The Department of Educational Psychology offers the master of science and doctor of philosophy degrees in educational psychology. The programs for the M.S. and Ph.D. in educational psychology provide comprehensive knowledge of the field and intensive specialization in one of four areas of study and research: human development, learning sciences, quantitative methods, and school psychology.

The department provides for training in research. Many faculty members in the department conduct controlled research studies with human participants; schools and other agencies in the Madison area cooperate in facilitating such research projects. Principal research facilities include the School of Education's Wisconsin Center for Education Research, and the multidisciplinary Waisman Center.

Areas of Specialization 

Human Development

Advisors: Professors Bellmore, Brown, Enright, Hubbard, Kalish, Matthews, Vlach

The program in human development adopts a life-span approach to individual change. Studying development in context is an important component of the program, so that research can make conceptual/theoretical contributions to the understanding of human behavior and can address practical concerns of educators, parents, and others concerned with the developing person. A course of study provides a breadth and depth of knowledge about human development and educational psychology and encourages more detailed study in specific interest areas. Early in the program, students are exposed to general theories and issues in human development; specific developmental processes in childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age; as well as associated statistical methods and research practices.

In the latter part of the program, students exercise individual choice in selecting courses in subject matter that will broaden or deepen an understanding of human developmental processes. Such coursework may also extend to other programs of the university in which there is a research focus in human development.

Learning Sciences

Advisors: Professors Kalish, Nathan, Puntambekar, Rau, Shaffer

This program area bridges learning sciences and educational practice. Scholarship encompasses the coordinated design and study of learning environments ranging from preschool to university education, and reaches outside of school to informal contexts for learning, like museums and after-school programs. Faculty interests include the design of technologies as tools for learning, prolonged longitudinal study of relations between teaching and learning, and the nature of knowledge in substantive domains of inquiry, like mathematics, science, and composition. The program of study emphasizes an apprenticeship model of scholarship with early engagement in substantive problems of learning and teaching. Students work in concert with faculty to develop research studies in each of the first two years of study. Courses are coordinated to promote the development of research and communication skills, so that students can become involved with important problems in educational research. As students progress in the program, they continue to work with faculty, both within and outside of the department, to craft systematic investigations of learning environments.

Quantitative Methods

Advisors: Professors Bolt, Kaplan, Kim, Steiner, Wollack 

Educational research has a strong tradition of employing state-of-the-art statistical and psychometric (psychological measurement) techniques. Researchers in all areas of education develop measuring instruments, design and conduct experiments and surveys, and analyze data resulting from these activities. Because of this tradition, quantitative methods has long been an area of specialization within educational psychology. Graduates in this area teach, serve as consultants to educational researchers, and conduct research on statistics and psychometrics in education-related fields. Within the program, the quantitative methods area offers the two major specializations of statistics and measurement.

The study of quantitative methods takes advantage of the range of resources at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and includes coursework in statistics, mathematics, and computer sciences, and in other units of the School of Education.

School Psychology

Advisors: Professors Albers, Asmus, Gettinger, Kratochwill

Clinical Professor: McGivern

The graduate program in school psychology leads to a Ph.D. in educational psychology with a scientist–scholar–practitioner model of professional training. Students prepare for positions as professors in colleges and universities, psychologists in elementary and secondary schools, and with other organizations or agencies that focus on psychological services to children, youth, and families. The program is fully accredited by the American Psychological Association and the National Association of School Psychologists.

The areas of professional practice of school psychologists include psychological assessment and psychodiagnostic evaluation, prevention and intervention procedures, consultation and program planning, and research and evaluation. The program also requires study of applied behavior analysis, cognitive-behavior therapy, social-learning theory and ecological–behavioral–systems theory. Applied experience and training are provided in individual and group work with both typical classroom populations and special groups, including individuals with developmental disabilities and others with special education needs. Included in the practicum and internship experience is work with families, classroom peer groups, and community and school systems.

Students are eligible to compete for UW–Madison fellowships. A limited number of teaching and project assistantships are available within the department, and prospective students are encouraged to refer to the instructions for fellowships and assistantships contained in the program application information.

