Educational Psychology & Counseling Department

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Adult Learning

Program Coordinator


Qi Sun, EdD
Associate Professor & Program Coordinator
519 Bailey Education Complex
1126 Volunteer Blvd.
Knoxville, TN 37996-3452

Program Secretary

Synthia Clark
Administrative Specialist I
535 Bailey Education Complex
1122 Volunteer Blvd.
Knoxville, TN 37996-3452


The Adult Learning Program is designed for people interested in higher education, workplace learning, community-based organizations or any setting where adults can be found learning. The program is characterized by students who come from varied professional and personal backgrounds, are intellectually curious, and supportive of the other students. In interactive courses, students explore how adults learn and develop through an understanding of research, theory, and reflective practice. With a degree in educational psychology, our graduates use their knowledge of adult learning to advance their careers as college instructors, university professors, adult basic education teachers, leaders in non-profit organizations, training and organizational development consultants, and nurse educators.

 About Adult Learning

Program Goals

The Adult Learning concentration is designed to help participants:

  • Better understand adult learning processes in terms of its theoretical and conceptual underpinnings and its operation in practical situations;
  • Be further prepared for the increasingly changing demands of professional life;
  • Practice reflectively and help others develop their skills as reflective practitioners;
  • Learn skills in order to make contributions to the areas of educational psychology and adult learning through presentations and publication of original research;
  • Develop skills in facilitating adult learning and reflective practice;  Broaden interest, skills, and knowledge that emphasize working within a pluralistic society.
Program Features
  • Inquiry and reflection in the context of a learning community are at the heart of the Adult Learning program. A learning community forms when students engage with each other and with faculty in scholarly activities that contribute to the body of knowledge about adult learning and one’s own professional practice.
  • Experience, interests, and talents of students are considered in the application process and are woven throughout the Adult Learning course of study. Many students in the program are employed or engaged with adult learners in a wide variety of contexts. Their professional experiences contribute to a deeper understanding of the link between theory and practice.
  • Support. Faculty and fellow students provide guidance and support during the master’s and doctoral program. Advanced students are a valuable resource for newer students. Faculty and students often collaborate on projects and research; this work frequently leads to presentations at national and international conferences and papers published in journals.
  • Flexibility. Students participate in Adult Learning on a full-time (9 credit hours a semester for at least two consecutive semesters) or part-time (less than 9 credit hours) basis. Either way, the program flexibility meets diverse needs of master’s and doctoral students. Courses are offered evenings, weekends, and online to serve a wide variety of student needs.

Applications to the Office of Graduate Admissions must be completed online. All application materials are submitted through this site.

Application Deadlines

Application materials for the Graduate School and the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling must be received by February 15th. Applications received after the deadlines will be considered only if space is available in the program.

Transfer Credits

Transfer credits are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. At the master’s level, courses taken at another institution may be considered for transfer into the master’s program.  At the doctoral level, courses are not officially transferred although they may be used to meet degree requirements. To be considered for review, a transferred a course must

  • Be taken for graduate credit.
  • Carry a grade of B or better.
  • Be a part of a graduate program in which the student had at least a B average.
  • Not have been used for a previous degree.
  • Be approved by the student’s graduate committee and the Dean of the Graduate School.
Advising and Graduate Committees

Upon acceptance, students will be assigned a temporary advisor. All students must form a graduate committee, ideally by the end of the first year of study. At this point, students may change advisors after identifying their interests and getting to know other faculty. The major professor directs the student’s dissertation and chairs the dissertation committee. The student and the major professor identify a committee of at least four faculty members. One member must be from an academic unit other than Educational Psychology and Research. Doctoral committees should be formed after the first year of study. Students with their advisors complete a program plan to guide completion of requirements. Check the Graduate Catalog for details of graduate study.

Ralph Brockett

Ralph G. Brockett


Mitsunori Misawa
assistant professor


Qi Sun
associate professor

About the Master’s Program

The master of science degree in educational psychology with a concentration in Adult Education is taught through the online program we call EdPsych Online. Information on how to apply, a program brochure, and the EdPsych Online Faculty can all be found at EdPsych Online.

