Programs in the Literacy, Culture, and International Education Division take seriously the notion that education is a deeply social, cultural, political, and moral activity. While emphasizing different aspects or manifestations of education, each program provides a critical and inter-disciplinary framework for understanding educational processes and engaging in educational practice. Our faculty and students focus on these issues through multiple lenses, examining topics in the U.S., the world beyond U.S. borders, or transnational movements that cross state boundaries.


Students in the LCIE programs join a vibrant intellectual community led by a nationally recognized faculty with strong research and scholarly interests in a variety of fields and disciplines. Rooted in the humanities and social sciences, the Division is truly interdisciplinary, bringing together historians, scholars in literacy studies, educators, sociocultural anthropologists, philosophers, and experts on international education.

Programs in the Division help students appreciate the central role of education in our complex and changing world. Courses consider how local educational processes and practices are shaped by broader social and cultural, political and economic influences, as well as how moral, ethical, and political commitments lie at the heart of educational purposes. To this end, there are three distinct, but interrelated academic programs within the Division.

With a strong emphasis on social sciences and the humanities, Education, Culture and Society (ECS) focuses on the historical, political, philosophical and sociocultural foundations of education. Students learn to engage in educational research using ethnographic, historical, and philosophical modes of inquiry. With their advisor, students develop a course of study that is flexible, individualized, and often centered in an academic discipline. ECS graduates continue on to careers in academia, non-profit and community-based organizations, educational research centers, or K-12 schools and districts.

International Educational Development (IEDP) explores how education can be best deployed to promote social betterment and improve economic conditions in the developing world. IEDP provides students with a foundational knowledge of international development theory and practical approaches as well as an understanding of the interplay of local, national, and international politics, policies, and priorities. Graduates of this program continue on to careers in international development organizations, government, NGOs, or K-12 schools.

With a strong humanities orientation, Reading/Writing/Literacy (RWL) emphasizes the unique role that literature and writing plays in shaping experiences in schools and in society. Programs provide students with expertise in early literacy, literacy in families and communities, multiculturalism, children’s literature, post-secondary literacies, and teacher education/professional development/leadership. Graduates of these programs continue on to careers as literacy practitioners, researchers, and policy makers in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, as well as to positions in community-based literacy programs, educational publishing, and government programs.


Degree Programs

Education, Culture, and Society, Ph.D
More about this ProgramThe doctoral program in Education, Culture, and Society provides a rigorous and systematic theoretical and methodological framework for the study of education, and it also provides a foundation upon which new models of education can be built. Following a rich academic curriculum based in anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and history, the program invites you to interrogate and contribute to scholarship on the social and cultural contexts of learning, both in and outside of schools.

Reading/Writing/Literacy Ph.D. and Reading/Writing/Literacy Ed.D.
RWL Ph.D.RWL Ed.D.The Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs both emphasize the interrelationships and integration of theory, research, policy, and practice. The Ph.D. prepares scholar-practitioners for careers in research and teaching at colleges and universities. The Ed.D. trains practitioner-scholars for positions involving the practice of education in schools, school districts, colleges and universities, government agencies, foundations, entrepreneurial ventures, and consulting organizations.

Education, Culture, and Society, M.S.Ed
More about this ProgramThe Master’s degree in Education, Culture, and Society trains you in a broad array of theoretical and methodological approaches to the nuanced study of education as a social, cultural, and historical phenomenon. Following a traditional yet flexible/individualized academic curriculum, this program invites you to examine and study the social and cultural contexts of learning in preparation for doctoral study as well as for careers in schools, administration and educational research. Interested students have various options to individualize their program of study, such as through a concentration in Community Action and Social Change or our dual degree program with Social Work.

International Educational Development, M.S.Ed
More about this ProgramThe International Educational Development Program (IEDP) of the Graduate School of Education at University of Pennsylvania is designed to teach you the distinctive skills required for working in the field of education and development in an era of globalization through both academic coursework and hands-on experiences. The program provides you with a foundational knowledge of international development as well as an enhanced understanding of the interplay of local, national, and international politics, policies and priorities. IEDP offers a unique program of international internship opportunities worldwide that help to foster the application of academic knowledge to policy and practice in the field.

Reading/Writing/Literacy M.S.Ed.
More about this ProgramThe M.S.Ed. specialization in Reading/Writing/Literacy prepares students as practitioners, researchers, and policy makers in educational settings that include K-12 schools, colleges and universities, community-based literacy programs, and educational publishing and government programs.

Language and Literacy M.S.Ed.
More about this ProgramThe M.S.Ed. specialization in Language and Literacy trains students to meet the needs of all language learners in diverse classrooms. The curriculum melds instruction in teaching English as an additional language with a thorough understanding of pre-K-12 literacies for students whose first language is English.

Additional Offerings

International Educational Development, Doctoral Concentration
More about IEDP-DThe International Educational Development Program - Doctoral Concentration (IEDP-D) is a unique cross-programmatic and interdisciplinary concentration for both Ph.D. and Ed.D. students. It has been designed for doctoral students who wish to develop both strong skills in a disciplinary area (e.g., human development, educational linguistics, anthropology of education, and sociology of education) as well as cross-cultural and international skills based on field experience. The IEDP-D is only open to students who have been admitted to an existing doctoral program in GSE.


