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College of Education

Faculty and Staff

Heidi Mills, Ph.D.

Title: Hungerpiller Professor, Department of Instruction and Teacher Education
Curriculum, Research and Development Specialist at the Center for Inquiry
College of Education
Phone: 803-777-4265
Fax: 803-359-9746

Wardlaw 103



Dr. Mills earned her Ed.D. in Language Education, an M.S. in Elementary Education through the Alternative Schools Teacher Education Program, and B.S. in Early Childhood Education from Indiana University - Bloomington. She was selected for the endowed Hungerpiller Professorship in 2004.


Dr. Mills' research focuses on language and literacy in early childhood and elementary education and the benefits of inquiry-based instruction.  She also promotes collaborative research with classroom teachers through the Center for Inquiry, a renowned school-university partnership.


Dr. Heidi Mills is the John. C. Hungerpiller Professor in the Department of Instruction and Teacher Education. She has served as the Curriculum, Research and Development Specialist at the Center for Inquiry (CFI), a university-public school partnership with Richland School District Two since 1996. Dr. Mills currently teaches literacy and teacher inquiry courses in the elementary education program and was a teaching team member in the South Carolina Reading Initiative between 2000 and 2008.

Dr. Mills launched her career in higher education at Indiana University where she developed expertise in language and literacy, elementary and early childhood education. Since arriving at USC Mills received funding from USC, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) to promote collaborate research with classroom teachers. Those collaborations led Dr. Mills and colleague, Dr. Amy Donnelly, to work with a small group of teachers to envision, propose and develop the Center for Inquiry as a national demonstration site for inquiry-based instruction.

Dr. Mills unites her work in teaching, scholarship and service via the Center for Inquiry. She teaches courses onsite at CFI. She also engages teachers in collaborative research to grow their own practices and enhance the impact of CFI. Data collected at CFI has served as the foundation for publications in leading refereed journals including Teachers College Record, Language Arts, Young Children, Childhood Education, The Reading Teacher, The New Advocate, and Teaching Children Mathematics and three books published by Heinemann and NCTE. Finally, Mills recently used funds from the John C. Hungerpiller endowment to produce Inquiry in Action: Bringing Beliefs and Practices to Life in K-5 Classrooms, a professional development video series in use statewide featuring Center for Inquiry faculty.

Selected research studies

Stephens, D. & Mills, H. "Coaching as Inquiry." Reading/Writing Quarterly. Routledge. Taylor & Francis Group.

Mills, H. and Jennings, L. (2011). "Talking About Talk: Reclaiming the Value and Power of Literature Circles." The Reading Teacher. Vo. 64, No. 8. International Reading Association.

Jennings, L. and Mills, H. (2009). "Constructing a Discourse of Inquiry: Findings from a Five-Year Ethnography at One Elementary School." Teachers College Record. Vol. 111, No. 7. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. ID Number: 15306. (Online in 2008, in print July 2009)

Selected publications

Mills, H. (in press) Learning for Real: Teaching Content and Literacy Across the Curriculum. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational Books.

Mills, H., O'Keefe, T. and Jennings, L. (2004) Looking Closely and Listening Carefully: Learning Literacy Through Inquiry. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English. (186 pages)

Mills, H. and Donnelly, A. (Eds.) (2001). From the Ground Up: Creating a Culture of Inquiry. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational Books. (244 pages)

Mills, H. (2001) "When Teachers have Time to Talk: The Value of Curricular Conversations." Language Arts, Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Selected presentations

"Creating Cultures of Literacy Through Inquiry." Keynote Address for Opening General Session of the Day of Whole Language at the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention, Philadelphia, PA, Nov. 19, 2009.

"Bringing Inquiry to Life in K-3 Classrooms." Featured Speaker at the South Carolina Reading First Early Childhood Institute, South Carolina Department of Education, July 28-29, 2009.

"Inquiry in Action: Beliefs and Practices that Make a Difference in Elementary Classrooms." Keynote Address at the 20th Literacies for All Summer Institute, National Council of Teachers of English, Columbia, SC, July 10, 2009.

"Learning to Learn: What It Means to Be On Fire with Learning." Keynote/featured speaker for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, New York, NY, Oct. 29, 2008.

"Creating a Culture of Inquiry That Encompasses Science, Social Studies, Math and Literacy Too." Keynote/featured speaker for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, New York, NY, Oct. 30, 2008.

"Transformations: Teaching and Learning Through Inquiry." Keynote Address at the Engaged Learner Conference Sponsored by the Manitoba Association of School Superintendents, Oct. 23, 2008.

Selected awards

Hungerpiller Professorship, College of Education, University of South Carolina, 2004 to present.

Faculty Fellow for the Center for Teaching Excellence. University of South Carolina, Spring 2011.

Appointed as Associate Faculty in the Environment and Sustainability Program in the College of Arts and Sciences (2011-2014).

2010 Special Purpose Video Production Award from the South Carolina Chapter of the National School Public Relations Association.

Recipient of the George H. Lackey, Jr. Award for Inspirational Teaching, 1999.