Interdisciplinary doctoral research on the social and cultural dimensions of education.

The Ph.D. in Education, Culture, and Society provides a rigorous theoretical and methodological framework for the study of education, focusing on social, cultural, political, and normative dimensions. Following a rich academic curriculum centered in social theory and qualitative research methods, the program invites students to interrogate and contribute to scholarship on the social and cultural contexts of learning, both inside and outside of schools.

What Sets Us Apart

  World-renowned faculty advisors for your doctoral research
  Research apprenticeship in active faculty project
4 Years Full funding for up to 4 years

About the Program

In the Education, Culture, and Society Ph.D. program, students become part of a professional academic community—through their research apprenticeship, formal coursework, informal seminars, cross-cohort experiences, and research group participation.

Entry term(s)
Fall
Course requirements
16 courses (6 required, 10 electives)
Typical course load

Fall: 4 courses; Spring: 4 courses

Duration of program
5-6 years

Research apprenticeship20 hours per week, working on active faculty research project

Culminating experienceDissertation

Transfer courses acceptedUp to six courses with faculty approval

Format(s)
  • Full-Time
Overview

The Education, Culture, and Society Ph.D. program explores educational processes, in and out of schools, focusing on their social, cultural, political, and normative dimensions. Research and teaching in this program interrogates tacit presuppositions about human nature and society that lie behind both popular and academic understandings of education, hoping to illuminate educational problems and prospects in more productive ways.

Education, Culture, and Society provides various tools to facilitate such interrogation: strong grounding in social theories that conceptualize the human world; study of theories and methods from such academic disciplines as anthropology, history, philosophy, political economics, and sociology; exposure to ways of life practiced in other parts of the world and to the rapid change brought by the increased movement of people and ideas in the contemporary world; and practice with ethnography and other methods that allow researchers to discover others’ categories and practices instead of imposing their own. 

The doctoral program in Education, Culture, and Society not only provides a powerful theoretical and methodological framework for the study of education, but also helps students develop a foundation upon which new models of education can be built. Following a rich academic curriculum centered on social theory and qualitative research methods, the program invites students to interrogate and contribute to the scholarship on the social and cultural contexts of learning, both inside and outside of schools.

Curriculum

The Ph.D. program includes formal courses, mentored research, and informal seminars. Students must complete 16 courses and participate in a mentored research apprenticeship. To complete the course of study, students take a set of written examinations in their area of specialization and complete a dissertation on a problem in education.

Most students supplement their educational studies with significant coursework in a discipline of their choosing, including anthropology, sociology, history, urban studies, philosophy, or linguistics. It is possible to pursue a joint Ph.D. degree in Education and Anthropology, Sociology, Political Science, Africana Studies, or History.

For information on courses and requirements, visit the Education, Culture, and Society Ph.D. program in the University Catalog.

Sample Courses

Core and Foundations Courses
  • EDUC 727 Education, Culture, and Society (required)
Introductory Methods Courses

Methods courses prepare students in both the practical and theoretical implications of collecting, interpreting, analyzing, and presenting data on the human condition broadly—and education/learning in particular. Options include courses such as:

  • EDUC 667 Introductory Statistics for Educational Research (housed in the Division of Quantitative Methods)
  • EDUC 682.001 Qualitative Modes of Inquiry (Doctoral Level)
Advanced Methods Courses

Advanced courses build on introductory ones. Options include courses such as:

  • EDUC 700 Craft of Ethnography
  • EDUC 703 Advanced Qualitative and Case Study Research
  • EDUC 710 Methods of Discourse Analysis
  • EDUC 721 Ethnographic Research Methods
Sample Social Theory Courses

Theory courses are centrally concerned with preparing students to draw on, understand, and contrast theoretical frameworks within the context of seminal scholarly figures and traditions. Options include courses such as:

  • EDUC 706 Culture/Power/Subjectivities 

Our Faculty

Our faculty bring together expertise in philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and history as scholars in education. Please contact our program for information on selecting a faculty advisor. 

