Outstanding Dissertation Award

Check back for 2024 nominations to open.  Nominations for 2023 awards are now closed.

2023 Award Winner Dr. Aisja Jones, University of South Carolina

Aisja Jones earned her Doctorate of Education in Curriculum and Instruction in December 2022.  Her dissertation title was Evaluating the Impact of Reciprocal Teaching Embedded Within a Web 2.0 Tool Upon Fifth-Grade Students’ Reading During an Integrated Readers’ Workshop at a Professional Development School.  The study centered on Dr. Jones fifth-grade students who struggled to read expository text. As a reflective PDS educator, Dr. Jones turned to action research to take ownership of the problem and adjusted her instruction in an effort to resolve it. Dr. Jones is an educator that is committed to transforming inequitable systems from within. She truly represents the NAPDS mission of educational leadership, reciprocal professional development, and collaborative inquiry. 

Award Information


The award shall consist of an award of $500 and a plaque commemorating the award. The recipient shall also be provided with a one-year membership to the NAPDS.

The recipient will be invited, at the NAPDS Annual Conference to (a) present a summary of the doctoral research and (b) facilitate a mentoring session for doctoral students/candidates.

The recipient will be invited to serve on the awards committee for the following year.


The purpose of this award is to recognize outstanding recent doctoral candidates in an education field (or closely related field, e.g., school psychology) whose research contributes significantly to an understanding of some aspect of Professional Development Schools. The award is intended to encourage participation of individuals with new doctorates in the activities of the association by providing a forum for presentation of their research that uses or reflects the 2021 NAPDS 9 essentials (second edition) of what it means to be a professional development school.


Participation in the NAPDS Doctoral Dissertation Award is limited to those who have completed their doctorates within 3 semesters (Fall 2021-Summer 2022) prior to the nomination submission date, January 9, 2023.

Participation is not restricted to NAPDS members.

Dissertations submitted shall fall within the scope of Professional Development Schools research, with demonstrated relevance to one or more of the NAPDS 9 essentials (second edition).


All eligible institutions of higher education awarding doctoral degrees are eligible to nominate individuals for the award. Individual doctoral students or recent graduates may self-nominate. There is no limit on the number of entries from a particular college/university. Dissertations previously nominated will not be reconsidered.

Nominations shall include:

  • a nomination letter plus one additional letter from the dissertation chair or a committee member.
  • if a self-nomination, the nomination letter and two additional letters from the dissertation chair and/or committee members.

Letters of support must be sent directly to the NAPDS (Awards@napds.org) by the date indicated above. All letters of support should include the name, email address, and appropriate phone number of the letter writer.

Applicants for the Award 

The packet of materials submitted by the nominee shall include:

1.  A copy of the signature sheet from the dissertation or evidence of completion, including completion date; and

2.  The nominee’s current curriculum vitae.

3.  An abstract of the dissertation, inclusive of necessary tables and/or figures.

The abstract should include the following. The abstract should be not longer than 25 double-spaced pages, 12 point font, and include the following:

  • full dissertation title;
  • statement of the study’s purpose;
  • research questions, if applicable;
  • significance of the study;
  • theoretical or conceptual underpinnings;
  • methods – research design/approach, sampling, data collection procedures or data sources used, and data analysis;
  • summary of key findings;
  • the impact on the PDS literature;
  • implications for practice, policy, and/or future research related to Professional Development Schools;

NAPDS shall maintain an archival file of all entries and copies sent to the committee members and shall not return any materials to the nominee.

Selection Criteria

The committee shall base its evaluation of the dissertation research submitted on the following criteria:

  1. importance of the topic to theory development and/or practical applications of the 2021 NAPDS 9 essentials;
  2. soundness of methodology;
  3. organization and clarity of the presentation; and
  4. quality of data (as applicable).

Selection Process

There will be one recipient selected. In the event that the committee decides that none of the submitted dissertations should be recognized, no award may be given that year.

The committee shall communicate the committee’s decision to the chair of the NAPDS Awards Committee who will then present it to the Leadership Team of the NAPDS for their approval.

The Doctoral Dissertation Award Committee chair shall provide a 50-250 word abstract, stating why the award was given. This abstract will be used to publicize the award. Material for this abstract can be taken from the rationales/comments provided by the members of the committee.

The chair of the NAPDS Awards Committee shall notify the author of the winning dissertation in advance of the annual PDS National Conference.

Presentation of the Award
The chair of the NAPDS Awards Committee shall present the award to the winner.

The award shall be publicized in the publications of the NAPDS, on its website, and in other appropriate NAPDS venues.

The Award Committee
The NAPDS Doctoral Dissertation Award Committee shall be composed of members who serve for three years. The chair of the Doctoral Dissertation Award Committee is appointed by the chair of the NAPDS Awards Committee in consultation with the NAPDS Leadership Team.

In the absence of qualified nominations, the committee, in consultation with the chair of the NAPDS Awards Committee, may solicit additional nominations and extend the deadline for nominations.

Previous Award Winners

Aisja Jones, University of South Carolina

Megan Lynch, Pennsylvania State University

Catherine Wade, University of North Florida

Dwayne Ray Cormier, Pennsylvania State University

Christopher Kennedy, Ohio University

Mary Elizabeth Higgins, Pennsylvania State University

Kelly Mark, Pennsylvania State University

Mary Jayne Coon-Kitt, Pennsylvania State University