Curriculum and Instruction (PhD)

Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (C&I PHD)
Unit: College of Education and Human Development (GE)
Department: Early Childhood and Elementary Education, Middle and Secondary Education, and Special Education
Program Webpage

Program Information

The doctoral degree is granted in recognition of scholarly proficiency and distinctive achievement in a specific field/discipline. All candidates for a doctoral degree in the College of Education and Human Development must successfully complete qualifying exams and a dissertation/professional portfolio that clearly indicates the candidate has mastered and can exhibit/articulate the content knowledge, skills, and dispositions specific to their discipline and can utilize appropriate research methodologies to contribute to the body of knowledge in their field.

Areas of Emphasis within the Doctoral Program in Curriculum and Instruction

A master's degree in a related field is a required prerequisite to the Doctoral Program in Curriculum and Instruction.  All students must meet competencies in research, teaching and teacher education, and stewardship of the profession.  Students also choose one of the following areas of emphasis and develop knowledge specific to their discipline.

  • The Languages, Literacies, Cultures, and Communities (L2C2) emphasis operates on the belief that languages, literacies, cultures, and communities are powerful, transformative, political, and multimodal.  Faculty are committed to creating opportunities to think and investigate teaching and learning across the lifespan (both in and out of school settings) from a critical sociocultural perspective. 

    The L2C2 emphasis provides a wide variety of courses and experiences focused on theory, research, equity, and practice related to identities, diversity, oral and written language, and culture.  This includes the study of reading and writing processes, culturally sustaining pedagogies, digital literacies, early childhood education, and discourse analysis, among many.

  • The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program emphasis offers a wide variety of courses and experiences focused on theory, research, equity, and practice in STEM education. 

    By studying and engaging in research and teaching with nationally-recognized leaders in mathematics or science education, students develop expertise in 1) how P-20 students think and learn, 2) how educators facilitate that learning, and 3) how to conduct scholarly investigations to answer important STEM education questions.

  • The Special Education emphasis adheres to the principle of evidence-based practice.  Faculty believe that all students can learn, regardless of ability or disability, and practice must be grounded in the best available scientific evidence. 

    Students in the Special Education emphasis will develop skills in generating new knowledge through conducting research so that they can add to the evidence base.  They will also enhance their ability to synthesize existing evidence and translate research into practice by teaching preservice teachers, providing professional development in schools, and authoring practitioner-focused publications.

Distinctive Characteristics of Doctoral Programs in the College of Education and Human Development

Social Justice and Equity
Doctoral students in our program build experience and expertise in the issues of social justice and equity which aligns with our metropolitan mission and focus on student achievement.

Our doctoral students gain expertise in supervising and leading others to achieve organizational goals and missions, managing complex systems, addressing administrative issues and procedures, conducting research to enhance leadership and teaching others about the art of organizational leadership.

Practical Experience
The doctoral program contains practicums, internships, or embedded field experience that aligns with program and career goals. These mentored experiences may include teaching, research, administration or other appropriate areas.

An emphasis on scholarship includes experience and mentorship in ethics, publications, presentation, grantsmanship, and other forms of creative activity. The research component is characterized by the development of vertical research teams: senior faculty, junior faculty, doctoral students, master's degree students, and in some programs, undergraduate students, working together on research projects and research areas. These may be bolstered by partnerships with local school districts, businesses, or community agencies.

Admission Requirements

Application Deadlines

There are four annual admission deadlines. Depending on specific individual goals and situations, different deadlines may be more relevant for you.

Fall semester start, full-time status with Graduate Assistantship funding possibilities:

  • November 1

Graduate Assistantships (GA) and University Fellowships are competitive and awarded to full-time students for the fall semester well in advance--as early as mid-January for Fellowships--and typically by late March or April for Graduate Assistantships. Applications for both should be submitted by the November 1 deadline.

Specify the subsequent fall semester as your intended start date on the application. Indicate interest in assistantships on your Statement of Purpose.