  • Vivian L. Gadsden Voted AERA President-Elect

    Vivian L. Gadsden, William T. Carter Professor of Child Development and Education at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, has been voted president-elect of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). Her term as president begins at the conclusion of AERA’s 2016 Annual Meeting.

  • Rhiannon Maton wins AESA dissertation award

    Rhiannon Maton (Ph.D. RWL) is the recipient of the American Educational Studies Association's Taylor & Francis Past President's Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Research. This is a great honor focusing on the potential for Maton's research to contribute in meaningful ways to the field.

  • Welcoming Krystal Strong

    We were delighted that Dr. Krystal Strong joined the ECS standing faculty in Fall 2015, bringing additional expertise in the anthropology of education and in international education to PennGSE.  She has conducted extensive ethnographic research in Nigeria focusing on campus-based politics and the political socialization of youth in institutions of higher education.  Her research has been supported by a number of prestigious fellowships, including a National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship.

  • Dr. Sigal Ben-Porath named faculty head of tfa in gse

    The ECS Faculty congratulate Professor of Education, Sigal Ben-Porath, has been appointed to faculty leadership over PennGSE's TFA program.  Despite these new responsibilities and her active research agenda, she remains an active and integral part of ECS. 

  • IEDP Students on Unique International Summer Internships

    Students in Penn GSE’s International Educational Development Program (IEDP), part of ECS, participated in unique internships across the globe this summer, thanks to the recent appointment of IEDP Director Dan Wagner as the UNESCO Chair in Learning and Literacy.

  • Spencer funding for doctoral students

    Branding against Closure: Philadelphia Neighborhood Schools and the Management of Risky Futures.  Julie McWilliams’ dissertation deals with the ways that neighborhood schools strategize as communities to remain open in the face threatened closure. She draws on ethnographic work in a particular school in Philadelphia that was placed on a closures list to understand how they engaged in a branding process to “become valuable" and “competitive” within this expanding educational market of school choice.  Congratulations to Julie.

  • Spencer Funding awarded to Dr. Sigal Ben-Porath

    In this project, Dr. Ben-Porath will analyze the demands and virtues of citizenship in light of the changing civic landscape, particularly online forms of participation and engagement. Along with a doctoral student, Gideon Dishon, she will suggest new forms of civic teaching and learning and new contexts for such activities that could productively be implemented in schools. 

  • Ethnography in Education Research Forum comes to ECS

    After many years of impeccable service, Dr. Nancy Hornberger has stepped down as the Convener of the Ethnography in Education Research Forum.  Her work has been key to the field, and her efforts have been essential to the Forum's success as the country's largest gathering of qualitative methodologists in the U.S.  Dr. Stanton Wortham and Dr. Kathy Hall are honored to step into a leadership role for the Forum, and the Center for Urban Ethnography which hosts it.

  • Concentration in Community Action and Social Change

    Starting in Fall 2015, students in the ECS master’s program may opt for an “Area of Concentration” in Community Action and Social Change.   This concentration challenges students to deploy disciplinary training toward efforts at producing meaningful social change, with an emphasis on the United States.  A student in this concentration thus focuses his/her efforts on understanding the dynamics and challenges that local communities face and the potential role of education in fostering positive, socially just and equitable change.  This concentration is best suited for students interested in community advocacy, activism, practitioner oriented inquiry, educational non-profits, or other forms of community engagement.

  • The Adventures of Aya and Athena

    Aya Yagi (in the master's program in Education, Culture and Society) and Athena Lao (in the master's program in International Educational Development) share their intellectual and personal adventures as students in the program.  Learn more about Aya's and Athena's experiences at their respective blogs.


Standing Faculty

Sigal Ben-Porath, Ph.D.

Tel Aviv University

Gerald Campano, Ph.D.

University of Pennsylvania

Vivian Gadsden, Ed.D.

University of Michigan

Kathleen Hall, Ph.D.

University of Chicago

John L. Puckett, Ph.D.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Amy Stornaiuolo, Ph.D.

University of California, Berkeley

Krystal Strong, Ph.D.

University of California, Berkeley

Ebony E. Thomas, Ph.D.

University of Michigan

Daniel A. Wagner, Ph.D.

University of Michigan

Jonathan Zimmerman, Ph.D.

Johns Hopkins University


Ameena Ghaffar-Kucher, Ed.D.

Teachers College, Columbia University

Alex Posecznick, Ph.D.

Columbia University

Brian Street, Ph.D.

Oxford University

Diane Waff, Ed.D.

University of Pennsylvania


Where are our students now?

The LCIE Division prepares researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers for careers in academic research environments, educational administration, international development, higher education, community-based organizations, social policy institutions, and non-profit organizations.

View LCIE Alumni Careers



Literacy, Culture, and International Education Division

University of Pennsylvania
Graduate School of Education

3700 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Education, Culture, and Society

International Educational Development

Alex Posecznick, Ph.D.
Program Manager and Associated Faculty
(215) 573-3947

Lauren Scicluna-Simon
Program Assistant
(215) 898-5199

Reading/Writing /Literacy

Penny M. Creedon
Program Manager
(215) 898-3245


Lorraine Hightower
Program Assistant
(215) 898-8435