Education and Social Policy: Degree Requirements

Guiding Principles

The guiding principles of the Education and Social Policy Ph.D. program are:

  1. Commitment to equity and social change
  2. Rigorous training in design, methods and analysis that emphasize multiple ways of asking and answering critical education and social policy questions
  3. True interdisciplinarity: students will not just be exposed to different disciplines, but will gain the ability to synthesize interdisciplinary perspectives in their research,
  4. Insight into the complexity between policy systems and communities, including understanding the multi-directionality of research and practice,
  5. Engaged scholarship: our students will interact with real data, with policymakers and practitioners, and with those impacted by the policies they are studying (families, schools, and communities, etc.), and
  6. Expansion beyond a technocratic approach to studying education and social policy, to include understandings of historical, critical, and political perspectives on inequality, situated in particular contexts.

These principles will be enacted through the course requirements, the colloquium, research assistantship, and qualifying exam.

Degree Requirements

Ph.D. students in education and social policy are required to take:

  • 12 credits from the core curriculum
  • 12 methods credits
  • 6 research design credits

Additionally, students will have 18 elective credits:

  • 6 advanced methods
  • 3 in their chosen discipline (e.g., sociology, psychology, political science)
  • 9 in their area of interest (e.g., early childhood policy or social policy

The program is designed to allow the completion of coursework in two years, though taking coursework into the third year is acceptable. Students may earn a master’s degree by completing all of the course requirements.

Teaching is not a requirement of the program. However, for students potentially interested in higher education or teaching in other venues, we will provide opportunities for them to develop their teaching skills.

Students take 12 credits from the core curriculum in the areas of public policy, social policy, human development and educational foundations. Specifically, students will take:

  • HDFS 803: Human Development in Life Span Perspective (3 credits),
  • EDUC 805: Proseminar in Education (3 credits)
  • UAPP 822: Proseminar in Governance, Planning, and Policy (3 credits)
  • UAPP 823: Social and Urban Policy (3 credits)

Students also take 12 credits in methods curriculum in the areas of:

  • regression/multivariate analysis
  • advanced quantitative methods (e.g., HLM, longitudinal data analysis, data mining)
  • qualitative analysis
  • mixed methods or evaluation

In the area of regression/multivariate analysis, students will take EDUC 844 Intermediate ANOVA and Regression or SPPA704 Multivariate Regression for Public Policy analysis and Social Science Research.

In the area of advanced quantitative methods, students will choose one of the following courses:

  • SPAA Quantitative Two (in process)
  • EDUC 812 Regression and Structural Equation Modeling
  • EDUC 874 Multivariate Analysis
  • EDUC 873 Multilevel Modeling
  • SPAA 704 Survey Research Methods

In the area of qualitative methods, students will take EDUC 850 Qualitative Methods or SPPA 808 Qualitative Research Methods.

In the area of mixed methods or evaluation, students will choose one of the following:

  • EDUC 826: Mixed Methods in Social Science Research
  • EDUC 863 Program Evaluation in Education
  • UAPP755 Evaluation Models and Approaches

Students will also take 6 credits in the area of research design. This two-course sequence will include SPPA 800: Research Design and Data Analysis and HDFS 815 Research Issues and Designs, also entitled EDUC 884 Advanced Research Design for Causal Inference. 

Additionally, students take 18 elective credits: six of those will be advanced methods, three will be their chosen discipline (e.g., sociology, psychology, political science), and nine will be in their area of interest (e.g., early childhood policy or social policy).

Each semester for four academic years, students will also participate in a pass/fail colloquium series (1 credit per semester for the first four semesters, and after that, a 0-credit requirement). This research colloquium introduces students to the foremost thinkers and researchers in the field of education and social policy. Guest scholars are invited to share their research findings with doctoral students and faculty in a setting that encourages collegiality and familiarizes students with a number of scholarly presentation styles and content areas. The colloquium also provides a forum for discussion of topics relevant for developing scholars, such as how to develop a dissertation idea, identifying grant opportunities, choosing journals, etc.

All students will participate in a 20-hour per week academic year research assistantship in each year of the program (except students who may be acting as a Teaching Assistant for one or two semesters). Summer assistantships are encouraged but are optional based on available funding. During the assistantship, students will engage in hands-on research design, analysis, writing and presentation of results.

After completion of the required coursework, students will complete a qualifying exam created and evaluated by an exam committee comprised of three faculty members. The exam will constitute an authentic task that builds on knowledge we expect students to develop as part of the program: the ability to identify, synthesize, and critique policy literature, communicate evidence to policy/practice partners, and design research to inform policy/practice partners’ work in that policy area.

Dissertation credits: Doctoral students who have been admitted to candidacy must enroll in 9 credits of EDUC 969 or SPPA 969 or similar dissertation credits and thereafter maintain their matriculation in the degree program during each fall and spring semester by registering for sustaining (UNIV 999).

Dissertation proposal: Students complete a written proposal for their capstone dissertation project and defend it orally before their advisory committee. The program does not require a formal dissertation preparation course, but students may elect to take SPPA 863, Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Workshop.

Dissertation and defense: Students complete a dissertation, an original work of scholarship, meeting College, University, and professional requirements. They also complete an oral defense of the work before their advisory committee.

Students are required to participate in the program in person during the academic year.