Part-time doctoral student work or otherwise not interested in Graduate Assistantship funding:

  • November 1 - Spring semester start (or later semester as indicated on application)
  • February 15 - Summer semester start (or later semester as indicated on application)
  • May 1 - Fall and Late Summer semester start (or later semester as indicated on application)

Members of the Curriculum and Instruction PhD admissions committee evaluate all applications after the appropriate admission deadline. Admission decisions are made by the professional judgment of the admissions committee according to established criteria. Admission to the program is competitive and preference is given to applicants who have strong academic records, experiences, and abilities that show demonstrated excellence in professional performance and research potential. All applicants will be notified in writing regarding their admission; typically this notification occurs approximately three weeks after the admissions deadline.

To be considered for admission, all materials must be submitted prior to the admission committee's review. If materials are incomplete, applicants will be notified and may submit again during the next review.

Please note: Application for admission consists of two parts:

  1. Documents submitted to the University of Louisville for Graduate Admission, and
  2. Materials submitted directly to the PhD Curriculum and Instruction program by the established deadline date.

See the Application Process Overview [PDF] document for details.

Admission Materials

  • Graduate Application (online University of Louisville Graduate Application)
  • Three Letters of Recommendation [PDF] (see Directions for Applying for more information). If you have recommendation letters on file from a previous University of Louisville program application, you will need three new letters of recommendation for this application that speak to your potential in a doctoral program. In addition to the standard University form linked above, please have these individuals submit letters with supporting details for the recommendation. At least one of the three recommendation letters you choose should come from someone familiar with the rigor and requirements of a doctoral program.
  • GRE scores (required - see Directions for Applying for more information). The Curriculum & Instruction Doctoral Committee takes a holistic approach to the evaluation of applications, and while GRE scores are one part of the application package, they do not determine admission (i.e., very high scores do not guarantee admission, and low scores do not preclude admission). The holistic approach takes into account all aspects of a student’s application (written statement, letters of recommendation, transcripts, test scores), and faculty evaluate those pieces of evidence against two broad concerns: (a) is the student prepared for doctoral study, and (b) is the student likely to successfully complete the doctoral program in Curriculum & Instruction?
    Please note: when submitting GRE scores through ETS, have scores sent to the general University of Louisville code, 1838. Online Guide to taking the GRE
  • TOEFL scores for non-native speakers of English (if needed - see Directions for Applying for more information)
  • Transcripts from each college you have attended other than the University of Louisville. Have all official non-University of Louisville transcripts sent to the Graduate School.
  • Statement of Purpose [PDF] To assist applicants with the process of crafting a strong Statement of Purpose, in addition to the directions on the Statement of Purpose document, an Annotated Exemplar of Statement of Purpose [PDF] is provided here for guidance. This document provides detailed annotated notes about the strengths of a particular example Statement of Purpose.
  • Interview Guidelines and Advisor Signature [PDF]. The process of mutually identifying a faculty member who agrees to serve as your doctoral advisor includes an applicant-initiated two-way interview process. As noted on the linked form, faculty with whom you interview in the process of identifying an appropriate advisor are requested to submit input to the admissions committee – such input becomes a portion of the evidence with which the admissions committee will make an admission decision.
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae [PDF]

Degree Requirements

Master's Degree Prerequisite + 60 Credit Hours PhD Coursework Minimum

The student and committee must develop courses, programs, and experiences that clearly identify and address the specific themes of Leadership, Scholarship, Social Justice, and Equity. These areas of emphasis must have descriptive competencies that the student should attain and the committee can assess.

Specialty Components
EDAP 711Doctoral Professional Seminar: First Year3
Area of Emphasis
Thirty (30) credits selected with Program Committee approval30
Research Methodology
ELFH 601Applied Statistics (see note) 13
ELFH 704Qualitative Field Research Methods3
Research Electives
Field survey research, additional qualitative and/or quantitative methodologies, etc. 2, 36
Doctoral/Dissertation Research
EDAP 795Doctoral Research15
Minimum Total Hours60