Here, students can also choose to become certified in one of the world’s most advanced neuroimaging technologies that is ideally suited for the study of young children and individuals across the lifespan, fNIRS (functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy). Students graduate from the program prepared to become groundbreaking scientists!

The PEN program opened its doors to the first class of Ph.D. students in Fall 2013. This is Gallaudet’s first interdisciplinary Ph.D. program and has its administrative home in Gallaudet University’s National Science Foundation Science of Learning Center, Visual Language and Visual Learning, VL2. Learn more about VL2 and its cognitive neuroscience and translational labs, all of which provide PEN students with unparalleled lab research experience and opportunities.

Application Requirements

Applicants for the Ph.D. in Educational Neuroscience must complete the application procedures and meet the requirements for graduate study at Gallaudet University. Visit the Graduate Admissions website for more information and a checklist of application requirements.  

Deadline to apply for this program: February 15, 2023 (Early applications will be considered)

General Application Requirements

  • Official transcripts of all undergraduate or graduate study (major preferred: biology, psychology, linguistics, cognitive neuroscience, education, interpretation, hearing speech and language sciences, philosophy, or other area related to Educational Neuroscience)
  • 3.2 Undergraduate GPA or higher, a 3.6 or higher GPA in the undergraduate major
  • An application fee of $50
  • A completed graduate school application form
  • Goal statement
  • Three (3) letters of reference

Program Specific Requirement:

  • At least two (2) of your three (3) letters of recommendation, which are required by Gallaudet’s general application requirements, must address your potential for conducting advanced doctoral studies.
  • Strong research background
  • Narrative Statements – Both written English Essay and signed ASL digital “Essay”

In addition to the essay questions required in the Gallaudet Admission Application, please answer the question below in written English and in ASL (please be sure to answer all parts. Length limit: English, maximum 4 pages. ASL, maximum 5 minutes)

Explain your background research experiences, your future professional goals, and why you believe advanced graduate study specifically in the new discipline of Educational Neuroscience is the ideal course for you to achieve your goals.

  • Bilingual language knowledge – in both ASL and English
    • English competence to be determined by submitted written materials and by GRE scores
    • ASL competence to be determined by ASL digital essay and interview (if scheduled)
  • Resume detailing academic, professional, and research experience is required.
  • An example of a completed written project (e.g., research report, course paper)
  • An undergraduate course in basic statistics.
  • You may be called for an interview with faculty from the PEN program.

Courses & Requirements

Summary of Requirements

Fall I

PEN 701: First part

This course (PEN 701) serves as an introduction to foundational issues in this discipline of Educational Neuroscience. Students are required to take this course twice (fall and spring). It is organized around three to four public lectures each semester, delivered by invited speakers on themes drawn from prevailing questions and challenges in education today. Each lecture is preceded by a preparation seminar, during which students will discuss readings relevant to the lecture topic. After each lecture, students will join the invited speaker for a special discussion session, during which they will have the valuable opportunity to interact directly with researchers pursuing innovative projects in the field of Educational Neuroscience. Students can expect to gain general knowledge of topics such as language learning, reading, child development, educational assessment, educational intervention, and school, policy, and family processes associated with young children, especially young deaf visual learners. Students will also learn how contemporary brain and behavioral research may be applied in principled ways to address prevailing problems in education. All seminars and lectures will be conducted bilingually, in ASL and English.

In this course, students will learn about the world¿s most advanced neuroimaging technology, and the neurophysiological principles of measurement on which each neuroimaging technology perates. They will learn the powerful relationship between the different types of neuroimaging systems and the range of questions that they can ¿ and cannot ¿ answer. Students can expect to leave the course with critical analysis skills on which to evaluate neuroimaging claims and their relevance to children¿s learning and education¿knowledge key to the discipline of Educational Neuroscience. A laboratory component of this course will provide students with hands-on experience with functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS). Students will learn about neuroimaging experimental design (block vs event), neuroimaging data analyses, the ethical treatment of participants in brain studies, confidential and ethical archiving of neuroimaging data, ethical use of brain measuring equipment, and evaluate the ethical use of neuroimaging systems in society and education. Students will overall, gain expertise in the translation and interpretation of brain science to education.

The main objective of this two-part course, Foundations of Educational Neuroscience (fall, PEN 703 & spring, PEN 704) is to understand how the rich multidisciplinary field of Educational Neuroscience can inform science and education (and educational policy) in principled ways. In this first course PEN 703, the field's driving overarching objectives are identified: (i) to marry leading scientific discoveries about how children learn knowledge that is at the heart of early child development and schooling (e.g., language, reading, number, science, social-emotional) with core challenges in contemporary education, and to do so in principled ways through ''two-way'' communication and mutual growth between science and society; (ii) to conduct state-of-the-art behavioral and neuroimaging research that renders new knowledge that is useable, and meaningfully translatable, for the benefit of society (spanning parents, teachers, clinicians, medical practitioners, and beyond). Topics span the ethical application of science in education, neuroscience methods, and how children learn the content of their mental life, and the role of culture in learning. One major objective is for students to learn how Educational Neuroscience can provide specific advances in the education of all children, particularly young deaf children. Students in this course will read research articles, participate in discussions, do a small research project, and present a final paper.

