Students lounging on Bascom Hill

The Department of Curriculum and Instruction offers graduate studies that lead to the Master of Science (M.S.) in Curriculum and Instruction and the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Curriculum and Instruction. Each graduate student must concentrate in one of the department's areas of study, listed in the next section.


In accord with interests and professional goals, each admitted graduate student is assigned to an area of study and to an initial faculty advisor in that area. Areas of study are bilingual education, curriculum studies, early childhood studies, English as a second language, global studies, literacy studies, mathematics education, multicultural education, music education, science education, social studies education, teacher education, world language education, and Design, Informal, and Creative Education (DICE). 

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 anthropology, history, philosophy, sociology of education, administration, counseling, educational psychology, and supervision.

Ph.D. study in the department is research-oriented. It prepares students for different forms of intellectual leadership in education including research, curriculum analysis and development, 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 and they should therefore familiarize themselves with this document. 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.

Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

Fall Deadline December 1
Spring Deadline This program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline This program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Ph.D. Applicants

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

  1. Unofficial transcripts. Unofficial transcripts from all previous postsecondary study are required for all Ph.D. applicants. Unofficial transcripts should be uploaded to the application system. If an applicant is admitted by the department, official transcripts will need to be submitted directly to the Graduate School by the student's postsecondary institution. 
  2. 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 application.
  3. 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 values that information. In addition, the department needs letters that provide a knowledgeable appraisal of the applicant's academic competence and research capability. A student's former professors are usually best able to provide this, so the department encourages letters from such referees. Letters must be submitted electronically through the online application.
  4. 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. The applicant must identify the desired advisor or advisors in the statement of reasons for graduate study. Please see this FAQ for more information about writing a statement of reasons. 
  5. 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. Altogether, approximately one-third of our graduate students in Curriculum and Instruction are international students, which enriches the social and intellectual environment for all faculty and students as we continuously learn from each other.

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) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). An admitted applicant whose internet-based TOEFL (iBT) score is below 92, or whose IELTS score is below 7 must take an English assessment test upon arrival. They must then register for any English as a Second Language (ESL) courses that are recommended. For minimum required scores, please see the Graduate School's Requirements for Admissions page. 

Expected Background in Professional Education

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 that are equivalent to courses taught within a school of education, as judged by the Graduate Program Committee. Applicants lacking this background will be required to take a specified number of credits of education coursework in addition to the course work ordinarily required in the graduate program. The courses taken 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.

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources


The department will guarantee four years of funding for each admitted, full-time student. This funding could take the form of assistantships or fellowships and will include tuition remission and a small stipend. Assistantships typically involve 15-20 hours of professional work each week. Fellowships do not have work requirements but typically involve attending fellowship events and meetings. 

Part-time students are not eligible for fellowships or assistantships in the C&I department. A full-time student temporarily dropping to part-time status will not be eligible for funding while they are part-time. Any teaching, project, or program assistant in the C&I department must carry a full course load of 8–15 graduate-level credits and make satisfactory progress toward the graduate degree.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students are able to complete a program with minimal disruptions to careers and other commitments.

Evening/Weekend: ​Courses meet on the UW–Madison campus only in evenings and/or on weekends to accommodate typical business schedules.  Students have the advantages of face-to-face courses with the flexibility to keep work and other life commitments.

Face-to-Face: Courses typically meet during weekdays on the UW-Madison Campus.

Hybrid: These programs combine face-to-face and online learning formats.  Contact the program for more specific information.

Online: These programs are offered 100% online.  Some programs may require an on-campus orientation or residency experience, but the courses will be facilitated in an online format.


Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 36 credits beyond the master’s before taking the preliminary examination
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 36 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Details can be found in the Graduate School’s Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) policy (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.25 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements n/a
Assessments and Examinations Doctoral students must pass the preliminary examination within five years of starting the program.
Language Requirements No language requirements other than the English proficiency required for admission.
Breadth Requirement All doctoral students are required to complete a doctoral minor or Graduate/Professional certificate. Students completing an external minor must take at least 9 credits, which can include coursework from Curriculum & Instruction only if the minor is Qualitative Research Methods. Students completing a distributed minor must take 12 credits from two or more programs forming a coherent topic. Curriculum & Instruction cannot be one of the two programs.

Required Courses

51 credits minimum are needed to graduate. At least 36 of these must be taken after the student enters the Ph.D. program. Within those 36 credits:

  • For students without a UW–Madison Curriculum & Instruction M.S., minimum of 18 must be new Curriculum & Instruction credits. For students with a UW–Madison Curriculum & Instruction Research M.S., a minimum of 12 must be new Curriculum & Instruction credits. CURRIC 990, CURRIC 999 and classes from the Qualitative Research Methodology in Education minor cannot be counted towards this requirement. 
  • A minor (9–12 credits).
    • Option A–External—9-12 credits.
    • Option B–Distributed—12 credits.
  • CURRIC 712 Introduction to Curriculum and Instruction: Research and Resources. Students who have a UW–Madison Curriculum & Instruction M.S are exempt from this requirement.
  • 3 research method classes (from 2 different traditions as determined by advisor).

