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Overview: PhD Mathematics & Science Education

The PhD in Education:  Curriculum and Instruction offers students opportunities to study in three major areas of concentration:  (a) Curriculum Studies; (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 MSE PhD program spans P-20 mathematics and science education in urban settings in and out of schools. The focus is on developing new knowledge that improves science and mathematics education and has an impact on the communities we serve. Students engage in coursework and research experiences that guide them to view issues of learning, teaching, curriculum, assessment, and policy through sociocultural and sociopolitical lenses where equity, social justice, race, language, culture, and identity are essential considerations.

Program faculty members are widely recognized as leaders in their respective fields. They have published extensively on the educational experiences of African American and Latino learners, and bring to their research and teaching strong disciplinary education in STEM fields. They also have considerable records of mentoring and preparing scholars from traditionally underrepresented groups, as well as preparing and collaborating with P-20 science and mathematics teachers and faculty.

Graduates of the MSE program are well prepared to assume a variety of positions in colleges, universities, organizations, and informal educational settings to improve the mathematics and science education of children, adolescents, and adult learners through research.

Overview of Requirements (Fall 2013) Heading link

The program requires a minimum of 98 semester hours beyond the baccalaureate degree and a minimum of 66 semester hours beyond the master’s degree.  These requirements include completion of a 12-hour Doctoral Studies Core, a 12-hour methodology requirement, 12 hours of the MSE program core, and 12 hours in one of the two disciplinary strands (i.e., mathematics education or science education). Students are required to pass written and oral portions of a preliminary examination and successfully defend their dissertation research.  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
  • Mathematics and Science Education Program Core – 12 hours
  • Proseminar in Curriculum and Instruction – 2 hours
  • Mathematics or Science Education Specialization – 12 hours
  • 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 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)

Math and Science Concentration Program Core (12 hours) Heading link

  • CI 517 – The Sociopolitcal Context of Mathematics and Science Education (4 hours)
  • CI 518 – Race, Identity, and Agency in Mathematics and Science Education (4 hours)
  • CI 573 – Multimodality, Multiliteracies, & Science and Mathematics Education (4 hrs)

Proseminar in Curriculum and Instruction (CI 500, 2 hours) Heading link

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 in general, including mathematics and science education.

Mathematics or Science Education Specialization (12 hours – Choose 3 Courses) Heading link

  • CI 516 – Research on Mathematics Teachers and Teaching (4 hours)
  • CI 519 — Research on the Learning of Mathematics (4 hours)
  • CI 520 – The K-12 Mathematics Curriculum: Theory, Politics, and Reform (4 hrs)
  • CI 566 – Research on Science Curriculum (4 hours)
  • CI 567 – Research on Science Teaching and Teacher Education (4 hours)
  • CI 570 – Research on Science Learning (4 hours)

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 actual research 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 any faculty to guide and oversee your research project.  Ideally, you would engage in all aspects of research 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 (e.g., a book chapter, journal paper, etc.).  See Section V on the possible need for IRB approval before conducting a research project. Collaborating with faculty on a larger research project may also be used to fulfill this requirement.

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 has 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 (written prelims) that focuses primarily on your program of study, and an oral portion (oral prelims) that focuses primarily on your dissertation proposal.  Passing the preliminary examination constitutes formal admission to candidacy for the PhD.

Written prelims should be taken when you have completed your coursework, or concurrently with your last course(s).  Oral prelims should be taken after you pass the written prelims and have completed your dissertation proposal.  Passing the oral prelims constitutes approval of your dissertation research direction.  Before beginning your dissertation research, you must also receive approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) if the research involves human subjects (see Section V).

Written Prelims Heading link

You should begin making arrangements to take the written prelims when you have finished, or you are almost finishing, your coursework.  First, you must find a faculty member to chair your written prelims committee.  Your faculty program advisor can help with this task.  Your program advisor may serve as a your committee chair, or you may identify another Mathematics and Science Education program faculty member 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 two other members to serve on your written prelims committee. Your written prelims committee may, or may not, grow into your 5-member dissertation committee that evaluates your oral prelims, which is the defense of your dissertation proposal.  Thus, as you put together your written prelims committee, know the guidelines for the composition of the oral prelims committee, which is the same as your dissertation committee.

The chair of the written prelims committee will convene the other committee members to develop questions for the exam.  Generally, these questions ask you to integrate and apply knowledge and understandings gained from your coursework, research project, and independent readings with an eye onto your dissertation research direction.  You may choose to take the exam at the university or as a take-home assignment.  Written prelims are evaluated on a pass/fail basis.  If necessary, the entire exam or some portion can be retaken once.  After you have passed this exam, the chair will submit a form indicating this accomplishment to the College of Education Office of Student Services for inclusion in your file.

Dissertation Proposal Heading link

Your coursework, research project, independent readings, and written prelims should give you a good start on planning your dissertation research.  After passing the written prelims, you must complete a proposal for your dissertation research that you will defend during your oral prelims.

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 dissertation committee.

When you and your 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 your oral prelims committee (see below under Oral Prelims section) and schedule the defense of your proposal.  The proposal should be distributed to committee members for review at least three weeks before the scheduled date.  It is strongly recommended that 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 prelims are completed because committees may make recommendations for changing research protocols during the exam (i.e., proposal defense).  See Section V for information about IRB requirements and procedures.

Oral Prelims Heading link

The oral prelims are a hearing on the dissertation proposal with the primary function to assess and approve the dissertation research proposal.

Although the oral prelims committee can be later changed if needed, it should generally be expected to serve also as your dissertation committee and formed accordingly.  The dissertation committee should consist of five members including your chair who must be a Mathematics and Science Education program faculty. 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 a 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 professors).  Also, at least two members must be Mathematics and Science Education program faculty.  The Graduate College also requires that a member is from outside the Program (see Section IV).  You should work with your oral prelims committee chair to identify and recruit at least four other members (possibly including any who have served on your written prelims committee) to serve on your oral prelims committee.

In order to formally constitute the oral prelims 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 College of Education Office of Student Services (3145 EPASW) 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 College of Education Office of Student Services.  The completed form must be signed by the committee chair and submitted to the College of Education 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 College of Education Office of Student Services.  A copy of the potential committee member’s full current curriculum vitae must be submitted with the Committee Recommendation Form.

The oral prelims are evaluated on a pass-fail basis.  If two or more members of the oral prelims committee assign a failing grade, the student fails the exam. Students who fail are sometimes asked to do additional work on or to revise their dissertation proposal before their committee gives final approval.  Even if the committee does not fail a student, it may require that the student make particular changes in the dissertation proposal before the proposal is approved.

Passing the oral prelims 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 prelims and receiving approval from the IRB, you may begin your 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 prelims, 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 prelims and the dissertation defense.  If you fail to complete all program requirements, including the dissertation defense, within five years of passing the oral prelims, you must retake them.