The field of neuroethics examines the ethical, social, and legal implications of the application of neuroscience research to society. This course begins with a view of how and why neuroscience has 'evolved' to become a dynamic force in both science and society. Students will explore how bioethics has become a critical dimension of any/all consideration of scientific advancement, particularly in light of modern scientific, research and medical ethics, and as a consequence , of socio-political trends and influences. From this, the field and practice of neuroethics will be addressed and discussed, with relevance to the ways that progress in neuroscience compels and sustains both the issues and dilemmas that arise in and from neuroscientific and neurotechnological research and its applications, and the importance of acknowledging and addressing the ethical basis and resolutions of such issues. An overview of specific frontier areas of neuroscience and technology will be explored, including core topics that involve Educational Neuroscience, with a special emphasis on (a) the extent and scope of new knowledge and capability that such developments afford to impact the human condition, and (b) key ethical concerns that are incurred by such neuroscientific and neurotechnological process. Paradigms for neuroethical, legal, and social probity, safety and surety, and a putative ''precautionary process'' will be explored. The ethical implications of the application of neuroscience research to special and diverse populations of individuals will be of great salience in our discussions.

Discussion of the theory and applications of inferential statistics, including sampling, estimation, confidence intervals, inferences, effect sizes and hypothesis testing as well as descriptive statistics, validity and reliability. Specific statistical techniques such as t tests, Chi Square, one way and factorial analyses of variance, correlations, simple and multiple regression as well as an introduction to trend analysis will be presented. Lab experiences in using SPSS or similar computer programs for analyzing data will be provided. Evaluations of statistical methods used in published research will be discussed.

Spring I

PEN 701: Second Part

This course (PEN 701) serves as an introduction to foundational issues in this discipline of Educational Neuroscience. Students are required to take this course twice (fall and spring). It is organized around three to four public lectures each semester, delivered by invited speakers on themes drawn from prevailing questions and challenges in education today. Each lecture is preceded by a preparation seminar, during which students will discuss readings relevant to the lecture topic. After each lecture, students will join the invited speaker for a special discussion session, during which they will have the valuable opportunity to interact directly with researchers pursuing innovative projects in the field of Educational Neuroscience. Students can expect to gain general knowledge of topics such as language learning, reading, child development, educational assessment, educational intervention, and school, policy, and family processes associated with young children, especially young deaf visual learners. Students will also learn how contemporary brain and behavioral research may be applied in principled ways to address prevailing problems in education. All seminars and lectures will be conducted bilingually, in ASL and English.

The main objective of this two-part course, Foundations of Educational Neuroscience (fall, PEN 703 & spring, PEN 704) is to understand how the rich multidisciplinary field of Educational Neuroscience can inform science and education (and educational policy) in principled ways. In this second course PEN 705, we draw scientific advances from the field and from the National Science Foundation, Science of Learning Center, Visual Language and Visual Learning, ''VL2'' at Gallaudet University. Topics span the impact of early brain plasticity of the visual systems and visual processing on higher cognition, early social visual engagement and literacy learning, the role of gestures in learning, early sign language exposure and its facilitative impact on language learning, the bilingual brain, the surprising role of ''Visual Phonology'' in early reading, and innovations in two-way educational translation uniting science and research. One major objective is for students to learn how Educational Neuroscience can provide specific advances in the education of all children, particularly young deaf children. Students in this course will read research articles, participate in discussions, do a small research project, and present a final paper.

The purpose of this second course in statistics is to develop specific concepts and techniques to conduct basic inferential statistical analysis. The course emphasizes application skills, i.e., the ability to fit the appropriate analysis to a particular data set. Students will learn to conduct and interpret the most often used inferential tests for research and evaluation projects. Computer software will be used to complement course work and analysis.

Summer I

In this first of two research laboratory rotation courses (PEN 700), students gain intensive Educational / Cognitive Neuroscience laboratory research experience at a partnership university during the summers after their first and second years in the PEN doctoral program, devoting special attention to the lab's scientific questions, hypotheses, and methods. Students will become familiar with the set of research questions guiding the laboratory's research, understand how the questions have been approached in the laboratory setting and represented as research hypotheses, gain hands-on experience in the technical aspects of data collection and analysis in the lab, and study how the lab's current work adds to the previous findings of the lab and the discipline. Students will also consider the principled application of the lab's research activities to the improvement of education and society, although this topic will become a major focus of the second rotation of the following summer. Students will focus their final paper and presentation on demonstrating their knowledge of the research process in the visited lab from theory to hypothesis to research design to analysis to interpretation.

