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Overview of the PhD Curriculum Studies Program

For students admitted before August 2021

The PhD in Education:  Curriculum and Instruction offers students opportunities to study in three major areas: (a) Curriculum Studies, which is evolving to Critical Pedagogies and Urban Teacher Education beginning August 2021; (b) Literacy, Language, and Culture; (c) Mathematics and Science Education.

Students in this PhD program apply to and are admitted to one of these three concentrations.  These concentrations have some common elements but they also differ in a number of important ways.  Therefore, each of these concentrations is described separately.  You should refer to the description of the concentration to which you have been admitted.  You should also refer to later sections of this handbook that provide additional information about conducting dissertation research successfully.

The concentration in Curriculum Studies emphasizes curriculum development, history, and theory, as well as cultural, philosophical, and practical issues in teaching and teacher education related to school subject matter such as mathematics, science, social studies, history, etc., as well as across subjects.  All students in this concentration are provided a strong background in research philosophy and methodology.  This area of study is currently referred to as curriculum studies, i.e., as designated by the name of Division B of the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

Current doctoral students accepted into the Curriculum Studies program will be able to continue in that program. Students entering the program after August 2021 will belong to this new iteration known as Critical Pedagogies and Urban Teacher Education.

If you have questions about the program, please reach out to the program coordinator Edward Podsiadlik ( For information on the specialization in Health Professions Education contact Laura Schaaf (

Overview of Requirements (Fall 2013) Heading link

This program concentration requires a minimum of 96 semester hours beyond the baccalaureate degree and a minimum of 64 semester hours beyond the master’s degree.  These requirements include completion of a 12-hour Doctoral Studies Core, 12-hour methodology requirement, and 12 hours of dissertation research.  Students are required to pass written and oral portions of a preliminary examination and successfully defend their dissertation research.  This concentration’s requirements are as follows for students who enter the program with an earned master’s degree.

  • COE Doctoral Studies Core—12 hours
  • Methodology Requirement — 12 hours
  • Curriculum Studies Program Core—24 hours (minimum)
  • Teaching Apprenticeship, Research Project, or Independent Study — 4 hours
  • Preliminary Examination—Written Portion
  • Preparation of a Dissertation Research Proposal
  • Preliminary Examination—Oral Portion
  • Dissertation Research—12 hours (minimum)
  • Dissertation Defense

Students who enter with a bachelor’s degree but not a master’s degree must take up to 32 hours of additional course work (the equivalent of a master’s degree) in an area of specialization.

Doctoral Studies Core (12 hours) Heading link

All doctoral degrees in the College of Education require a core of courses that focuses on different types of research in educational settings, research design, and the analysis of educational data.  These core courses will help you develop the minimum skills needed to evaluate research literature and to begin your own independent research.  You are encouraged to take these core courses early in your program; however, you may take other courses in the program before completing this set of courses.

The requirements of the Doctoral Studies Core are:

  • ED 504—Urban Contexts and Educational Research (4 hours)
  • ED 505—Introduction to Educational Research: Paradigms and Processes (4 hours)
  • ED 506—Introduction to Educational Research: Designs and Analyses (4 hours)

Methodology Requirement (12 hours) Heading link

In addition to the Doctoral Studies Core above, you must take a minimum of three research methodology courses as described below.  Note also that you may choose or be encouraged by your faculty advisor to take additional courses in research methodology beyond these minimums in order to meet your personal scholarly and professional goals.

The Methodology Requirement includes:

  • ED 502—Essentials of Qualitative Inquiry in Education (4 hours)
  • ED 503/EPSY 503—Essentials of Quantitative Inquiry in Education (4 hours)
  • A third methodology course selected in consultation with your advisor (4 hours)

Concentration Program Core (24 hours minimum) Heading link

Students who study in the concentration in Curriculum Studies typically pursue a wide range of professional and personal objectives.  For this reason, the choice of courses in the area of concentration is left largely up to you, in consultation with your faculty advisor, to allow you to develop your own individualized program of study.  All students in this program are required to take two courses:  (a) CI 500—Proseminar in Curriculum and Instruction; and (b) CI 574—Foundations of Curriculum Studies.  CI 500 is designed to help you meet faculty members and be introduced to the wide range of research approaches used in the field of curriculum studies.  CI 574 provides an overview of the conceptual foundations of curriculum studies.  CI 500 may be repeated once for credit.

