Ph.D. in Education: Curriculum and Instruction Concentration

This concentration conducts research in the field of Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) toward academic, social, cultural, environmental, and civic advancement. The C&I researchers study problems that involve:

  • Modeling complex interactions involving the unique characteristics of learners, teachers, and the affordances of educational materials and tasks.
  • Describing the experiences of a diverse population of students engaged in learning both individually and collaboratively in different spaces and settings.
  • Developing understandings of the content, organization, and purpose of curriculum in schools and community-based educational contexts.

The central problems of C&I research are inherently cross-disciplinary, requiring researchers that can work across the boundaries of disciplines to discover enduring findings; and to create theories, models, explanations, and curriculum with significant impact. Thus, this concentration prepares C&I researchers to employ a range of theory and cutting-edge research methods to bring appropriate empirical evidence to the tasks of developing rich descriptions, evaluating hypotheses, and constructing explanations focused on facets of more general problems. Prepared as cross-disciplinary scholars in education, graduates are poised to move into academic and research positions in universities, government agencies, and professional research organizations with missions to improve education opportunities and outcomes.

As a student in the Ph.D. in Education’s Curriculum and Instruction Concentration, you will be part of the larger inclusive cross-disciplinary team as well as part of a more focused research project. You will be expected to actively participate in research by bringing your experience in education to the research being designed, developed, and conducted. A C&I PhD faculty mentor with experience in cross disciplinary studies of teaching, learning, curriculum, and instruction in your selected area of study will guide you in your development. During your time as a student, you will have opportunities to participate in research design, as well as engage in systematic data collection and analyses. You will also learn about the responsible conduct of research with human subjects, research ethics, and how to consider the social impact of the work. To complete the Ph.D. in Education: Curriculum and Instruction Concentration, doctoral candidates must develop and conduct original research in the field of C&I.

Research Projects Seeking Ph.D. Applicants

We are currently accepting applications to the Ph.D. in Education, Curriculum and Instruction Concentration to work on the following projects. In the application select “Education” as field of study and be sure to indicate your interest in the Ph.D. C&I concentration in your statement of purpose.

Science teacher reflective practice and use of student performance data to enhance three-dimensional science learning

This project builds on the curriculum development work of a current NSF funded project, Integrating Chemistry and Earth (ICE). The multi-disciplinary team of researchers, school district administrators, and teachers is preparing for expanded work to explore and model the impacts of teacher reflection and analysis of student performance data on teachers’ conceptions and practice of three-dimensional teaching and students’ three-dimensional science learning. Involvement in this work entails working directly with Dr. Grooms in collaboration with scholars from across multiple institutions with a wealth of research experience in diverse science classrooms from across the country.

Developing spatial competence to support learning in STEM

This project led by Dr. Pyke focuses on developing an explanatory cognitive model of spatial competence to address the need for improvements in spatial skill development in k-16 STEM education. Questions addressed include: What is the foundation of spatial competence? What level of spatial competence is required for success in STEM fields? What are the experiences needed to develop spatial competence? What is the role of spatial competence in innovation? How does spatial competence develop in interaction with virtual phenomena? This work may be conducted in collaboration with GW faculty in the social cognition lab as well as with psychology, human development, and STEM faculty.

Using curriculum and instruction to translate scientific research findings and practices from the laboratory into learning experiences that impact students’ understanding of science

This project focuses on urban high school students’ development of biomedical and socio-scientific knowledge as their curriculum and instruction is infused with new and emerging knowledge from biomedical research laboratories. This research is a collaborative effort between C&I PhD faculty (Grooms & Pyke), faculty from GW’s School of Medicine and Health Science, researchers from Children’s National Center for Translational Research, and local DC area teachers. Of particular interest is the impact of translational C&I on high school students’ cognition about the nature of science and the scientific knowledge being created in their community.


Application Requirements

  • Degree: Master’s degree in Education, Curriculum and Instruction, or a related field.
  • Transcripts: Official transcripts from every institution attended whether or not a degree was completed; graduate and undergraduate.
  • Standardized Test Scores: GRE is not required. International students must also submit TOEFL scores not older than two years. TOEFL score minimum for admission is 100 on the Internet-based or 600 paper-based; IELTS of 7.0. The institutional code is 5246.
  • Recommendations: Three (3) letters of recommendation, with one preferred from a professor in the applicant’s Master’s degree program.
  • Statement of Purpose: An essay of 1200 words or less, through which the candidate clearly identifies the purpose in undertaking study and research in the cross-disciplinary Ph.D. in Education, C&I CRT. The essay should include: (a) a rationale for choosing the Curriculum and Instruction Concentration, (b) articulation of personal research interests and how those align with those of the faculty and/or projects of the C&I Concentration, (c) how the applicant’s background and related qualifications prepare them for Ph.D work, and (d) how the cross-disciplinary PhD program aligns with the candidates long term goals.
  • Curriculum Vitae: Current curriculum vitae.
  • Writing Sample (Optional): Candidates are encouraged to submit a current writing sample. The sample should reflect the candidate’s abilities to articulate complex ideas and to utilize evidence in support of an argument. The writing sample should also provide evidence of the candidate’s research skills and engagement with scholarship.
  • Interview: Interview by faculty. Applicants should be prepared to discuss the alignment of their research interests with those of the program faculty.

For more information on any of these requirements, please visit our Admissions FAQ page.


Applications are now being accepted for Fall 2023. We encourage you to apply as early as possible.

Apply for Fall 2023  
Priority Deadline Nov 1
Round 1 Deadline Dec 15
Round 2 Deadline Jan 16


For more information, contact the GSEHD Admissions Team at or 202-994-9283.

Apply Now               



Required courses in Educational Foundations (12 credits)

SEHD 8200 Foundations of Education I
SEHD 8201 Foundations of Education II
SEHD 8100 Special Topics (taken twice for a total of 6 credits)

Curriculum and Instruction Concentration Requirements (24 credits)

24 credits in graduate-level courses determined in consultation with the advisor. Course selections are determined by the focus of the concentration and the specific interests of the student.

Research Methods (12 credits)

12 credits of doctoral-level research methods coursework, selected in consultation with advisor. At least one course must be in quantitative research methods and one in qualitative research methods.

Dissertation (12 credits)

SEHD 8999 Dissertation Research (taken for at least 12 credits)

Additional Requirements

  • Successful completion of second-year research project.
  • Successful completion of the comprehensive examination.
  • Oral defense of both the dissertation proposal and the dissertation.

Total = 60 Credits



Green, Colin Associate Professor, Curriculum and Pedagogy
Grooms, Jonathon Assistant Professor, Curriculum and Pedagogy; Science
Pyke, Curtis Associate Professor, Curriculum and Pedagogy; Mathematics

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