Outstanding Dissertation Award

Nominations are now closed.  Check back for 2025 nomination deadlines. Check out this VIDEO for more information when submitting nominations.

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 NASUP.

The recipient will be invited, at the NASUP 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 NASUP 9 essentials (second edition) of what it means to be a professional development school.

Participation in the NASUP Doctoral Dissertation Award is limited to those who have completed their doctorates within 3 semesters (Spring 2022-Fall 2023) prior to the nomination submission date (January 8, 2024).

Participation is not restricted to NASUP members.

Dissertations submitted shall fall within the scope of Professional Development Schools research, with demonstrated relevance to one or more of the NASUP 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 NASUP (Awards@NASUP.org) by the date indicated above. All letters of support should include the name, email address, and appropriate phone number of the letter writer.

Award Applications

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 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;


NASUP 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 NASUP 9 essentials (second edition);
  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 NASUP Awards Committee who will then present it to the Leadership Team of the NASUP for their approval.

The chair of the NASUP 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 NASUP Awards Committee shall present the award to the winner.

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


Previous Award Recipients

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