Fall II

Core Elective Course: INT 830 or LIN 510 or EDU 860

In this first of three-part sequence of intensive guided study courses (in class discussions and field experiences), Guided Studies (I): Translation (PEN 801), students advance their knowledge in making ''two-way'' connections between basic research discoveries and educational translation, with a special focus on building students' understanding of the priorities, prevailing issues, translational challenges, and translational successes that are of looming importance in education today. Students will interact with educational personnel, parents, and deaf and hard of hearing children in the greater Washington area (for example, the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Educational Center administrators, teachers, children, and parents). The PEN student will gain new knowledge spanning K-12 educational settings, understand the many processes involved in going from translational research outcomes to and educational policy change, and gain specific and crucial new knowledge about the education of the young deaf visual learner. On-site oversight of the student will occur through close, mutually rewarding collaboration with members of the school. Both a written paper on the topic of translational research as well as a presentation of this paper to the student's PEN Program Committee, will comprise the student's first-year Preliminary Exams, which will occur at the end of this course.

Spring II

Note: Core elective course (advanced statistics) at Gallaudet University or consortium university

In this second of a three-part sequence of intensive guided study courses (in classroom and field experience), Guided Studies (II): Research (PEN 802), students advance their knowledge and critical analysis of the scientific process through active participation in and completion of a small research project. The course will involve a field experience assignment in a PEN lab at Gallaudet. The student will be further assigned to a subset of previously collected data from the lab on which students will be trained to analyze. The hands-on experience will involve the writing of a final research report in APA Journal Article format that includes articulation of the central question in Educational Neuroscience that the lab's study addresses (including theoretical significance, rationale, hypotheses, related predictions), the design of the mini study using the already collected data, articulation of the methods, data analyses, and findings, and discussion of the scientific and translational implications. This field experience will also include the student's writing of an IRB application, as well as a final presentation. In addition, both the written and presentation components will also constitute the student's Qualifying Examinations, which are scheduled separately at the end of this course with the student's PEN PhD Program Committee. After successful completion of Qualifying Examination, the student may petition to advance to candidacy in this program.

Summer II

In this second of two research laboratory rotation courses (PEN 710), students gain intensive Educational/Cognitive Neuroscience laboratory research experience at a partnership university during the summers after their first and second years in the PEN doctoral program, devoting special attention to the lab's translational impact. Students will become familiar with the set of research questions guiding the laboratory's research, understand how the questions have been approached in the laboratory setting and represented as research hypotheses, gain hands-on experience in the technical aspects of data collection and analysis in the lab, and study how the lab's current work adds to the previous findings of the lab. Students will especially consider the principled application of the lab's research activities to the improvement of education and society, which will be a topic of major focus in this second lab rotation course. Students will focus their final paper and presentation on demonstrating their knowledge of the research process in the visited lab from theory to hypothesis, to research design, to analysis and interpretation, and, to its important translational impact.

Fall III

This seminar is a pre-requisite for PhD students in the HSLS PhD Program who will be enrolled in a Practicum in University Instruction the following Spring semester. Students in this seminar become familiar with trends and issues in higher education instruction and supervision of interns in higher education Audiology and SLP programs.

In this third of a three-part sequence of intensive guided study courses (in class and field experience), Guided Studies (III): Theory (PEN 803), students advance their knowledge knowledge, critical analysis, and independent scholarship in one select domain of Educational Neuroscience of the student's choice. Through a combination of course work and field experience as independent library scholarship, students will advance to writing a paper in research grant proposal format in which they identify a research question of important contemporary scientific and educational significance in Educational Neuroscience, along with an in depth and detailed literature review. The student will also provide a presentation of this work at the end of the course. In addition, the grant proposal and presentation constitute the student's Comprehensive Examination, and is also separately presented at the end of the semester to the student's Comprehensive Examination Committee.

Spring III

The exciting and timely discipline called Educational Neuroscience provides an important level of analysis for addressing today's core problems in education. Advanced doctoral students in Gallaudet University's PhD Program in Educational Neuroscience (PEN) have studied the empirical foundations and methods from which the discipline draws its strength, in particular, Cognitive Neuroscience. Advanced doctoral students have also gained new knowledge into the optimal ways to marry scientific discoveries about how children learn with core challenges in contemporary education-crucially, in principled ways, and with ''two-way'' communication and mutual growth to render knowledge that is usable, and meaningfully translatable for all children, especially for the young deaf visual learner. Armed with this powerful knowledge - and after having completed the Comprehensive Exam for the purpose of developing their dissertation proposal - the PEN doctoral student is now ready to advance ''full speed ahead'' in his or her doctoral dissertation research, the writing of the doctoral dissertation, and, ultimately, the defense of the written doctoral dissertation. The purpose of this course is to facilitate students through these important steps. The culmination of these steps will be the ''oral'' dissertation proposal and defense of the dissertation.

