The goals of doctoral study in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction are to help students develop abilities for research in the field of curriculum and instruction, imbuing them with a distinctive theoretical and critical edge; develop expertise in one of the department's areas of study, listed previously; acquire greater competence in curriculum evaluation and development; improve understanding of the teaching–learning process; gain depth and breadth of knowledge in related academic fields; and build a broadened professional background in areas related to curriculum and instruction, such as administration, counseling, educational psychology, supervision, and the anthropology, history, philosophy, and sociology of education.

Ph.D. study in the department is research-oriented. It prepares students for different forms of intellectual leadership in education including research, teacher education and other teaching in higher education, and leadership positions in educational agencies. These different forms of leadership are not mutually exclusive, but the relative emphasis given to each varies among students and areas of study.

Details of requirements and procedures pertaining to Ph.D. study in the department are described in the department's Ph.D. Degree Program Handbook. Doctoral students are responsible for learning about and following department requirements and procedures; they should therefore familiarize themselves with this document, a printed copy of which can be picked up at the curriculum and instruction graduate program office. Ph.D. students are also responsible for learning about and following Graduate School policies. The curriculum and instruction graduate program office offers an informational meeting for new graduate students at the beginning of each semester.

The department nominates eligible incoming M.S. and Ph.D. students for an Advanced Opportunity Fellowship (AOF). Eligibility criteria for these fellowships can be found at the Graduate School's Funding Information page. The department nominates its most academically competitive Ph.D. candidates for the Social Studies Division Fellowships. Nominees are considered in January by a committee of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.  For an applicant to be considered in this competition, the graduate-application file should be complete by December 1.

University-wide information about financial aid for graduate students is available through the Office of Student Financial Aid. Additional information about financing graduate education is available from the Graduate School's Types of Funding Available page.

The department itself does not award fellowships or scholarships; however, a limited number of teaching assistantships, project assistantships, research assistantships, and program assistantships are available either in the department or through faculty research projects in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. These assistantships are awarded to qualified, full-time graduate students and typically involve 10–20 hours of professional work each week, usually in close collaboration with one or more professors. Assistantships provide a stipend and may include the cost of tuition (excluding segregated fees).

Applications for assistantships in the department can be downloaded here or requested from the Academic Department Manager, 210A Teacher Education Building, 608-263-4602, Students should also check with individual faculty members about opportunities for assistantships in the department. Any teaching, project, or program assistant in the department must carry a full course load of 8–15 graduate-level credits and make satisfactory progress toward the graduate degree.

Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress

To make progress toward a graduate degree, students must meet the Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress in addition to the requirements of the program.

Doctoral Degrees


Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

51 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

36 credits beyond the master’s before taking the preliminary examination

Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement

36 credits out of 51 total credits must be completed in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide. Those 36 credits must be completed before taking the preliminary examination.

Prior Coursework Requirements: Graduate Work from Other Institutions

No prior coursework from other institutions can be counted in the 36 credits required before taking the preliminary examination. Coursework earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison University Special student. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Credits per Term Allowed

15 credits

Program-Specific Courses Required

One required course, CURRIC 712 Introduction to Curriculum and Instruction: Research and Resources

Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements

All doctoral students are required to complete a minor.

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement

3.25 GPA required

Other Grade Requirements

Ph.D. students must earn a B average or above in all coursework.

Probation Policy

The status of a student can be one of two options:

  1. Satisfactory progress (progressing according to standards)
  2. Unsatisfactory progress (not progressing according to standards; permitted to enroll with specific plan with dates and deadlines in place in regard to removal of unsatisfactory progress to avoid dismissal from the program).


All students are required to have an advisor. An advisor is assigned to all incoming students. To ensure they are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, students should meet with their advisor on a regular basis.

The advisor serves as the thesis advisor. Students can be suspended from the program, if they do not have an advisor.

Assessments and Examinations

Doctoral students must pass the preliminary examination within five yrs of starting the program.

Time Constraints

A candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation within 5 years after passing the preliminary examination may by require to take another preliminary examination and to be admitted to candidacy a second time.

Doctoral degree students who have been absent for ten or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

Language Requirements

No language requirements other than the English proficiency required for admission.

All applicants should apply online at Graduate School Online Application. Official transcripts should be sent in duplicate to the

Curriculum and Instruction Graduate Program Office
225 North Mills Street
Madison WI 53706-1707

Printed letters of recommendation may also be sent to this address, but persons writing recommendations may find it faster and more convenient to submit their recommendations electronically to the Graduate School through the online application. Any additional documentation required specifically by the Department of Curriculum and Instruction should be uploaded to the application or the supplemental application.

Ph.D. Applicants

Ph.D. applicants are required to supplement the application with the items enumerated below.

