The doctoral program in curriculum and instruction prepares educators for various roles in college and universities; in educational research and leadership positions, public school districts and other educational institutions. Students may choose to specialize in a specific discipline such as: elementary education; middle or secondary (typically with a content area focus); or special education.
Because a doctoral program is qualitatively different from previous degrees, potential candidates may have questions about whether they wish to commit to this significant undertaking and what might be expected in this Ph.D. program. The information sessions, FAQs, and extensive details available in the doctoral handbook (see below) will assist initial explorations of whether this Ph.D. program might be right for you.
Meeting times are from 5-6PM.
Room 284 in the College of Education (#67 on the campus map [PDF]). Registration is not required.
These address many potential questions potential students have about the program. They are found in the FAQs tab at the top.
The Doctoral Student Website covers much of what doctoral candidates need to know from start to completion of their program at this site, the "Complete Doctoral Handbook" has detailed information about the program.
The program is flexible and permits students to design a specialty area concentration in consultation with their faculty adviser.
There are four annual admission deadlines. Depending on specific individual goals and situations, different deadlines may be more relevant for you.
Fall semester start, full-time status with Graduate Assistantship funding possibilities:
Members of the Ph.D. Curriculum and Instruction admissions committee evaluate all applications after the appropriate admission deadline. Admission decisions are made by the professional judgment of the admissions committee according to established criteria. Admission to the program is competitive and preference is given to applicants who have strong academic records, experiences and abilities that show demonstrated excellence in professional performance and research potential. All applicants will be notified in writing regarding their admission; typically this notification occurs approximately three weeks after the admissions deadline.
To be considered for admission, all materials must be submitted prior to the admission committee's review. If materials are incomplete, applicant will be notified and may submit again during next review.
Please note: Application for admission consists of two parts: (1) documents submitted to the University of Louisville for Graduate Admission and (2) materials submitted directly to the Ph.D. Curriculum and Instruction program ("Program Application Requirements," see below) by the established deadline date. See the Application Process Overview [PDF] document for details.
One way to think of doctoral-level work is to consider that this is a transformative process whereby you become a generator of knowledge as well as a consumer of it. Through intense study and mentoring experiences, you develop an expertise and a network of other professionals who collectively define and shape your particular field of study. This is very much a nonlinear, interactive process that is qualitatively different from many pre-doctoral degrees which tend to be highly structured, as exemplified by presenting lists of courses or course options that serve as requirements for those degrees. Rather than experiencing a program that has been designed by others, doctoral students in essence create their own programs (within broad guidelines from the university) – a process that makes this experience more challenging than a pre-structured sequence of courses. Of course you don't do this on your own without help: Rich mentoring experiences from the faculty guide and help you shape your experiences throughout your program.
A doctoral degree opens many career paths: This is often a stimulus for many to seek this terminal degree. You may envision yourself as a future college of education faculty member, mentoring new and experienced teachers in the field and engaging in research to expand our knowledge of how to enhance education for all students. Or you may be striving for positions in state departments of education, shaping curriculum and policy at a state level. Career options also include governmental agencies, non-profit think tanks or educational research institutes, large multinational corporations with education foundations and training departments, non-governmental organizations (NGO), or any number of other possibilities. One way to structure your thinking about the appropriateness of a Ph.D. is to decide what career goal you have for yourself, and investigate the credentials and qualifications that would be necessary to excel in that field. If those credentials include a doctorate, then perhaps this degree is right for you.
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The MAT is acceptable as a prerequisite for this Ph.D. program, so it is not necessarily true that you need an M.Ed. if you already have an MAT. However, although the MAT is technically adequate, omitting the M.Ed. may not be the best route for some people:
NOTE: the M.Ed. program does NOT become part of the Ph.D. in addition to MAT – you can only use one master's degree to satisfy the speciality area component of the Ph.D. program (see 60-hour program sheet link). Thus, doing an M.Ed. is NOT a way to "get started on Ph.D." because you aren't – the focus and requirements of the programs are different. Instead, an M.Ed. program is strengthening your knowledge and experience base to better position yourself for future career opportunities and to become a more effective teacher, regardless of whether you ever pursue a Ph.D. or not.
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Unlike most Master's degree programs, the doctoral program is much more individualized, intense, and built on a student being mentored into the profession in a role different from Master's graduates. This requires students who are proactive in developing a program of study (courses) and eventually a research direction, who can work independently as needed, and who will flourish under the mentorship model (faculty-student), which is quite different from most Master's programs in which you complete a suite of coursework and are finished. In contrast to a Master's degree program, a Ph.D. program has a central focus on understanding and advancing the intellectual field by creating new knowledge.