While no other specific courses are required, all students in this Ph.D. concentration are expected to develop a strong background in curriculum and instruction and an emphasis on a particular area of study.  Such emphases might include curriculum theory; curriculum development; research on teaching; bilingual education; a subject matter specialty such as social studies education; teacher education; curriculum history; education in non-school settings; and issues of equity and justice vis-à-vis curriculum and instruction.  To meet individual scholarly and professional goals, you may need to take more than the minimum 24 semester hours of coursework in your particular area of specialization.

Although you may take all your courses in the College of Education, you are strongly encouraged to take courses in other UIC colleges and departments. Taking courses outside the College of Education can help you develop a broader range of conceptual and methodological tools for your own research interests, and allows you to work with a broader range of faculty members.

Teaching Apprenticeship, Research Project, or Independent Study (CI 592, 593, or 596, 4 hours) Heading link

You should complete at least 4 hours from among the following options:

Teaching Apprenticeship (CI 592)

An apprenticeship in teaching is strongly recommended for those individuals intending to pursue a career in higher education.  The apprenticeship in teaching requires that you register for CI 592—Apprenticeship in Teacher Education and co-teach a university course under the direction of a faculty sponsor.  The course that you teach should be related to your interests and future career objectives.  A faculty member will be the instructor of record and will supervise you closely throughout the internship.  You will assume responsibility for course instruction, student interaction, and evaluation to the extent negotiated with the instructor.  In addition to this apprenticeship in teaching, you are also encouraged to seek opportunities to deliver guest lectures in other classes offered by the faculty.

Research Project (CI 593)

The research project is an important beginning experience in doing research on actual problems in a chosen area of study.  The research project may also give you an opportunity to explore and pilot ideas for your dissertation research.  You may seek out program faculty to collaborate on a research project with you and perhaps with other doctoral students.  Ideally, you would work on such projects with faculty as full research colleagues and be involved in all aspects of the project from design through execution, analysis, and writing of results.  Such work may lead to a presentation at a scholarly conference or to submission of a manuscript to a professional journal or other publication (such as a book chapter or reference book article).  (See Section V on the possible need for IRB approval of a proposed research project.)

You should consult with your faculty advisor to determine when you are ready to embark on a research project.  You must then find a faculty member to help design and conduct the project.  This faculty member may be your program advisor or another faculty member who will bring particular expertise and experience to support the project.

Independent Study (CI 596)

In consultation with your advisor, and with the agreement and approval of a supervising faculty member, you may choose to register for an Independent Study (CI 596) project.   This option allows you to design, implement and analyze the results of a research problem in your area of specialization.

Annual Reviews Heading link

You are required to submit a formal progress report each year.  These reports provide you with an opportunity to reflect on whether you are meeting your goals while allowing faculty to assess whether adequate progress is being made.  Program faculty review and discuss these reports and provide written feedback to you about whether you are meeting expectations.  Recommendations for ways to enhance or sustain your progress are a likely result of this process.  If you are not making adequate progress you may be placed on probation and given directive feedback on how to proceed.

Preliminary Examination Heading link

The purpose of the preliminary examination is to determine your readiness to undertake dissertation research.  The examination has two parts—a written portion that focuses primarily on your program of study, and an oral portion that focuses primarily on your dissertation proposal.  Both portions are evaluated by a preliminary examination committee.  Passing the preliminary examination constitutes formal admission to candidacy for the Ph.D.

