Educational Foundations, Master of Education

Department of Educational Leadership

College of Education

This program provides you with an opportunity to develop and enrich your understanding of the contexts and forces that shape educational policy and practice. By understanding and being able to articulate critical issues in education, you can be a participant in the educational and social changes currently taking place in our society.

  • To receive a master’s degree at Northern Arizona University, you must complete a planned group of courses from one or more subject areas, consisting of at least 30 units of graduate-level courses. Many master’s degree programs require more than 30 units.

    You must additionally complete:

    • All requirements for your specific academic plan(s). This may include a thesis.
    • All graduate work with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0.
    • All work toward the master's degree must be completed within six consecutive years. The six years begins with the semester and year of admission to the program.

    Read the full policy here.

In addition to University Requirements:

  • Complete individual plan requirements.

Minimum Units for Completion 30
Additional Admission Requirements

Individual program admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

Fieldwork Experience/Internship Optional
Thesis Thesis may be required by chosen emphasis or offered as an option.
Oral Defense Oral Defense may be required by chosen emphasis or offered as an option.
Research Individualized research may be required by chosen emphasis or offered as an option.
Progression Plan Link View Program of Study


The Masters in Educational Foundations prepares a range of professionals to provide leadership within their respective institutions and spheres of influence by examining educational institutions in local and global contexts.  Students have the opportunity to study learning and teaching, not only as schooling, but broadly and globally, as a dynamic cultural and political dimension that takes place in a wide range of changing and intersecting sites of learning.  Students have the opportunity to examine how historical, political, cultural, and economic conditions shape formal and informal educational contexts while underscoring how nationality, race, ethnicity, gender, social class, language, ability, and a range of other identities shape these contexts.  Students will consider education as a process that shapes their community and social identities, as well as the foundation of values and beliefs which influence their potential impact on their communities of influence. In our program, students will investigate the educational conditions necessary for life in a creative democracy.
Students who come to our program have the opportunity to study the particular and special dimensions of the Arizona Southwestern experience in the unique location on the Colorado Plateau, and will be able to extend study nationally and globally with our online and in-person diversity of delivery options. 
Faculty work to equip students with the knowledge and skills of inquiry, discernment, and professional judgment that will develop their power to critically analyze, think, and develop coherent arguments for change in their education communities, that are well grounded in the historical, sociological and philosophical discourse which is the foundation of education policy and practice today.
The EDF faculty brings expertise from a variety of disciplines and fields within the Foundations of Education field--the sociology, philosophy, history, anthropology of education, comparative and international education, critical pedagogy, cultural studies, feminist studies, indigenous studies, critical race studies, and qualitative research methods.  Our faculty is experienced and actively involved in research, studying and publishing work on globalization, border issues, school reform, youth community organizing, human rights education, academic freedom and free inquiry, social theory and social construction of knowledge, and the role of education in the production of inequalities of race, gender, (dis)ability, social class, sexuality, and language. 
Students with careers in media, foundations, museum education, community organizations, non-governmental and labor organizations, higher education administration, and certainly members of the K-12 school community, will all benefit from this study.  A Master’s Degree will also be an opportunity to achieve the grounding for continued study at the Doctoral level.
Student Learning Outcomes
Students will:

  • Show a capacity to discern logical argument in educational discourse, distinguishing factual and value claims, and show a capacity to analyze and interrogate claims of educational efficacy in the professional and media discourse on education policy and practice.
  • Demonstrate a clearer normative understanding of the complex political/cultural web of values, including the civil, constitutional rights in the developing national and global framework of public education.
  • Apply interpretive, normative, critical perspectives to define, examine, and reflect on educational phenomenon through the use of the course assignments, papers, journals and oral presentations, the ability to interpret complex data in the education literature, and to do so in a way that clarifies issues for the non-expert.
  • Articulate an understanding the multiple perspectives that characterize issue of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality as they define a range of lived experiences in the real world of the public schools and beyond through written and/or oral argument.
Students will be able to: 
  • Demonstrate understanding of the dimensions of educational phenomenon through critical reflection, and critically reasoned argumentation on pertinent research and relevant literature. 
  • Students pursuing the thesis option will demonstrate knowledge of differing forms and purposes in Education research methods, and will work toward mastery of the method applicable to thesis development. 
  • Students not pursuing a thesis option will demonstrate increased research literacy, which is the ability to read and interpret results from scholarly research in education foundations fields, and in general professional literature in education.
Students Pursuing the Thesis Option will:
  • Demonstrate an understanding of various theories of knowledge and methodological frameworks that shape the conceptualization, design and conduct of educational research.
  • Articulate the appropriateness of various methodological approaches to the exploration of theoretical and practical questions in education.
  • Successfully complete written demonstrations elucidating the ethical and political issues in the conduct and uses of educational research
  • Create an original, sustained, coherent argument based on primary and secondary sources in the form of a thesis or project that demonstrates mastery of their fields and research.  Articulate the key principles, theories, methodologies and issues of their topic through an oral defense of their thesis or project.
Students pursuing the Non-Thesis requirement will:

Demonstrate a deeper mastery of the pertinent social, political, philosophical and historical contexts, arguments and debates in their chosen areas through clear presentations, clearly written papers, and discussions conducted through oral exam, and will:
  • Identify key social philosophical and historical contexts which shed light on a political and/or pedagogical issue in their professional arena, or particular area of interest.   
  • Write a professional paper with implications for policy, research and/or practice, reflecting upon these aspects, integrating perspectives of the social philosophical, cultural and historical influences are effecting your organization or work environment, and how you might create change in the organization or environment to address these issues.
  • Present the results of the professional paper to professional and non-professional audiences.


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.

    • There are no additional individual admission requirements.
Master's Requirements
    • Thesis Option:
      Select one from:
      • EDR 611, EDR 612, EDR 730 (3 units)
      • EDF 699, for the research, writing, and oral defense of an approved thesis. You may end up taking more than 6 units of thesis credit because you must register for it each semester while you are working on your thesis.  (6 units)
      • Focus or Discipline-Based electives (at least 3 units letter-graded) chosen in consultation with your advisor (9 units)
      Non-Thesis Option:Select one additional course from:Graduate Certificate Option:
      The student will select one of these Graduate Certificates offered by NAU. If a 12 or 15 credit hour Graduate Certificate is chosen as part of this degree, the student will work with his/her advisor to select the most relevant additional three or six credit hours from either the EDF list above and/or including EDR 610.
  • 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.