If the questions you are thinking about tend to be along the line of, "What courses are needed?" then a shift in thinking about a doctoral program would be appropriate. Rather, the question should be, "What experiences will I need to prepare me for my next career goals?" A noncomprehensive list of a few central differences in a doctoral program compared to a non-doctoral degree program are:
The purpose of the coursework is not to merely satisfy requirements, but to craft a series of experiences that contribute to the development of the skills and perspectives that will enable the student to successfully complete a quality dissertation and be prepared for a wide variety of career opportunities. This is an interactive process that is unique for each doctoral student.
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It is possible to take many courses during the evening and in the summer, although that may not be true for every course a person might want to take. Many students do work full-time while taking doctoral coursework part-time. Some continue to work full-time while doing the dissertation, but that possibility depends on the nature of the dissertation. Full-time work is often found to be a significant barrier to completing the degree. In general, we recommend serious consideration of full-time degree status at least during the dissertation component of the program. The more full-time effort that can be expended in the program, the more rich and varied the experience tends to be for the student.
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Our Ph.D. program in Curriculum & Instruction features extensive individual mentoring of students into their new professional roles. Because of the wide range of experiences and career goals of students entering our Ph.D. program, the program is designed to be flexible to meet the needs of individuals. Coupled with this flexibility is a research core (courses and dissertation) that ensures that all students develop competencies in consuming and producing research.
Examples of doctoral program experiences that are available as appropriate to the needs of the student include opportunities to co-teach some courses relevant to one's future career direction. Co-taught courses allow the student to take advantage of the experience and guidance of the professor and develop capacity for future teaching at the college level. Students also can engage with all aspects of research projects, including submitting proposals and presenting at national professional conferences, preparing and editing journal articles, and contributing to grant proposals as appropriate. Students are mentored into a professional network and guided to serve as professional conference proposal reviewers and as journal article reviewers. In addition to these individual mentoring opportunities, we offer a Future Faculty program that works with cohorts of doctoral students across campus to enhance their capacity to be successful in their future roles as university faculty.
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A doctoral program is qualitatively different from a Master's degree program (see FAQ about these differences), and your recommendations should be addressing your potential in the doctoral program, which means that new recommendations are needed. When you speak to those who will write these new letters, the following characteristics are helpful ones that could be included in their comments:
This isn't a complete list, of course, but is intended to give you some guidance on the characteristics of successful doctoral students.
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The age of GRE scores is not a major concern for the admissions committee, and strong GRE scores from 10 or 15 years ago are acceptable: There is no statute of limitations on scores. If, however, your GRE scores are not strong, you may wish to consider taking them again to increase your score and hence your chances of being admitted.
There is no strict GRE cut-off score for admissions. The admissions committee looks at all of the application materials and considers all evidence when making a decision. Because of the challenging nature of doctoral-level work, the committee seeks evidence of strong potential to be successful in the program: The GRE is only one source of that evidence. Because of the research focus of a Ph.D., successful graduates must be able to read, understand, and employ research statistical techniques: The GRE quantitative score is one indicator of potential in this arena. Because of the extensive requirements to clearly and concisely communicate in written form, the GRE verbal score is one indicator of potential in this arena. In general, the admissions committee expects to see GRE scores of at least 550 quantitative and 550 verbal as evidence of potential in these two critical skill sets of doctoral students. If an applicant's score on either of those subscores falls substantially below approximately 500, the committee seeks strong alternative evidence of potential (e.g., successful completion of a sequence of statistical courses on a transcript, or copies of journal articles or other professionally vetted writing that has been accepted by the larger community).
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Identification of an advisor is the responsibility of the student: An advisor will need to sign a form as part of the admission packet. The website provides a link to CEHD Faculty Research Interests [PDF], which is a good resource to identify faculty who might have similar research interests and backgrounds and could potentially serve as an advisor. We recommend that you schedule meetings or phone calls with any faculty you identify who might be a good fit to explore the possibility with them. Having at least a draft of your Formal statement of goals is likely to be helpful to bring focus to the conversation, and a clear articulation of your intended career path is also helpful. Agreement to serve as your advisor is a process that is reached by mutual agreement between the two parties. The person who serves as your program advisor (the coursework portion of the program) may or may not serve as the dissertation advisor: This decision depends on the particular research direction taken by the student and the fit between the advisor's and the student's interests.
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The rationale for requiring doctoral admissions packets (using the "faculty mentor form") to already have identified an advisor (faculty mentor) is to avoid a situation where a student may be admitted to the doctoral program, but then find out that there is no one on faculty with the expertise to guide them in their program. This situation is not helpful for the student who then becomes stuck, having started a program but unable to finish or progress because of this gap in faculty expertise. Because of the many specializations possible in Curriculum & Instruction, and because of the necessarily limited number of faculty specialties available, it happens regularly that a potential applicant is seeking a program focus which we are not able to accommodate because of a lack of faculty expertise.
