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Curriculum and Instruction [Ed.S.] - Culture, Cognition, and the Learning Process

100% ONLINE! The MTSU Specialist in Education (Ed.S.) degree Major in Curriculum and Instruction offers a Specialization in Culture, Cognition, and the Learning Process (CC/LP). This unique 30-hour, online degree program provides students with an opportunity to consider the impact and influence of educational neuroscience, cultural circumstances, and psychology on teaching and learning.

Every year more and more cultural diversity is present within public schools. Current educational research into cognition considers diversity and its impact upon teaching and learning.

Smells, memories, pain, learning—all these experiences and many more are made possible by just three pounds of tissue in our heads—the brain! This program is for all who would like to learn more about cultural diversity, mental processes, and cognitive/educational neuroscience and their impact on the exciting world of teaching and learning. What makes learning harder or easier? What actually is learning? What really happens when people learn? Should educators know something about the brains of the students sitting in their classrooms and what is happening—or not—and possible explanations about how this exciting mental process is occurring? This online degree program provides students with an opportunity to consider the impact and influence of educational neuroscience, cultural circumstances, and psychology on teaching and on learning in general. 

*All students must be admitted to the Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) College of Graduate Studies. All coursework is delivered via the Desire to Learn (D2L) course management system. Have questions about this program? Email the Program Coordinator,

What We're Doing

Dr. Barbara Young

MTSU Online degree program broadens horizons in education field

The Culture, Cognition and Learning Process specialization degree was born in 2007 with a course of study that applies to classroom educators, school administrators and other professionals working in an ever-evolving and complex world. The program was created thanks to the tireless work of Dr. Barbara Young. With this depth of educational knowledge, Young saw an opportunity to create and direct a unique, graduate-level program that would offer high-quality online instruction and address the plethora of diversity issues facing educators today. “In addition to being completely online, the asynchronous courses are available on a year-round set rotation schedule, which allows students to plan out their own path to graduation,” said Dr. Young, a New Orleans native who taught in K-12 classrooms for almost two decades across Louisiana before moving to Tennessee. “This format flexibility, as well as the graduate-level program’s unique course of study, make it appealing to a diverse group of applicants.” As the name of the program suggests, courses focus on diversity, contributions of psychology to the field of teaching and learning, contributions of neuroscience to the field of education, historical and social context of multicultural education and cultural issues in education. Students must have a master’s degree to apply, though they don't need to be licensed educators. Read more here

Tabetha Sullens

Mom, working professional continues education with fully online degree program

After spending time planning and researching online programs, Dr. Tabetha Sullens, assistant head of school for student affairs at the Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, said she knew MTSU was the right place to continue her education. “I researched several EdS online programs before choosing MTSU,” she recalled. “I knew I valued my time at MTSU in my undergraduate work… Since I work in a boarding school with students from 23 countries and 15 states, I appreciated the focus on diversity within the curriculum in the program.” Dr. Sullens said the program’s online platform appealed to her for many reasons. “I commute two hours a day to Webb. I knew I needed flexibility while holding a full-time job and my role as a mother. This program allowed me to find balance with furthering my education while realistically meeting all my other obligations.” MTSU’s ability to provide a program that makes a work-life-school balance possible was one of the most appealing things to Dr. Sullens. “The flexibility of an asynchronous program is doable for anyone, truly!” Read more about Dr. Sullens here.

Every year more and more cultural diversity is present within society and the public school system. Current educational research into cognition and cultural issues considers this diversity and its impact upon the teaching and learning process. This online degree program provides educators and administrators, as well as all personnel involved in the educational arena, with an opportunity to study emerging research in cognition and to reflect upon the impact and influence that cultural circumstances have on learning and on teaching in general. Graduates are found in settings such as school systems, daycare facilities, and community centers in a variety of positions; examples include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Administrators
  • Counselors
  • Educational support personnel
  • ELL/ESL teachers
  • Social workers
  • Teacher aides
  • Teachers

