Curriculum and Instruction, Doctor of Philosophy

Department of Teaching and Learning

College of Education

This degree is designed for those who seek advanced preparation in teaching and curriculum with the goal of participating professionally in a variety of venues, including public and private schools, universities, community colleges, government, and other agencies. The research-intensive program is jointly sponsored by three units in the College of Education: the Center for Science Teaching and Learning (CSTL), the Department of Educational Specialties (ESP), and the Department of Teaching and Learning (DTL).

  • To receive a Doctor of Philosophy Degree (PhD) at Northern Arizona University, you must complete a planned group of courses, from one or more disciplines, ranging from at least 60 - 109 units of graduate-level courses. Most plans require research, a dissertation, and comprehensive exams. All plans have residency requirements regarding time spent on the Flagstaff campus engaged in full-time study.

    The full policy can be viewed here.

In addition to University Requirements:

  • Complete individual plan requirements.

Minimum Units for Completion 60
Additional Admission Requirements Required
Dissertation Dissertation is required.
Comprehensive Exam Comprehensive Exam is required.
Oral Defense Oral Defense is required.
Research Individualized research is required.
Some online/blended coursework Required

Purpose Statement

The Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) Doctoral program is designed and ideally suited for educational professionals with prior degrees in fields such education, higher education, and other professional fields (i.e. engineering and nursing). Individuals may be continuing their academic journey, or engaged in careers such as teaching (K-20), education leadership, curriculum development, or community development through curricular design. Students have a desire to engage in a rigorous program to gain a thorough understanding of the field of curriculum and instruction. Ultimately, through their research, publication, and professional contributions, candidates will enrich the field of education and curriculum design throughout Arizona, the nation, and internationally. Students participate in advanced coursework, readings, and seminars that explore the depth and breadth of major theories, and research methodologies across the field of curriculum and instruction. Engaging with faculty members, students explore theoretical frameworks and construct reasoned curricular arguments that fit within the field of curriculum and instruction as well as their professional contexts of practice. Our graduates work in many educational contexts including universities, community colleges, K-12 districts and schools, as well as business, technical, and vocational institutions. Pursing expertise through the program’s progression pathways, graduates from the C&I Program are prepared to assume positions as assistant professors in several diverse areas (including, but not limited to: curriculum and instruction, teacher education, instructional design, and early childhood education). Additionally, international students graduating from this program, often return to assume university faculty positions and become agents of change within their communities. The PhD program prepares individuals to assume expert roles in many fields of education such as: learning and curricular, design, higher education, education technology, and leadership.

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this program, students will:

  • integrate deepened understandings of curriculum and instruction, by explicating and evaluating  the major movements, theories, and methodologies of these fields, situating their sources and articulating the relationships and implications to areas within the education-related venues of the students’ professional orientations.
  • clarify the multiple contexts that shape curricular and instructional decision-making, including such areas as: socio-cultural, political, economic, organizational, and historical.  
  • articulate how theoretical frameworks in curriculum and instruction can and often should be constructed from successful practice as understood broadly in professional contexts.
  • create sustained, coherent arguments or explanations summarizing elements of curriculum and instruction theory and literature with general and professional audiences.
  • examine the significant challenges involved in applying curriculum and instruction theory within the students’ professional venues, clarifying the leading edges, exploring the current limits of theory, knowledge, and practice, and how these appear in practice across socio-political contexts. 
  • engage the broad range of research methods, modes of inquiry and quantitative and qualitative methods used to investigate questions within curriculum and instruction and to evaluate and apply research findings within their inquiries and dissertations.
  • make significant and novel advancements in the understanding of curriculum and instruction designing an original research study of personal or professional interest and importance including: planning, organizing, scheduling, and executing the project.
    • articulate the theoretical framework for the project (including conducting a literature review to assess the theoretical and methodological contributions previously made to this area)
    • creatively generate alternative problem-solving ideas, practices, or solutions within the dissertation area.
    • identify and define appropriate variables and methods of data collection, select and apply quantitative and qualitative research methods appropriate to the research design, and analyze, interpret and explain findings
    • scrutinize and evaluate various assumptions, evidence, and reasoning throughout the project.
    • evaluate the effectiveness of the project and its implications to the fields of curriculum and instruction.
    • present original empirical  research to professional and non-professional audiences, articulating sustained, coherent explanations summarizing work.
    • conduct a dissertation defense to a community of curriculum and instruction faculty and peers

Additional Admission Requirements
  • Individual program admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

  • The NAU graduate online application is required for all programs. Admission to many graduate programs is on a competitive basis, and programs may have higher standards than those established by the Graduate College.

    Admission requirements include the following:

    • Transcripts.
    • Undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale ("A" = 4.0), or the equivalent.

    Visit the NAU Graduate Admissions website for additional information about graduate school application deadlines, eligibility for study, and admissions policies.

    Ready to apply? Begin your application now.

    International applicants have additional admission requirements. Please see the International Graduate Admissions Policy.

    • Master's degree from a regionally accredited institution.
    • Resume or curriculum vitae
    • Three letters of recommendation
    • Letter of interest
    • Writing sample (between 5-10 pages in length with reference list)
    • Professional/leadership experiences in education
    • Community, non-professional activities
    • Personal history of working in diverse settings
    • Personal statement on diversity
Doctoral Requirements
  • This Doctoral degree requires 60 units distributed as follows:

    • Curriculum and Instruction Courses: 9 units
    • Research Methods Courses: 9 units
    • Ancillary Research Courses: 6 units
    • Field of Study/Discipline-specific Coursework: 15 units
    • Additional Supporting Coursework: 6 units
    • Dissertation: 15 units

    Students in the Curriculum and Instruction Program complete a plan of study which consists of a set of required courses, as well as courses selected in consultation with their faculty advisor.

    Take the following 60 units:

  • Ancillary Research Courses (6 units):
    • Selected in consultation with your faculty advisor.  Courses should be 600 or 700-level. (6 units) 
  • Field of Study/Discipline-Specific Coursework (15 units):
    • Selected in consultation your faculty advisor. Courses selected will construct a program progression pathway to develop expertise in a field of study or discipline. (i.e. teacher education, early childhood education, educational technology). (15 units)
  • Additional Supporting Coursework (6 units):
    • Selected in consultation your faculty advisor.  Courses selected will augment your Curriculum and Instruction, Research, or Field of Study/Discipline-specific coursework (6 units)
  • Dissertation (15 units):
    • ECI 799, for the proposal, design, and execution of research, writing, and oral defense of an approved dissertation. Candidates may take more than the required units because of the continuous enrollment policy which requires that students be required in at least one-credit hour during the dissertation writing semester(s). (15 units). 
  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also successfully complete. For prerequisite information, click on the course or see your advisor.