However, it isn't necessary that a faculty member MUST have the same specialty area as the candidate seeking the degree. The requirement is that the faculty member him/herself, in conjunction with the potential doctoral student, must evaluate their own abilities to effectively mentor the doctoral student. As an example, we may not have anyone specializing particularly in English Language Learners. We might, however, have faculty with an interest in literacy learning and who may have a specialty niche in learning second languages (e.g. learning Spanish if you are a native English speaker). If that is close enough, in the faculty member's estimation (in consultation with the student), then that faculty member may be comfortable accepting that student as a doctoral student.
As another example, suppose someone were interested in specializing in art education for their doctoral program. We do not currently have a faculty member in our department with that particular expertise. There are several possibilities for approaching faculty with this particular research interest in mind. For example, if your interests are particularly on young children and the use of art as a medium for learning, expression, etc., then someone who specializes in Early Childhood Education may be someone you would wish to make contact with and have a conversation. Alternately, if your interests are more in line with the interconnection of art and gifted education, a faculty member with an interest in gifted education may be a person to talk with. These are a few examples of how you may need to think about your intended direction within the field of art education in the search for identifying a doctoral mentor. If none of these fit and you are unable to identify a faculty mentor for your areas of research interests, then it may be that we are not able to offer the expertise appropriate for your doctoral degree.
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Financial aid opportunities are available to full-time Ph.D. students. The nature of that aid varies widely. Some examples include:
See the "Financial Aid" link on the program homepage, right menu bar, for more information.
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Each doctoral student is expected to have established an area of expertise – a Master's degree is accepted as evidence of meeting that requirement. Those who enter the doctoral program with a Master's degree take the 60-hour program since their specialty area work has already been completed. Those who enter without a Master's degree will take the 90-hour program; 30 hours of that program will be in coursework to establish an area of expertise similar to a Master's degree.
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There is no one answer to this, of course. There are two primary components to the Ph.D. program: a coursework phase and a dissertation phase. A few considerations are presented below. Course requirements include a minimum of 90 semester hours beyond the baccalaureate degree or a minimum of 60 semester hours beyond a Master's degree (each course is typically 3 credit hours). 12 of those credits are dissertation credits. If you already have a Master's degree and are doing the coursework part-time (including summer), the 48 credit hours of non-dissertation courses might be completed in 3-4 calendar years. The time frame for completing a dissertation varies widely, but typically a MINIMUM on a full-time basis is one calendar year.
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Coursework towards a doctoral degree is selected with the endpoint in mind; many courses already taken may or may not fit with that goal. The student and program committee (a group of 3 faculty) collaboratively decide on the courses right for each person using broad guidelines specified by established program sheets. The program committee must ultimately sign off on the approved coursework. At the program committee's discretion, up to 6 credit hours of graduate work taken prior to the program which isn't part of a Master's degree may or may not count towards course requirements in the doctoral program.
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This is actually not the right question to ask (see FAQ "How is the Ph.D. program different from a Master's degree program?"). A doctoral program isn't about checking off a prescribed list of courses, but rather is about designing courses and other experiences (such as conference presentations, reviewing proposals for professional conferences, and conducting and writing research) so that the student acquires the competencies to be successful in the intended future career. There are a few required courses (see the "Program Sheet" link in the right hand menu of the main page), but doctoral courses are selected and designed by the student in consultation with the advisor and program committee.
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Your doctoral advisor guides you throughout the program. This should be someone with an expertise area that is compatible with the expertise you are developing so that he or she can adequately guide and mentor you, although you will play the dominant role in developing your expertise fully. Your advisor chairs the 3-member faculty program committee who will assist you with course selection and formally approve your coursework. After completing the written comprehensive exams at the end of the coursework phase (a process managed by your advisor), you may choose to continue with the same advisor in the dissertation research phase or may decide that a different faculty member's research is a better fit for you. Your dissertation advisor chairs the 5-member faculty committee that guides and formally approves your dissertation. Throughout the entire degree program, your advisor is a primary contact for (a) networking with other professionals in the field, (b) mentoring you in preparing and delivering professional presentations at conferences and other events, and (c) providing general guidance throughout. Other faculty members will play similar roles, but typically the advisor tends to be primary in this role, largely due to the similarity of research expertise he or she possesses that is consistent with the expertise you are developing.
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A dissertation is an extended, thorough, systematic investigation into an area of intellectual interest to your field that generates new knowledge. It is much more than a "paper," although you do communicate the acquired knowledge in written form. Although the particulars of any dissertation vary greatly and are determined by the nature of the research, components of the dissertation process generally include:
Although the short list above may give the impression that the dissertation process is straightforward, this short description does not capture the complexity and interactive nature of the process. There are a number of books commercially available that offer guidance and suggestions for writing dissertations; you may find some of them helpful to clarify your understanding of this process. The time period to complete dissertations varies widely, but in general between 1-2 years of full-time work is a common time frame for this portion of the doctoral program.
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