Penn GSE Faculty Kathleen D. Hall
Associate Professor of Education and Anthropology
Ph.D., University of Chicago
Penn GSE Faculty Daniel A. Wagner
Professor
Ph.D., University of Michigan
Penn GSE Faculty Jonathan Zimmerman
Professor of History of Education
Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University
Penn GSE Faculty Krystal Strong
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
Penn GSE Faculty Sigal Ben-Porath
Professor
Ph.D., Tel Aviv University

Affiliated Faculty

Our affiliated faculty members are valued as part of our intellectual community, and students are encouraged to take their courses and connect on research matters and for mentorship. 

Asif Agha
Professor of Anthropology, Penn Arts & Sciences
Ph.D., University of Chicago

Nicole Mittenfelner Carl
Special Projects Lead, Collaboratory for Teacher Education
Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania

Camille Z. Charles
Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor in the Social Sciences, Penn Arts & Sciences
Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles

Karen Detlefsen
Professor of Philosophy and Education, Penn Arts & Sciences
Ph.D., University of Toronto

Ameena Ghaffar-Kucher
Senior Lecturer
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University

Joan F. Goodman
Professor
Ed.D., Harvard School of Education

Amy Gutmann
President and Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Penn Arts & Sciences
Ph.D., Harvard University

Emily Hannum
Professor of Sociology and Education, Penn Arts & Sciences
Ph.D., University of Michigan 

Jessie Harper
Assistant Dean, Faculty Affairs and Diversity
Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania

Nancy H. Hornberger
Professor
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison

Richard M. Ingersoll
Professor of Education and Sociology
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

John L. Jackson, Jr.
Walter H. Annenberg Dean, The Annenberg School for Communication
Ph.D., Columbia University

Jerry A. Jacobs
Professor of Sociology, Penn Arts & Sciences
Ph.D., Harvard University

Michael C. Johanek
Senior Fellow
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University

Annette Lareau
Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Professor in the Social Sciences, Penn Arts & Sciences
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley

Walter Licht
Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History, Penn Arts & Sciences
Ph.D., Princeton University

Hyunjoon Park
Korea Foundation Professor of Sociology, Penn Arts & Sciences
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison

Alex Posecznick
Program Manager
Ph.D., Teachers College, Columbia University

John L. Puckett
Professor Emeritus of Education
Ph.D., University of North Carolina

Rand Quinn
Associate Professor
Ph.D., Stanford University

Sharon M. Ravitch
Professor of Practice
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Rogers Smith
Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Penn Arts & Sciences
Ph.D., Harvard University

Deborah Thomas
R. Jean Brownlee Professor of Anthropology, Penn Arts & Sciences
Ph.D., New York University

Greg Urban
Arthur Hobson Quinn Professor of Anthropology, Penn Arts & Sciences
Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Chicago

Our Graduates

The Ph.D. in Education, Culture, and Society prepares students for careers as researchers, particularly within universities, but also in research institutes, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.

Alumni Careers

  • Assistant Professor, Cleveland State University
  • Assistant Professor, Emory University
  • Assistant Professor, Stanford University
  • Clinical Associate Professor, NYU Center for Global Affairs
  • Global Director of Talent Development, Genworth Financial Faculty, American University
  • Lead Researcher and Policy Analyst, United Federation of Teachers
  • Lecturer, Columbia University
  • Professor, Villanova University
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, Swarthmore College

Admissions & Financial Aid

Please visit our Admissions and Financial Aid pages for specific information on the application requirements, as well as information on tuition, fees, financial aid, scholarships, and fellowships.

Contact Information

Contact us if you have any questions about the program.

Office of Admissions and
Financial Aid

Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania
3700 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 898-6415
admissions@gse.upenn.edu
finaid@gse.upenn.edu

Program Contact

Alex Posecznick, Ph.D.
Program Manager and Associated Faculty
(215) 573-3947
alpos@upenn.edu 

Paula Rogers
Program Assistant
(215) 898-5023
progers@upenn.edu

Please view information from our Admissions and Financial Aid Office for specific information on the cost of this program.

All Ph.D. students are guaranteed a full scholarship for their first four years of study, as well as a stipend and student health insurance. Penn GSE is committed to making your graduate education affordable, and we offer generous scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships.