The Department of Curriculum and Instruction offers graduate studies that lead to the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Curriculum and Instruction. The goals of doctoral study in 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 below; 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.

PhD 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 as well as 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.

Areas of Study

In accord with interests and professional goals, each admitted graduate student is assigned to a primary area of study and to an initial faculty advisor in that area. Areas of study are bilingual education, curriculum studies & global studies, early childhood studies, English as a second language, 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).

Details of requirements and procedures pertaining to PhD study in the department are described in the department's PhD 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. PhD 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.

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 MS degrees were earned by international students; students in this group came from 37 countries. During the same period, approximately 150 PhD 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.


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 exclusively in English, must provide an English proficiency test score earned within two years of the anticipated term of enrollment. Refer to the Graduate School: Minimum Requirements for Admission policy: https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1241.
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

PhD Applicants

Applicants are required to supplement the application with the items enumerated below.

  1. Unofficial transcripts. Unofficial transcripts from all previous postsecondary studies are required for all PhD 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. PhD 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 that the applicant believes can be used to judge writing ability). This should be uploaded to the application.
  3. Three letters that include an appraisal of academic competence. PhD applicants are required to have three letters of reference assessing their academic and professional competence. Letters of reference written for teachers and other educational professionals 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. An applicant'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 and the names of one or two potential advisors. Each PhD applicant is required to upload a detailed statement of reasons for doctoral study and to pick the names of one or two potential advisors from a drop-down menu. It is highly recommended that applicants contact prospective advisors in advance of applying. Contact information can be found on the C&I website
    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. The applicant must identify the desired advisor or advisors in the drop-down menu and it is recommended to do so as well in the statement of reasons for graduate study. 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 advisors and their areas of study that are available in the department. 
    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

International degree-seeking applicants must prove English proficiency using the Graduate School's requirements.

Expected Background in Professional Education

A background in education coursework is a prerequisite for the PhD program in Curriculum and Instruction. Applicants are required to have taken at least 12 credits in education courses that are equivalent to courses taught within a school of education, as judged by the Graduate Education Advisory Committee. Applicants lacking this background will be required to take a specified number of credits of education coursework in addition to the coursework 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 satisfy the 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

Funding - Fellowships and Financial Support

The department will guarantee five 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 modest stipend. Assistantships typically involve 20 hours of professional work each week that takes place in and around the Madison area. Fellowships do not have work requirements but typically involve attending fellowship events and meetings or participating in research opportunities. 

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 (3 credits for dissertators) 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

Mode of Instruction

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 typically take enough credits aimed at completing the program in a year or two.

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.

Curricular Requirements

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. Refer to the Graduate School: Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement policy: https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1244.
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.25 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements n/a
Assessments and Examinations Doctoral students must pass the preliminary examination within three years of starting the program.
Language Requirements No language requirements other than the English proficiency required for admission.
Graduate School Breadth Requirement All doctoral students are required to complete a doctoral minor or graduate/professional certificate. Refer to the Graduate School: Breadth Requirement in Doctoral Training policy: https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1200.

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 PhD program. Within those 36 credits:

  • For students without a UW–Madison Curriculum & Instruction MS, minimum of 18 must be new Curriculum & Instruction (CURRIC) credits. For students with a UW–Madison Curriculum & Instruction Research MS, a minimum of 12 must be new Curriculum & Instruction (CURRIC) credits. CURRIC 990, CURRIC 999 and classes from the Qualitative Research Methodology in Education minor does not satisfy this requirement. 
  • Breadth (9–12 credits)
  • CURRIC 712 Introduction to Curriculum and Instruction: Research and Resources.
    • Students who have a UW–Madison Curriculum & Instruction MS 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 Credits Earned at Other Institutions

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

Undergraduate Credits Earned at Other Institutions or UW-Madison

No credits from a UW-Madison undergraduate degree or an external completed master's degree can transfer for the 36 credits required before taking the preliminary examination in Curriculum and Instruction. 

Credits Earned as a Professional Student at UW-Madison (Law, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Veterinary careers)

Refer to the Graduate School: Transfer Credits for Prior Coursework policy.

Credits Earned as a University Special Student at UW–Madison

With program approval, students are allowed to transfer 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).

Advisor / Committee

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.

Credits Per Term Allowed

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.

Refer to the Graduate School: Time Limits policy.

Grievances and Appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

School of Education Grievance Policy and Procedures

The following School of Education Student Grievance Policy and associated procedures are designed for use in response to individual student grievances regarding faculty or staff in the School of Education.