Employers of MTSU alumni in Tennessee include but are not limited to:

  • Battleground Academy
  • Bedford County Schools
  • Coffee County Schools
  • Franklin City Schools
  • Franklin County Schools
  • Hamilton County Schools
  • Knox County Schools
  • Memphis School District
  • Metro/Davidson County Schools
  • Murfreesboro City Schools
  • Rutherford County Schools
  • Tennessee Schools for the Deaf
  • Tullahoma School District
  • Wilson County Schools

The Womack Educational Leadership Department offers the Specialist in Education degree (Ed.S.) with a major in Curriculum and Instruction and a specialization in Culture, Cognition, and the Learning Process. This online degree program provides an opportunity to consider the impact and influence that cultural circumstances and mental processes have on learning and teaching in general.

Applicants must have:

  1. an earned master's degree in any area from an accredited university or college required prior to admission application;
  2. a grade point average (GPA) in previous academic work that reflects potential for success in the Ed.S.

For complete curriculum details, click on the REQUIREMENTS button to the right. 

Other graduate degrees

An M.Ed. with a major in Curriculum and Instruction is offered; also available is a concentration in English as a Second Language.

In addition are both on- and off-campus cohorts.

The Womack Educational Leadership Department offers both the Master of Education (M.Ed.) and Specialist in Education (Ed.S.) with a major in Administration and Supervision. The specialization in Higher Education can lead to either an Ed.S. or M.Ed.

There is also an Instructional Leader Licensure program specialization delivered through off-campus cohorts meeting at various locations.

Also under the Administration and Supervision major is a concentration in Agricultural Education Leadership leading to the M.Ed.

The major in Library Science leads to a Master in Library Science (M.L.S.).

A major in Professional Counseling includes programs leading to an Ed.S., with concentrations also available in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling.

Curriculum and Instruction, Culture, Cognition, and the Learning Process Specialization, Ed.S.

Barbara Young, Program Director
(615) 898-2209

The Ed.S. in Curriculum and Instruction major offers a specialization in Culture, Cognition, and the Learning Process. This online degree program provides an opportunity to consider the impact and influence that cultural circumstances, mental processes, and contributions to neuroscience have on learning and teaching in general. Onsite options may be available for some courses.

Please see undergraduate catalog for information regarding undergraduate programs.

Admission Requirements

Admission to the Educational Specialist in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in culture, cognition, and the learning process requires

  1. an earned master's degree in any area from an accredited university or college required prior to admission application;
  2. a grade point average (GPA) in previous academic work that reflects potential for success in the Ed.S.

Application Procedures

All application materials are to be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies.

Applicant must

  1. submit an application with the appropriate application fee (online at Once this initial application has been accepted, the applicant will receive directions on how to enter the graduate portal to be able to submit other materials.
  2. submit official transcripts of all previous college work.

Degree Requirements

The Ed.S. in Curriculum and Instruction with an instruction, culture, cognition, and the learning process specialization requires completion of 30 semester hours.

Once admitted to the program, candidate must

  1. complete 30 semester hours, with a minimum of 15 at the 7000 level (see specifics in Curriculum section below);
  2. successfully complete a research project during the semester of graduation (exam may be retaken once).

Curriculum: Curriculum and Instruction, Culture, Cognition, and the Learning Process

The following illustrates the coursework requirements.

Required Core (15 hours)


  • FOED 7060 - Seminar in Educational Foundations

    3credit hours

    Opportunities to think reflectively and critically on the historical, philosophical, and psychological foundations of education and attendant implications.

  • FOED 7610 - Directed Individual Educational Research

    3credit hours

    Prerequisite: SPSE 7010. It is recommended that this class be taken the semester following enrollment in SPSE 7010. Culmination of research sequence (FOED 6610 and SPSE 7010) which requires studying a professional educational problem through completing and presenting a research project.