Adult Learning Community

Comments from some Adult Learning Students 
 Valerie K. Ambrose: Valerie K. Ambrose, full-time student and Reading and Writing Instructor, is in the comprehensive exam phase of her PhD. She came to the program having worked in developmental and adult basic education settings at community colleges. Her research focuses on adult literacy and social justice issues.  ValerieAmbrose
Jeff Beard: Jeff Beard, Instructional Designer at Y-12 National Security Complex and Adjunct Instructor of TPTE 486 at University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is in the comprehensive exam phase of his PhD. He came to the program with a background in instructional design, curriculum development, and information technology. His research focuses on collaborative learning, critical reflection, e-learning, experiential learning, self-directed learning, and transformative learning. JeffBeard
Julie Hall: Julie Hall, Program Diretor and Assistant Professor of Radiologic Technology at Roane State Community College, is in the coursework phase of her PhD. She came to the program with a background in public health, community health education, biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology, and radiologic technology. Her research focuses on self-directed learning and transformative learning. JulieHall
Kristina Klamm: Kristina Klamm, Hall Director, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is in the coursework phase of her PhD. She came to the program with a background in aeronautics and air traffic management. Her research focuses on visual qualitative research methods including photo elicitation, workplace learning, experiential learning, motivation, and veteran student college re-entry. KristinaKlamm
Traci Leonard: Traci Leonard works in Student Affairs at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and is in the coursework phase of her dissertation. She came to the program with a background in student affairs, human resources, and continuing medical education. Her research interests are adult undergraduates, veteran students, and former student athletes who return to complete degrees. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Ellen Haight McEwan: Ellen Haight McEwan, full time student and graduate assistant, is in the coursework phase of her PhD. She came to the program with diverse experience in private industry, government, and nonprofits. Her research focuses on workplace and organizational learning, learning organizations, and complexity theory. EllenMcEwan
Judith S. Norton: Judith S. Norton, Associate Professor of Nursing at Cleveland State Community College, is working toward her MS. She came to the program with a background in nursing (oncology), and her areas of interest are motivation and procrastination.
Janel Seeley: Janel Seeley, full time student and Graduate Assistant at the Institute for Reflective Practice, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is in the dissertation phase of her PhD. She came to the program with a background in professional development and education. Her research focuses on collaborative learning and reflective practice.
Connie Shih: Connie Shih, instructor of graduate and professional studies, is in the coursework phase of her PhD. She came to the program with a background in instructional technology, counseling, and psychology. Her research interests include educational gerontology, mentoring, self-directed learning, and informal and transformative learning in popular culture. ConnieShih
Becky C. Smeltzer: Becky C. Smeltzer, Technical Services Librarian at the University of Tennessee, Municipal Technical Advisory Service, is in the dissertation phase of her PhD. She came to the program with a background in instructional technology, library sciences, and music theory. Becky provides information services to municipal officials, as well as staff development programs and training to the MTAS staff. Her research interests are in community leadership, self-directed learning, and barriers to learning.
Darrell Tullier: Darrell Tullier, School Counselor on the high school level, is in his courseork phase of his PhD. He came to the program with a background in public education and community mental health. His research focuses on transformative learning and adult cognitive development. DarrellTullier
Kellee R. Vess: Kellee R. Vess, Assistant Professor of Nursing, is in the coursework phase of her PhD. Before becoming a professor of nursing, she was a practicing nurse. Her research interests are positive psychology (particularly gratitude), self-directed learning, and collaborative research. KelleeVess
Comments from some Adult Learning Graduates
John Alunni: John J. Alunni, culinary arts teacher, is working on his MS. He came to the program with extensive experience in the hospitality industry. John plans to continue to teach at the college level and to work with students with special needs and their parents. JohnAlunni
Tiffany McGee: Tiffany McGee, full time student an graduate assistant, is working toward her MS. She came to the program with a background in athletic coaching, communications, and finance. She plans to pursue a career in organizational development and/or workplace learning. McGee
Amy D. Smith: Amy D. Smith, Staff Development Specialist, is in the last phases of her MS. She has a background in workplace training and a BA in sociology. Her focus is on workplace learning, particularly organizational development. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Adult Learning UT Blog

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Updated 02/13/2017

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