  1. Official transcripts. Official transcripts from all previous postsecondary study are required for all Ph.D. applicants. These should be mailed directly to the Department of Curriculum and Instruction mailing address.
  2. Graduate Record Exam (GRE) general test. Ph.D. applicants should have an official report of their Graduate Record Exam (GRE) general test scores sent electronically from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to UW–Madison (institution code: 1846).
  3. Evidence of writing ability. Ph.D. applicants are required to provide evidence of their writing ability by submitting a writing sample (master's thesis, academic paper from a graduate course, a journal article, or any other writing which the applicant believes can be used to judge writing ability).  This should be uploaded to the supplemental application.
  4. Three letters that include appraisal of academic competence. Ph.D. applicants are required to have three letters of reference assessing their academic and professional competence. Letters of reference written for teachers ordinarily include an evaluation of their professional competence, and the department does consider that information. However, the department needs letters that also give a knowledgeable appraisal of the applicant's academic competence. A student's former professors are usually best able to provide this, so the department prefers letters from them. Printed letters of recommendation may be sent directly to the Curriculum and Instruction Graduate Program Office, but persons writing recommendations may find it faster and more convenient to submit their recommendations electronically through the online application.
  5. Statement of reasons for doctoral study. Each Ph.D. applicant is required to submit a detailed statement of reasons for doctoral study. The statement should indicate the applicant's primary area of interest, professional objectives, career goals, and why the applicant is interested in pursuing a research degree in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. This information is used to gauge the appropriateness of the applicant's program goals in relation to the department's mission and to identify prospective advisors whose research interests match those of the applicant. If an applicant's statement fails to persuade a faculty member to serve as the graduate advisor, the applicant will be refused admission; it is therefore important that this statement be detailed, well-written, and matched to specific areas of study that are available in the department. If an applicant would like for a particular professor to serve as graduate advisor, the applicant should identify the desired advisor in the statement of reasons for graduate study.
  6. Resume or curriculum vitae (cv).

International applicants should note additional requirements that are described in the International Applications section, below.

International Applicants

The department has a long and successful history of working with graduate students from around the world. Over the last 25 years, approximately 130 M.S. degrees were earned by international students; students in this group came from 37 countries. During the same period, approximately 150 Ph.D. degrees were earned by international students in the department; students in this group came from 43 countries. Qualified international students add to the enrichment of the social and intellectual environment for all faculty and students.

In accord with Graduate School policy, applicants whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide official scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB). An admitted applicant whose internet-based TOEFL (iBT) score is below 92, IELTS score is below 7, or MELAB score is below 82 must take an English assessment test upon arrival. They must then register for any English as a Second Language (ESL) courses that are recommended.

Expected Background in Professional Education

(Does not apply to M.S. with named options in Secondary English Education, Secondary Mathematics Education, Secondary Science Education, and Secondary Social Studies Education applicants)

A professional background in education (typically, as a certified teacher) is a prerequisite for most graduate areas of study in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Applicants to certain areas of study within the department are sometimes admitted without teacher certification, but they are nevertheless required to have taken at least 12 credits in professional education courses. Equivalent courses taught outside a school of education are permissible, so long as an express focus on professional education is judged by the graduate program chair to be evident. At least 6 credits must be in foundations of education (e.g., educational anthropology, educational sociology, history of education, human development, human learning, philosophy of education). Applicants lacking this background may be admitted with deficiencies. They will then be required to take a specified number of credits in the areas of deficiency, in addition to the course work ordinarily required in the graduate program.  Courses taken to remove deficiencies should be chosen in consultation with the graduate advisor, and each of these courses must be taken for a letter grade (not pass/fail). These courses may be carried concurrently with regular graduate courses; but, being additional requirements, they do not count toward requirements of the graduate program.

Knowledge and Skills

  • Articulates research problems, potentials, and limits with respect to theory, knowledge, or practice within the field of study.
  • Formulates ideas, concepts, designs, and/or techniques beyond the current boundaries of knowledge within the field of study.
  • Creates research, scholarship, or performance that makes a substantive contribution.
  • Demonstrates breadth within their learning experiences.
  • Advances contributions of the field of study to society.
  • Communicates complex ideas in a clear and understandable manner.

Professional Conduct

  • Fosters ethical and professional conduct.

Faculty: Professors Graue (chair), Feinstein (graduate program chair), Apple, Baker, Compton-Lilly, Gomez, Grant, Hawkins, Hess, Ivey, James, Knuth, Koza, Ladson-Billings, Popkewitz, Squire, Tochon, Winn; Associate Professors Dobbs, Ellis, E. Halverson, Hassett, Pacheco, Schweber, Steinkuehler; Assistant Professors L. Berland, M. Berland, Braaten, Ghousseini, Prasad, Russ, Wager, Wright; Affiliate Professors R. Halverson, Nathan, Uttal, Fujita Geyer, Zhang. For more information about respective members of the faculty, see People on the department website.