The written portion of the preliminary examination should be taken when you have completed most, though not necessarily all, of your coursework.  The oral portion of the exam should be taken when you have completed your dissertation proposal.  You must take and pass the oral portion of the exam before you can begin dissertation research.  Before beginning dissertation research, you must also receive approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) if the research involves human subjects (see Section V).

Forming a Preliminary Examination Committee Heading link

You should begin making arrangements to take the preliminary examination when you have almost finished regular coursework.  First, you must find a faculty member to chair your preliminary examination committee.  Your faculty program advisor can help with this task.  The program advisor may serve as a your committee chair, or you may identify another faculty member in the Curriculum and Instruction Department whose interests and expertise align more closely with your program of study and dissertation research.  You should work with the committee chair to identify and recruit at least four other members to serve on the examination committee.  At least three members, including the chair, must be UIC faculty who are full members of the Graduate College.  Tenured or tenure-track faculty are usually full members of the Graduate College; clinical and visiting faculty generally are not.  Links to listing of full members are available on the Graduate College website:  At least two committee members must be tenured faculty in the College of Education (i.e., associate professors or full professors).  Also, at least two members (in addition to the chair) must be in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.  The Graduate College does not require that the preliminary examination committee include a member from outside the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.  However, since the Graduate College requires that dissertation committees have a member from outside the Program (see Section IV), and since the preliminary examination committee often forms the basis of the future dissertation committee, you may want to ask an outside member to be on the preliminary examination committee as well.

In order to formally constitute the preliminary examination committee, you must submit to the Graduate College a Committee Recommendation Form.  This form may be obtained from the Graduate College’s website:    At the same time, you should ask the Office of Student Services (3145 ETMSW) for a degree checklist (see Section IV).  A list of the courses taken is available through the my.UIC portal: . You must return the completed degree checklist with the signed Committee Recommendation Form to the Office of Student Services.  The completed form must be signed by the committee chairperson and submitted to the Office of Student Services at least three weeks before the date of the examination.  Before submitting this form, you must be sure that the faculty members identified to serve on the committee have agreed to serve.  If you want to include a committee member who is not on the faculty at UIC or is not a member of the UIC Graduate College, the Graduate College must approve that member.  This approval process is initiated when the Committee Recommendation Form is submitted to the Office of Student Services.  A copy of the potential committee member’s full current curriculum vitae must be submitted with the Committee Recommendation Form.

Written Portion of the Exam Heading link

The chairperson of the preliminary examination committee will convene at least two other committee members (one of whom must be in the Curriculum and Instruction Department) to develop questions for the written portion of the exam.  Generally, questions in the written portion of the exam ask you to integrate and apply knowledge and understandings gained from your coursework, research projects, and independent readings.  You may choose to take the written portion of the exam at the university or as a take-home assignment.  You must pass the written portion of the exam to take the oral portion of the exam, which focuses primarily on the dissertation proposal.  After you have passed the written portion of the exam, the chair will submit a form indicating this accomplishment to the Office of Student Services for inclusion in your file.

Preparing a Dissertation Proposal Heading link

Your coursework, research project, and independent readings should give you a good start on planning for dissertation research.  Perhaps you will have decided on a topic, conducted a relevant review of literature, or carried out a pilot study before taking the written portion of the preliminary examination.  Indeed, the written portion of the exam may help develop further your ideas for your dissertation research.  Nevertheless, after passing the written portion of the preliminary examination, you must complete the proposal for dissertation research and prepare for the oral portion of the preliminary examination.

Dissertation research may be developed from the many possibilities related to your area of study and from a variety of research traditions.  The process of writing a dissertation proposal is challenging, but it provides great opportunities for creative and personally rewarding work.  Students often find it helpful to draw on their studies to date and avail themselves of the advice and support of their committee chair and members, other faculty, and fellow students whenever possible. Dissertation proposals may take many forms and be of varying lengths.  The organization, content, and length of the proposal are issues that you should decide in consultation with the chair of your preliminary examination committee.