  • SPSE 7010 - Educational Research Methodology  3 credit hours  
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    SPSE 7010 - Educational Research Methodology

    3credit hours

    Designing research studies, including development of understandings, as well as skills and techniques needed in gathering, structuring, interpreting and presenting data required for educational research. SPSE 7010 is a prerequisite for enrollment in FOED 7610, which is recommended to be taken the following semester.

  • SPSE 7020 - Classroom Management: Methods and Models

    3credit hours

    Introduction, examination, and practice in approaches to classroom management through evaluation within a diverse setting. Research on classroom management and discipline within the classroom presented for analysis and interpretation. General topics include theories/models of discipline, management, organization, teacher behaviors, individual differences, and legal issues that impact the teaching and learning environment. Emphasis placed on importance of informed decision making and reflection in relation to classroom management and evaluation.

  • SPSE 7170 - Learning Theories and the Educational Process

    3credit hours

    Examines the historical and current learning theoretical principles, concepts, and research findings as related to education in a variety of settings. Focuses on cognitive, behavioral, constructivist, and humanistic learning theorists, theories and applications.

*Note: SPSE 7010 is a prerequisite to FOED 7610

Specialized Core (12 hours)


  • SPSE 7710 - Historical and Social Contexts of Multicultural Education

    3credit hours

    Explores the history of multicultural education, social policy, equity issues and legislation from the settling of America to the current national education initiatives that impact classrooms. Examines the relationship between societal influences, equity issues, and classroom practice in light of the cultural milieu and challenges existing in today's classrooms.

  • SPSE 7720 - Brain-Based Teaching and Learning in the Classroom

    3credit hours

    Focuses on applying brain-based learning principles in the classroom. Examines standard educational practices today in light of what we now know about the brain.

  • FOED 7080 - Contributions of Psychology to Education

    3credit hours

    Concepts and generalizations of the various theories of psychology and their relationships to education in such areas as motivation, retention, evaluation, discipline, capacity, practice, understanding, transfer-creative thinking, problem solving, and methods of instruction.

Elective (3 hours)

Choose one from the following:

  • FOED 6211 - Educational Psychology for Classroom Teachers

    3credit hours

    Examination of physical, social, emotional, and mental development of humans from birth to maturity. Basic theories of learning including behaviorism, constructivism, and humanism plus theories of motivating and facilitating learning processes in classroom settings.

  • FOED 6850 - Cultural Issues in Education

    3credit hours

    Explores our unique American multiculture and fosters exploration of teaching for diversity while promoting unity. Explores basic components of multicultural education and aids educators in developing awareness, understanding, and sensitivity to the needs and interests of ethnic and cultural groups.

Program Notes

Students taking courses for licensure renewal, add-on endorsements, or "plus 30" upgrade on teacher licensure should register as non-degree-seeking students. Students enrolling in 6000-level courses must hold a bachelor's degree, and students enrolling in 7000-level courses must hold a master's degree. Non-degree-seeking students cannot register for 7000-level courses without departmental permission.

Our adjunct faculty bring outstanding professional experience to our programs. Many are industry leaders with decorated careers and honors. Importantly, they are innovative educators who offer hands-on learning to our students to prepare them to enter and thrive in a dynamic, and oftentimes emerging, industry and professional world. They inspire, instruct, and challenge our students toward academic and professional success.

