This is the first version of the 2023-24 General Catalog. The final edition and the historical PDF will be published during the fall semester.

The Second Language Acquisition, Ph.D. program is in the process of closing and is no longer accepting new applicants. 

FLARE stands for Foreign Language Acquisition Research and Education, and it is the name of the interdisciplinary unit that sponsors the second language Ph.D. program. Students are able to take a variety of courses taught by affiliated faculty members from a number of departments and programs across campus.

The second language acquisition (SLA) doctoral program emphasizes theory, research, and classroom-based teaching and learning. All students take courses in SLA theory, multimedia, research methods, language learning, and linguistics. In addition, each student defines an area of specialization, in consultation with an SLA advisor. The two broad areas of specialization are language learning and postsecondary education, and linguistics and psycholinguistics.

Students in the language learning and postsecondary education specialization area demonstrate an interest in issues where SLA and pedagogy converge. This includes classroom discourse, assessment, and the acquisition of grammatical knowledge in the classroom context. Students also may focus on aspects of technology and how it facilitates second language acquisition.

Students in the linguistics and psycholinguistics specialization area exhibit interest in areas of formal linguistics (e.g., syntax, phonology, morphology) and/or applied linguistics issues that relate to their particular second language focus. Student projects include the acquisition of the syntactic structures and/or phonological features of a second language, and generative and cognitive approaches to explaining acquisition. Students who work in psycholinguistics also may focus on the relationship between language processing and language acquisition.

The Doctor of Philosophy in second language acquisition is a research-oriented degree. This interdisciplinary program, which focuses on languages other than English, requires 72 s.h., including a maximum of 33 s.h. earned in work toward a master's degree. Students must earn a minimum of 61 s.h. at the University of Iowa. Those interested in pursuing the Ph.D. must hold a master's degree in an appropriate field (e.g., linguistics, foreign language education) or have equivalent academic experience.

A course may be used to fulfill only one requirement. All courses taken to fulfill program requirements must be taken on a graded basis; no graduate credit is awarded for a grade lower than C-minus. To remain in good standing, Ph.D. students must maintain a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.00.

The required curriculum includes 14 courses, including two foundation courses, three courses in the area of research methods, two courses in the area of language learning, two courses in the area of linguistics, and five courses in a student’s area of specialization. Students may specialize in language learning and postsecondary education, which includes a focus on technology in language acquisition and learning; or in linguistics and psycholinguistics, with a focus on phonetics/phonology or on syntax in a particular second language. In addition, the Ph.D. requires successful completion and defense of a dissertation representing original research in second language acquisition.

Students may extend their interdisciplinary interests by taking relevant elective coursework offered by the departments of Asian and Slavic Languages and Literatures, Communication Sciences and Disorders, French and Italian, German, Linguistics, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Rhetoric, and Spanish and Portuguese in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the departments of Psychological and Quantitative Foundations, and Teaching and Learning in the College of Education.

The Ph.D. in second language acquisition requires the following coursework.

Foundation Course3
Research Methods Courses9
Language Learning Courses6
Linguistics Courses6
Specialization Courses15
Elective Courses

Foundation Course

Current students will have taken SLA:6920 to fulfill this requirement.

Research Methods

This course:
PSQF:6243Intermediate Statistical Methods3
One of these:
CHIN:7405Teaching Chinese as a Second Language V: Seminar in Research and Design3
EDTL:7405Research Methods in Literacy, Culture, and Language Education3
A course to complement dissertation research (consult advisor)3

Language Learning

Two of these:
EDTL:6400Fundamentals of Second Language Assessment3
EDTL:6409Cultural Curriculum3
EDTL:6483Multilingual Education and Applied Linguistics3
EDTL:6484Bi/Multilingual Literacies3
EDTL:6497Principles of Course Design for Second Language Instruction3

Linguistics Courses

Two courses (chosen in consultation with advisor) 6

Specialization Courses

Each student selects one of two specialization areas—linguistics and psycholinguistics or language learning and postsecondary education—and takes five courses (total of 15 s.h.) in one area, not including courses taken above to satisfy requirements. Each student’s specific specialization area and set of courses are determined in consultation with the advisor.

Courses that may be used in the specialization areas are listed below.

Linguistics and Psycholinguistics

LING:6020Phonological Theory3
LING:6080Topics in Second Language Acquisition3
LING:7010Advanced Syntactic Theory3
PSY:3670Language Processes3
SPAN:3190Psycholinguistic Aspects of Bilingualism3-4
SPAN:4170Second Language Acquisition3
SPAN:6150Topics in Spanish Language Acquisition3
Other courses (chosen in consultation with advisor)

Language Learning and Postsecondary Education

CHIN:5024Teaching Chinese as a Second Language VII: Pedagogical Grammar3
CHIN:7401Teaching Chinese as a Second Language I: Theories and Research3
CHIN:7403Teaching Chinese as a Second Language III: Instruction and Practicum3
CHIN:7404Teaching Chinese as a Second Language IV: Testing and Assessment3
EDTL:6402Second Language Program Management3
EDTL:6403Language Policy and Planning3
EDTL:6480Graduate Seminar in Multilingual Education3
EDTL:7015Ph.D. Seminar in Language, Literacy, and Culturearr.
PSQF:6205Design of Instruction3
PSQF:6208Digital Media and Learning3
PSQF:6215Online Instruction: Design and Facilitation3
PSQF:6265Program Evaluation3
Other courses (chosen in consultation with advisor)

Elective Courses

Students also may take elective coursework relevant to their research interests, including the following independent project courses.

SLA:7020Readings in Second Language Acquisitionarr.
SLA:7025Special Projects in Second Language Acquisitionarr.


Students must complete a thesis (maximum of 15 s.h., with a minimum of 2 s.h.)

SLA:7030Ph.D. Thesisarr.

Admission is for fall semester; students are admitted only for full-time study. Applicants must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations on the Graduate College website.

Strong applicants hold a master's degree in a related area, have a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.50 in master's degree work, and speak and write English and another language at a professional level. Applicants must submit a writing sample that demonstrates their ability to synthesize and analyze information using standard academic English.

Teaching assistantships are available to qualified students. Assistantships usually involve teaching elementary or intermediate language courses. Visit the FLARE website for details.