Any individual student who feels they have been treated unfairly by a School of Education faculty or staff member has the right to file a grievance about the treatment and receive a timely response addressing their concerns. Any student, undergraduate or graduate, may use these grievance procedures, except employees whose complaints are covered under other campus policies. The grievance may concern classroom treatment, mentoring or advising, program admission or continuation, course grades (study abroad grade complaints are handled through International Academic Programs), or issues not covered by other campus policies or grievance procedures. 

For grievances regarding discrimination based on protected bases (i.e., race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, etc.), contact the Office of Compliance (https://compliance.wisc.edu/eo-complaint/).

For grievances or concerns regarding sexual harassment or sexual violence (including sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, stalking, and sexual exploitation), contact the Sexual Misconduct Resource and Response Program within the Office of Compliance.

For grievances that involve the behavior of a student, contact the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards in the Dean of Students Office at https://conduct.students.wisc.edu/).

For grievances about, or directed at, faculty or staff in a School of Education department, unit, or program, students should follow these steps:

  1. Students are strongly encouraged to first talk with the person against whom the concern is directed. Many issues can be settled informally at this level. If students are unable to resolve concerns directly or without additional support, step 2 or 3 should be pursued.
  2. If unresolved after taking or considering step 1:
    1. If the concern is directed against a teaching assistant (TA), and the student is not satisfied, the student should contact the TA's supervisor, who is usually the course professor. The course professor will attempt to resolve the concern informally.
    2. If the concern involves a non-TA instructor, staff member, professor, academic department, or School of Education office or unit, the student should contact the chair of the department or the director of the office or unit, or their designee. The chair or director, or their designee, will attempt to resolve the concern informally. If the concern is about the department chair or office/unit director, the student should consult the School of Education Senior Associate Dean for guidance.
  3. If the concern remains unresolved after step 2, the student may submit a formal grievance to the chair or director in writing within 30 business days1 of the alleged unfair treatment. To the fullest extent possible, a formal written grievance shall contain a clear and concise statement of the issue(s) involved and the relief sought.  
  4. On receipt of a written grievance, the chair or director will notify the person at whom the grievance is directed with a copy of the written grievance. The person at whom the complaint is directed may submit a written response, which would be shared with the student.
  5. On receipt of a written grievance, the chair or director will refer the matter to a department, office, or unit committee comprised of at least two members. The committee may be an existing committee or one constituted for this purpose. The committee, or delegates from the committee, may meet with the parties involved and/or review any material either party shares with the committee.  
  6. The committee will provide a written description of the facts of the grievance and communicate recommendations to the department chair or office/unit head regarding how the grievance should be handled.
  7. The chair or director will offer to meet with the student who made the grievance and also will provide a written decision to the student, including a description of any related action taken by the committee, within 30 business days of receiving the formal grievance.

    For the purpose of this policy, business days refers to those days when the University Offices are open and shall not include weekends, university holidays, spring recess, or the period from the last day of exams of fall semester instruction to the first day of spring semester instruction. All time limits may be modified by mutual consent of the parties involved.

If the grievance concerns an undergraduate course grade, the decision of the department chair after reviewing the committee’s recommendations is final. 

Other types of grievances may be appealed using the following procedures:

  1. Both the student who filed the grievance or the person at whom the grievance was directed, if unsatisfied with the decision of the department, office or unit, have five (5) business days from receipt of the decision to contact the Senior Associate Dean, indicating the intention to appeal.   
  2. A written appeal must be filed with the Senior Associate Dean within 10 business days of the time the appealing party was notified of the initial resolution of the complaint.
  3. On receipt of a written appeal, the Senior Associate Dean will convene a sub-committee of the School of Education’s Academic Planning Council. This subcommittee may ask for additional information from the parties involved and/or may hold a meeting at which both parties will be asked to speak separately (i.e., not in the room at the same time).
  4. The subcommittee will then make a written recommendation to the Dean of the School of Education, or their designee, who will render a decision. The dean or designee’s written decision shall be made within 30 business days from the date when the written appeal was filed with the Senior Associate Dean.  For undergraduate students, the dean or designee’s decision is final.

Further appealing a School of Education decision – graduate students only

Graduate students have the option to appeal decisions by the School of Education dean or designee by using the process detailed on the Graduate School’s website.

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




Professional Development

Graduate School Resources

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

Learning Outcomes

  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 Agarwal, Baker, L. Berland, M. Berland, Bullock, Feinstein, Ghousseini, Grant, E. Halverson, Hassett, Hawkins, Hess, Ho, YJ Kim, C. Kirchgasler, K. Kirchgasler, Louie, Machado, McDonald,  McKinney de Royston, Pacheco, Popkewitz, LJ Randolph Jr., Roman, Rudolph, Russ, Stoddard, Vieira, Wardrip.

For more information about respective members of the faculty, see People on the department website.