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

Ph.D., with available tracks in human development, learning science, quantitative methods, and school psychology

Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

Ph.D.–human development track: 56 credits
Ph.D.–learning sciences, and quantitative methods tracks: 54 credits
Ph.D.–school psychology track: 110 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

32 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

At least 50% of credits applied toward the graduate degree credit requirement must be completed in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.

Prior Coursework Requirements: Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. 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 ten 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

Contact the program for information on any additional required courses.

Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements

Doctoral students must complete a doctoral minor.

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement


Other Grade Requirements

The Graduate School requires an average grade of B or better in all coursework (300 or above, not including research credits) taken as a graduate student unless conditions for probationary status require higher grades. Grades of Incomplete are considered to be unsatisfactory if they are not removed during the next enrolled semester.

Probation Policy

The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.


Every graduate student is required to have an advisor. An advisor is a faculty member, or sometimes a committee, from the major department responsible for providing advice regarding graduate studies. An advisor generally serves as the thesis advisor. In many cases, an advisor is assigned to incoming students. Students can be suspended from the Graduate School if they do not have an advisor.

To ensure that students are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, the Graduate School expects them to meet with their advisor on a regular basis.

A committee often accomplishes advising for the students in the early stages of their studies.

Assessment and Examinations

Doctoral students are required to take a comprehensive preliminary/oral examination after they have cleared their record of all Incomplete and Progress grades (other than research and thesis). Deposit of the doctoral dissertation in the Graduate School is required.

Time Constraints

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.

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

Language Requirements

Contact the program for information on any language requirements.

For admission to graduate work, the department does not require a specific undergraduate major. However, it is preferred that applicants have completed approximately 18 credits in courses that provide a relevant foundation for further study in educational psychology. Neither certification as a teacher nor teaching experience is required. An undergraduate grade point average of at least 3.0 (4.0 basis) based on the last 60 semester hours of undergraduate coursework is requisite. Also essential are a statement of purpose, Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores, and three letters of recommendation.

Knowledge and Skills


  • Students will acquire a strong foundation in current and past theories, research findings, and methodologies in their program area.
  • Students will demonstrate a knowledge of and sensitivity to human diversity in terms of individual abilities and orientations and sociocultural backgrounds.
  • Students will develop critical thinking skills that promote rigorous evaluation of strengths and limitations in existing theory and research, synthesis of existing knowledge, and evidence based conclusions.
  • Students will be able to identify issues in need of additional inquiry in their program area, as well as an understanding of conceptual and methodological approaches available to address these issues.
  • Students will understand the process of securing funding to support their research and other professional activities.

Research / Evaluation

  • Students will retrieve, evaluate, and interpret professional and scientific literature; they will use this information to develop or adapt theoretical frameworks and derive testable hypotheses or predictions for their own research or program evaluation projects.
  • Students will learn to design realistic and feasible research or assessment projects in their program area and to prepare necessary protocols that are sensitive to the backgrounds of individuals who are the focus of their work.
  • Students will conduct independent research and analyze and interpret resulting data.

Communication / Consultation

  • Students will write clear and concise reports of their research or program evaluations that are appropriate to the intended audiences, which may include fellow scholars (via scholarly journals), practitioners (via practitioner journals or reports), and lay audiences (via online or other published reports).
  • Students will learn to make articulate, informative presentations of their research findings at scientific conferences in both formal and informal settings, professional settings such as in-services to educators, and programs for lay audiences.
  • Students will become skilled communicators of issues in their research and program area for diverse audiences in a variety of learning settings, including formal educational settings (e.g., classroom teaching).
  • Students will communicate effectively in collaborative work or consultation settings with professional colleagues.

Professional Conduct

  • Ethical Conduct
  • Students will conduct research or program implementation/evaluation in accordance with ethical standards established in their field of inquiry.
  • Students will know how to prepare materials required for review by boards overseeing the ethical conduct of research and program implementation or evaluation.

Faculty: Professors Brown (chair), Asmus, Bolt, Enright, Gettinger, Kalish, Kaplan, Kim, Kratochwill, Nathan, Puntambekar, Shaffer; Associate Professors Albers, Bellmore, Wollack; Assistant Professors Hubbard, Matthews, Rau, Steiner, Vlach; Clinical Professor McGivern