Professors create meaningful learning opportunities

As a recent graduate, I can say with complete confidence that Middle Tennessee State University’s Online Specialist in Education, Curriculum and Instruction Major (C/I), w/Specialization in Culture, Cognition, and  Learning Process (CC/LP) graduate degree program contained the most enriching coursework that I have experienced as a college student. From the time of my first class, it was apparent that Dr. Young has a holistic view of education regarding past, present, and future. Given the demographic trends in education, cutting edge discoveries in the the field of neuroscience, current events, and everything in between, I cannot imagine a more relevant and forward-thinking curriculum than what Dr. Young has developed for this program. I was initially skeptical and nervous about the online learning platform, but I ended up loving it. The electronic discussion board forums were more riveting than they would have been in person because there was more time to contemplate each response and process everyone’s unique perspective spanning many diverse and professional backgrounds. Despite never meeting face-to-face in person, I felt / feel a special connection to my former classmates. In my opinion, the CC/LP program naturally attracts an open-minded and passionate group of graduate students. Also, Dr. Young, as instructor and advisor, motivated each of us to be reflective practitioners through assignments / feedback aligned with her pedagogical beliefs in terms of creating as many meaningful learning opportunities as possible. The textbooks and resource materials were pragmatic, engaging to read, and very informative. As a matter of fact, I have found myself rereading portions of textbooks to incorporate into my own teaching. I cannot express my gratitude enough for how much this EdS program has accelerated my professional as well as personal development. I would recommend the program to any life-long learner interested in increasing their content knowledge while also gaining a deeper understanding self and how to better educate via an increased sensitivity ot learners’ multifaceted needs.

Everett James, Summer 2021

Courses are organized, detailed with perfect amount of challenges

The two classes that I completed Spring 2021 have had the biggest impact on me as a teacher!  They were more beneficial than any courses that I’ve ever taken... Before I began this program, I was a very factual thinker that had a mental block when it came to reflective thinking.  I still need work in that area, but I have come so far with reflective thinking due to my course work, interaction with classmates, and participation in online class assignments and activities.  This ability has changed the way that I teach. The Human Diversity in Learning Environments and Brain-Based Teaching and Learning courses that I just completed have changed my way of thinking about a lot of things in the world.  It opened my eyes to issues that were oblivious to me.  I also discovered a lot about myself as a person. I am so happy that I made the leap and began the online Educational Specialist CC/LP program last year. The format for our online courses is very organized and detailed with the perfect amount of challenges...  I am fortunate to have had the guidance and critiques from professors as the knowledge gained will stick with me for the rest of my life.

Sarah Peralta, Spring 2021

Program exceeds all expectations

As an Iraqi refugee who fled Iraq in hopes of finding a better life and educational opportunities, this Ed.S. online degree with Specialization in Culture, Cognition, and the Learning Process has been everything I was looking for! After completed my Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a Concentration in English as a Second Language from MTSU, I knew that it wasn’t the end of my learning journey. As I was exploring the various graduate programs at MTSU and other universities, I couldn’t help but read more about the Educational Specialist Degree (Ed.S.) with Specialization in Culture, Cognition, and the Learning Process. I find myself learning many new things on daily basis and being able to apply my learning in my ESL classroom. Learning about other cultures, meeting students’ needs, brain-based teaching strategies, and many other topics have been eye opening experiences. As a refugee who came to this country 11 years ago, every class that I have taken so far has given me the ability to reflect on my own personal, educational, and teaching experiences. I find myself reflecting with passion to many of the issues we discuss in our weekly discussion boards along with our assigned assignments. I find myself learning more about who I am as an individual who lives in the American culture. I’m constantly finding myself growing professionally and personally as I do the required readings and the other requirements. My journey isn’t finished yet; however, the program has definitely exceeded my expectations so far. I have shared my experiences with the other ESL teachers that I work with in our district and encourage them to consider this degree option in their educational future. As a working mother, wife, and teacher I didn’t want to pursue a degree that I wasn’t interested in. I also was looking for an online program that I would be able to do since I’m a full-time teacher. As an individual, I usually struggle to reflect and to learn with passion if the topic isn’t within my interest. I’m thankful for making the decision to enroll in this program, and it has been my passion outside of work hours. The classes have all been so interactive and I have been able to connect with the other classmates and find myself relating to their shared experiences and knowledge. All of the classes have focused on newly-emerging research and topics that are of high interest with classroom applicability. As an English as a Second Language teacher, I think of my English learners’ needs the entire time. I work with students who have various ethnic backgrounds and meeting their needs is a challenging task. The classes have been a resource for me. I have been able to apply my learning within my own classroom, and I’m happy to say that a lot of the strategies that I have implemented have helped my students grow academically. Leadership is what makes an online program a success. I was hesitant at first to pursue this online degree because I wasn’t sure what type of support I would be getting from the professors. Dr. Young has been a supportive professor and supervisor since day one.  Her expectations are very clear and precise and she is always available. She never let us feel it’s an online class because she constantly communicates with us via discussions and emails. Her academic feedback is really helpful and it has given me the opportunity to grow academically as a writer and a reflector. I’m so appreciative of her and the other professors that I have taken classes with because they have made this learning journey a joyful one. I can’t wait to see what the remaining classes have in store for me!