Summer III (if needed)

The exciting and timely discipline called Educational Neuroscience provides an important level of analysis for addressing today's core problems in education. Advanced doctoral students in Gallaudet University's PhD Program in Educational Neuroscience (PEN) have studied the empirical foundations and methods from which the discipline draws its strength, in particular, Cognitive Neuroscience. Advanced doctoral students have also gained new knowledge into the optimal ways to marry scientific discoveries about how children learn with core challenges in contemporary education-crucially, in principled ways, and with ''two-way'' communication and mutual growth to render knowledge that is usable, and meaningfully translatable for all children, especially for the young deaf visual learner. Armed with this powerful knowledge - and after having completed the Comprehensive Exam for the purpose of developing their dissertation proposal - the PEN doctoral student is now ready to advance ''full speed ahead'' in his or her doctoral dissertation research, the writing of the doctoral dissertation, and, ultimately, the defense of the written doctoral dissertation. The purpose of this course is to facilitate students through these important steps. The culmination of these steps will be the ''oral'' dissertation proposal and defense of the dissertation.

Fall IV

The exciting and timely discipline called Educational Neuroscience provides an important level of analysis for addressing today's core problems in education. Advanced doctoral students in Gallaudet University's PhD Program in Educational Neuroscience (PEN) have studied the empirical foundations and methods from which the discipline draws its strength, in particular, Cognitive Neuroscience. Advanced doctoral students have also gained new knowledge into the optimal ways to marry scientific discoveries about how children learn with core challenges in contemporary education-crucially, in principled ways, and with ''two-way'' communication and mutual growth to render knowledge that is usable, and meaningfully translatable for all children, especially for the young deaf visual learner. Armed with this powerful knowledge - and after having completed the Comprehensive Exam for the purpose of developing their dissertation proposal - the PEN doctoral student is now ready to advance ''full speed ahead'' in his or her doctoral dissertation research, the writing of the doctoral dissertation, and, ultimately, the defense of the written doctoral dissertation. The purpose of this course is to facilitate students through these important steps. The culmination of these steps will be the ''oral'' dissertation proposal and defense of the dissertation.

Spring IV

The exciting and timely discipline called Educational Neuroscience provides an important level of analysis for addressing today's core problems in education. Advanced doctoral students in Gallaudet University's PhD Program in Educational Neuroscience (PEN) have studied the empirical foundations and methods from which the discipline draws its strength, in particular, Cognitive Neuroscience. Advanced doctoral students have also gained new knowledge into the optimal ways to marry scientific discoveries about how children learn with core challenges in contemporary education-crucially, in principled ways, and with ''two-way'' communication and mutual growth to render knowledge that is usable, and meaningfully translatable for all children, especially for the young deaf visual learner. Armed with this powerful knowledge - and after having completed the Comprehensive Exam for the purpose of developing their dissertation proposal - the PEN doctoral student is now ready to advance ''full speed ahead'' in his or her doctoral dissertation research, the writing of the doctoral dissertation, and, ultimately, the defense of the written doctoral dissertation. The purpose of this course is to facilitate students through these important steps. The culmination of these steps will be the ''oral'' dissertation proposal and defense of the dissertation.

Summer IV (if needed)

The exciting and timely discipline called Educational Neuroscience provides an important level of analysis for addressing today's core problems in education. Advanced doctoral students in Gallaudet University's PhD Program in Educational Neuroscience (PEN) have studied the empirical foundations and methods from which the discipline draws its strength, in particular, Cognitive Neuroscience. Advanced doctoral students have also gained new knowledge into the optimal ways to marry scientific discoveries about how children learn with core challenges in contemporary education-crucially, in principled ways, and with ''two-way'' communication and mutual growth to render knowledge that is usable, and meaningfully translatable for all children, especially for the young deaf visual learner. Armed with this powerful knowledge - and after having completed the Comprehensive Exam for the purpose of developing their dissertation proposal - the PEN doctoral student is now ready to advance ''full speed ahead'' in his or her doctoral dissertation research, the writing of the doctoral dissertation, and, ultimately, the defense of the written doctoral dissertation. The purpose of this course is to facilitate students through these important steps. The culmination of these steps will be the ''oral'' dissertation proposal and defense of the dissertation.

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PhD Program in Educational Neuroscience (PEN)

Laura-Ann Petitto

SLCC 1224

202-250-2405

(202) 250-2405

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