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

No prior coursework from other institutions can be counted in the 36 credits required before taking the preliminary examination in Curriculum and Instruction.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW undergraduate or a completed Master's degree can be counted in the 36 credits required before taking the preliminary examination in Curriculum and Instruction. 

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.


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 dissertator advisor. Students can be suspended from the program, if they do not have an advisor.


12 credits. Students may take up to 15 credits with the approval of their advisor and notification to the graduate program coordinator. 

Time Limits

Students must submit their proposal at least one semester before they can defend their dissertation.

This program otherwise follows the Graduate School's Time Limits policy.

Grievances and Appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Any student who feels that they have been treated unfairly by a faculty or staff member has the right to complain about the treatment and to receive a prompt hearing of the grievance, following these grievance procedures. The complaint may concern course grades, classroom treatment, program admission, or other issues. To insure a prompt and fair hearing of any complaint, and to protect both the rights of the student and the person at whom the complaint is addressed, the procedures below are used in the School of Education.

The person whom the complaint is directed against must be an employee of the School of Education. Any student or potential student may use these procedures unless the complaint is covered by other campus rules or contracts. The following steps are available within the School of Education when a student has a grievance:

  1. The student should first talk with the person against whom the grievance is directed. Most issues can be settled at this level. If the complaint is directed against a teaching assistant, and the student is not satisfied, the next step would be to talk to the TA's supervisor, who is usually the course professor. If the complaint is not resolved satisfactorily, the student may continue to step 2.
  2. If the complaint does not involve an academic department, the procedure outlined in Step 4 below should be followed. If the complaint involves an academic department, the student should contact the chair of the department. The chair will attempt to resolve the problem informally. If this cannot be done to the student's satisfaction, the student may submit the grievance to the chair in writing. This must be done within 60 calendar days of the alleged unfair treatment.
  3. On receipt of a written complaint, the chair will refer the matter to a departmental committee, which will obtain a written response from the person at whom the complaint is directed. This response shall be shared with the person filing the grievance. The chair will provide a timely written decision to the student on the action taken by the committee.
  4. If either party is not satisfied with the decision of the department, they have five working days from receipt of the decision to contact the dean's office (at the number below), indicating the intention to appeal. If the complaint does not involve an academic department in the school, the student must contact the dean's office within 60 calendar days of the alleged unfair treatment.
  5. In either case, there will be an attempt to resolve the issue informally by the associate dean. If this cannot be done, the complaint can be filed in writing with the dean's office. This must be done within 10 working days of the time the appealing party was notified that informal resolution was unsuccessful.
  6. On receipt of such a written complaint, the associate dean will convene a subcommittee of the school's Equity & Diversity Committee. This subcommittee may ask for additional information from the parties involved and may hold a hearing at which both parties will be asked to speak separately. The subcommittee will then make a written recommendation to the dean of the School of Education who will render a decision. Unless a longer time is negotiated, this written decision shall be made within 20 working days from the date when the grievance was filed with the dean's office.

Questions about these procedures can be directed to the School of Education Dean's Office, 377 Education Building, 1000 Bascom Mall, 608-262-1763.

State law contains additional provisions regarding discrimination and harassment. Wisconsin Statutes 36.12 reads, in part: "No student may be denied admission to, participation in or the benefits of, or be discriminated against in any service, program, course or facility of the system or its institutions or center because of the student's race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, disability, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status or parental status." In addition, UW–System prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression. Students have the right to file discrimination and harassment complaints with the Office of Compliance, 361 Bascom Hall, 608-265-6018,



Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

  1. (Breadth of Knowledge) Examples of competence may include demonstrating awareness of historical and intellectual context, educational practices, critical research paradigms within the broader field of Curriculum and Instruction, and theories and approaches from other fields as appropriate for their research.
  2. (Depth of Knowledge) Examples of competence may include demonstrating mastery of concepts, theories, and research, and understanding of relevant educational practices and contexts, sufficient to pose questions that extend the current boundaries of knowledge within their chosen subfield of Curriculum and Instruction.
  3. (Research Approaches and Epistemological Foundations) Examples of competence may include articulating research problems that build on history, theory, research, and practice within their subfield of Curriculum and Instruction; choosing research methods appropriate to those problems and demonstrating understanding of epistemological foundations underlying those methods.

Faculty: Professors Rudolph (chair), Baker (graduate program chair), Gomez, Grant, Graue, E. Halverson, Hassett, Hawkins, Hess, Popkewitz, Schweber, Tochon; Associate Professors L. Berland, M. Berland, Feinstein, Ghousseini, Ho, Pacheco, Russ, Stoddard, Vieira; Assistant Professors Bullock, C. Kirchgasler, K. Kirchgasler, Louie, McKinney de Royston, Roman, Wardrip; Affiliate Professors L. Bartlett, T. Dobbs, R. Halverson, P. Matthews, Nathan, H. Zhang. For more information about respective members of the faculty, see People on the department website.