Zena Mohsen, Spring 2020

Online program helped graduate grow as instructional librarian

I am currently pursuing and an Educational Specialist Degree (Ed.S.) with Specialization in Culture, Cognition, and the Learning Process at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and enjoying the academic journey. I chose MTSU’s online Ed.S. Degree program after exploring various other degree programs at various colleges because I knew it would help me grow as an instructional librarian. This degree met all of my requirements:  a completely online program, a focus on emerging research regarding cognition and brain-based learning strategies, and an ability to be applicable to my current role which includes instruction – not held necessarily in a K12 classroom. My experience in this program has exceeded all of my expectations. The classes are interactive and engaging, with well-chosen texts and rigorous assignments that are applicable to anyone who teaches or works in education or many other settings. The courses focus on diversity issues and newly-emerging research findings in cognitive science and educational psychology.  I happy to say I have readily been able to apply course content to my teaching situations and interactions with my students. As a result of my studies, I have improved a professional development session I conduct by integrating newly-learned cognitive concepts into my presentation. I love learning new ideas, but learning how to apply these ideas effectively is even more important! During every course, I find myself applying newly-acquired theories and concepts into my lesson planning and everyday instruction. The reflection activities in each class also help me grow as an instructor and as a person. One of the most impressive aspects of the program is the readily-available support from professors. My professors communicate clearly and concisely in a prompt manner, responding to questions and course emails quickly and regularly engaging with us on interactive electronic discussion boards. Assignment feedback is extensive and elicits further thinking and reflection.  I have appreciated such helpful and encouraging graduate school professors as it has made my online learning experience even better than I imagined.

Julie Lewis, Spring 2019

Program allowed graduate to combine passions 

For years I had been considering going back to school and  had been searching for a program which allowed me to pursue an advanced degree but also combined  my passions and fit my schedule. When I found the Education Specialist in Curriculum and Instruction with the Specialization in Culture, Cognition and the Learning Process,  I knew I had finally found the program I was seeking. As a music therapist with a background in neurologic music therapy working full time in the special education department of a  highly diverse school system, this program has guided me as I dug deeper into the neurologic and cultural factors that impact the learning process and the students I serve.  The understanding  that I have gained also provides additional insight for me as I work on a contract basis with a major publisher on their preschool curriculum.  The education I am receiving is preparing me for potential new avenues in the future while also guiding me to cutting edge research to use in my daily work. While the program has been very challenging to complete as a busy, middle aged working adult, I have found that Dr. Young and my classmates have been very supportive. Although it is an online program,  I have developed friendships with some wonderful people and gained great insight while participating in online discussions due to the diverse backgrounds, experiences and age groups represented. The classes have challenged me to dive deeper as online discussions and questions from Dr. Young and my classmates have brought new points to light. Not only are we provided with historical and theoretical background, but also, we are challenged to apply our new knowledge to situations in our daily work.  This unique concentration has provided rigor, but also flexibility to meet my personal interests and needs.