When you and the committee chair agree that the dissertation proposal is ready for review and approval, you will work with the chair to distribute the proposal to members of the preliminary examination committee and schedule the oral portion of the preliminary exam.  The proposal should be distributed to committee members for review at least three weeks before the scheduled exam date.  It is strongly recommended a draft of the IRB application is included in the proposal.  As a rule, you should not submit your application to the IRB before the oral portion of the examination is completed, because committees may make recommendations for changing research protocols during the exam.  (See Section V for information about IRB requirements and procedures.)

Oral Portion of the Exam Heading link

The oral portion of the preliminary exam is primarily a hearing on the dissertation proposal, although it may also address aspects of the written portion of the exam.  The oral portion of the exam must be taken and passed before dissertation research can begin.  A primary function of the oral portion of the exam is committee approval of the dissertation research proposal.

Evaluation of the Preliminary Exam Heading link

Both written and oral portions of the preliminary examination are evaluated on a pass-fail basis.  If two or more members of the preliminary examination committee assign afailing grade to the exam, the student fails that portion.  If necessary, the entire portion of the exam or some element of that portion can be retaken once.  Students who fail the oral portion of the exam are sometimes asked to do additional work on or to revise their dissertation proposal before their committee gives final approval.  Even if a committee does not fail a student on the oral portion of the exam, it may require that the student make particular changes in the dissertation proposal before the proposal is approved.

Passing the oral portion of the preliminary exam signifies that committee members have given their approval for you to carry out your proposed dissertation research.  Once you have reached this point, you must submit the final version of the IRB application for approval (see Section V).  Before an application is submitted to the IRB, you must have it reviewed and signed by the committee chair and the chair of the Curriculum and Instruction Department.

Dissertation Research (CI 599, 12 hours minimum) Heading link

After passing the oral portion of the preliminary examination and receiving approval from the IRB, you may begin dissertation research.  You must register for a minimum of 12 hours of dissertation credit during the time you conduct and write up your study.  After registering for the minimum of 12 hours of dissertation credit, if you have passed both the written and oral portions of the preliminary exam, you may petition the Graduate College to be permitted to register for 0 (zero) hours of dissertation credit.  If permission is granted, you may continue to register for 0 hours if you continue to make satisfactory progress and are within the time limits for completion of the degree.  Note that even if you are eligible and successfully petition the Graduate College to register for 0 hours, you still must register for 0 hours each semester until you have successfully defended the dissertation (although you do not need to register for 0 credits for the summer session unless the defense will be held during the summer).

The Graduate College makes an exception to the above registration requirement if the defense will occur during the late registration period for a term; in those cases, a doctoral defense will be allowed without student registration in that term.  This is assuming that you were registered the previous term, or the previous spring term in the instance of a fall defense (which should be the case since, as stated above, continuous registration is required).  The late registration period is the official first ten days of any fall or spring semester and the first five days of the summer term.  If you defend after the 10th day (5th in summer) you must be registered.

If you hold a fellowship, assistantship and/or tuition waiver, and do not resign from it, then registration is mandatory for the number of hours required to hold the award or assistantship.  If you hold a student visa, you probably do not have to register if you leave the country by the 10th day (5th in summer), although this should be verified with Office of International Services.

This (late period registration defense) exception does not affect the registration requirement to take the Preliminary Examination, or the general requirement of continuous registration from Preliminary Examination to defense.  Failure to register continuously may result in being administratively dropped from the program.  You should refer to Section IV for important additional information about constituting a dissertation committee and conducting dissertation research. 

Dissertation Defense Heading link

When nearing the end of dissertation research, you should begin to plan your dissertation defense with your dissertation committee chair.  See Section IV for specific information about organizing and scheduling a dissertation defense and filing all the paperwork required before the defense can be conducted.

According to Graduate College regulations, at least one year must pass between completing the oral portion of the preliminary examination and the dissertation defense.  Any student who fails to complete all program requirements, including the dissertation defense, within five years of passing the oral portion of the preliminary examination must retake the preliminary examination.