Ann Jones, Fall 2018

Program gives tools to graduate to empower students during challenges

The Education Specialist  Degree Program at MTSU with Specialization in Culture, Cognition, and the Learning Process was the perfect opportunity for me to expand my knowledge and understanding while being able to continue in my professional role in education as a School Social Worker and College Access Advisor. The population of students in our schools is becoming increasingly diverse, and I found that the course work in this specific graduate program opened my eyes to the challenges that our students face and gave me the practical tools to walk alongside my students and empower them to overcome challenges and reach their goals. This program also inspired me to take a deep look inside myself and the educational system around me to evaluate cultural bias in order to be a change agent in creating a space where all children can succeed. I also came away with a deeper understanding of the brain and how to create an optimal learning environment for my students to flourish. I felt that the online format was not only perfect for fitting into my busy schedule of a working mother, but also afforded me the opportunity to make my learning relevant. The topics we were studying applied directly to my practice with students, and I was able to implement my learning immediately. The curriculum design for online class format was surprisingly interactive. I felt that I really got to know my classmates through online discussion and frequent and specific feedback. The course work was challenging and required a high level of self-determination and organization, but the insights and practical skills I gained were so worth the late nights working on course work after the kids went to bed! I have already recommended this program to many colleagues and feel confident that the experiences I’ve had in this program will serve to make me a more effective educator.

Jennifer Tedder, Summer 2018

Course content beneficial in daily practice as adminstrator, teacher

As a graduate student at Middle Tennessee State University enrolled in the Educational Specialist Online Degree Program, Specialization in Culture, Cognition, and the Learning Process, I was able to study culture and cognition in a variety of classes which have propelled my desire to research education trends. In particular, my research has evolved to focus on the impact of social media and technology on bullying. Although the work has been challenging, my desire for knowledge inspires me nightly to continue my studies and research further into entering a doctoral program. The experiences within the EdS online classes at MTSU provided me with a solid foundation and opportunity to enhance my understanding of higher education, not only in an elementary, middle and high school administrator setting, but also in a collegial one. This program has been especially beneficial with my work as headmaster in an extremely diverse boarding school environment. The diversity classes allowed me to develop a new empathy and deeper relationships with my students. Furthermore, Dr. Young created a program that allowed me to improve in my daily work. She has been extremely diligent and timely in all her correspondence within the classes and as an academic advisor. I gained a tremendous amount of information from the program. I found various courses’ content and supplemental readings beneficial with regard not only to theory but also to application in my daily practice as an administrator and teacher.

Tabetha Sullens, Spring 2018

Program offers perfect view from past to future

Teachers today walk into classrooms that parallel the demographic and cultural changes found in the world at large. “In today’s educational mirror, each moment in our day is filled with reflections of new theories and norms much different from our younger surroundings,” says Rita Jane Jones, a student pursuing MTSU’s Culture, Cognition, and the Learning Process specialization in Curriculum and Instruction (CC/LP). “Our classrooms are filled with a bright array of languages and expectations from many cultures.” Jones explains further that the program is giving her “a perfect view from the past to our future. For me, this Ed.S. degree celebrates each human being where she/he is, combining teaching methods with social and cognitive applications of how we learn. I find each course truly inspiring. I especially appreciate the Brain-Based Learning, Multicultural Education, and Human Learning curriculum. Each of these classes helps me see with fresh eyes.” The program’s in-depth class offerings have given her tools to further her research toward equality and individual inclusion, Jones says. “I believe this program to be a lens, showing me many mindful opportunities to share and learn from each of our journeys.”

Rita Jane Jones, Fall 2017

Online or Hybrid Programs at a Glance

This program is available fully online.

For More Information or Explore Your Options​

Contact your department / program coordinator or advisor for more details about the program OR work one-on-one with your advisor to explore your options.

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The Online Advantage​

With over 25 years of experience in online teaching and learning, MTSU Online offers students access to innovative, high-quality programs. Designed with students in mind, our courses allow maximum flexibility for those unable to participate in person. ​

Resources and services for online students are available from MTSU Online or contact us at

Contact Information

Barbara Young

Who is My Advisor?

Barbara Young

Mailing Address

Department of Educational Leadership
Middle Tennessee State University
MTSU Box 91
Murfreesboro, TN 37132 

College of Graduate Studies
Middle Tennessee State University
MTSU Box 42
1301 East Main Street
Murfreesboro, TN 37132

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