Ph.D. in Education, Culture, and Society

Part of the Literacy, Culture, and International Education Division

The doctoral program in Education, Culture, and Society provides a rigorous and systematic theoretical and methodological framework for the study of education, and it also provides a foundation upon which new models of education can be built. Following a rich academic curriculum based in anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and history, the program invites students to interrogate and contribute to scholarship on the social and cultural contexts of learning, both in and outside of schools.

Fast Facts

 

  • Number of Courses: Required: 1 core, 2 social theory, 3 methodology. Elective: 10 elective.
  • Typical course load: Fall: Four. Spring: Four.
  • Entry terms: Fall only
  • Scheduling Options: Full time only
  • Milestones: Coursework, qualifying evaluation and candidacy examination, dissertation proposal and dissertation defense.
  • Culminating Experience: Dissertation

 

View Admissions Requirements

Overview

 

The ECS Ph.D. program explores educational processes, in and out of schools, focusing on their social, cultural, political, and normative dimensions. Research and teaching in ECS interrogate 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.

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The ECS Program 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; practice with ethnography and other methods that allow researchers to discover others’ categories and practices instead of imposing our 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 in 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. 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.

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.

The program includes formal courses, mentored research, and informal seminars. Students take several core courses, required research methods courses, and additional specialization and elective courses as determined by their individualized planned program of study. All doctoral students take a set of written examinations in the area of specialization and complete a dissertation on a problem in education to complete the course of study. The program will accept up to six courses of relevant graduate-level coursework toward the degree taken prior to enrollment at Penn GSE.

Notes on Admission

Teaching experience is not required. The ECS Ph.D. program is very competitive, accepting less than 5% of applicants each year. We consider various measures of quality and fit, and thus no single component of the application will guarantee admission or preclude it. Although GRE scores are an important consideration, there is no specific cut-off or minimum score. The statement of purpose is also crucial. A strong statement will establish an interesting research agenda and align with the theoretical and methodological strengths of the faculty. While it is perfectly appropriate to mention affiliated faculty with whom an applicant would like to work, only standing program faculty advise Ph.D. students. We thus recommend that applicants review the five standing program faculty profiles (below) to identify possible academic advisors.

Starting with applications for Fall 2018 entry (in other words, those applications due in December 2017), we will be accepting a writing sample as an optional part of the application.  Students should submit written work that reflects their emerging voice as a scholar.  Applicants are not expected to write a new document for this purpose, and the work does not have to be a published piece.  Strong papers from earlier study (undergraduate or master's) are appropriate.

Starting with applications for Fall 2018 entry (in other words, those applications due in December 2017), we will be accepting a writing sample as an optional part of the application.  Students should submit written work that reflects their emerging voice as a scholar.  Applicants are not expected to write a new document for this purpose, and the work does not have to be a published piece.  Strong papers from earlier study (undergraduate or master's) are appropriate.

Starting with applications for Fall 2018 entry (in other words, those applications due in December 2017), we will be accepting a writing sample as an optional part of the application.  Students should submit written work that reflects their emerging voice as a scholar.  Applicants are not expected to write a new document for this purpose, and the work does not have to be a published piece.  Strong papers from earlier study (undergraduate or master's) are appropriate.

Program of Study

Core Requirements

 

  • EDUC 727 Education, Culture and Society
  • At least three research courses. One must be quantitative. Two must be qualitative. One must be an advanced qualitative.
  • Two courses in social theory
  • A minimum of 10 elective courses
  • A minimum of 10 education courses at Penn

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Notes: Courses must be 500 level or higher to qualify as graduate level.  Updated guides on all of the polices below are available on the ECS Community Hub (PennKey required).

Research Apprenticeship and Support

All Ph.D. students receive four years of tuition, a living stipend, and health insurance and engage in research apprenticeships during the academic year (20 hours per week), working on active faculty research projects.

Professional Community Building Experiences

Students participate in a research apprenticeship course throughout their doctoral work, a cross-cohort experience in which they learn about professional academic life. Students participate in ongoing research groups, as well as seminars at GSE and the university.

Annual Progress Evaluation

Faculty review each student’s progress annually, examining coursework, exams and the student’s self-evaluation. The findings of this evaluation are reported to the student and the Dean.

Examinations

Faculty review each student’s progress annually, examining coursework, exams and the student’s self-evaluation. The findings of this evaluation are reported to the student and the Dean.

  • Qualifying Evaluation: At the end of the first academic year in the program, each student will submit a portfolio of work from throughout the year to be reviewed by members of the faculty.
  • Candidacy Exam: After the completion of fieldwork, each student will prepare and submit this exam. Students with incomplete are not eligible submit a preliminary exam. All incompletes must therefore be resolved before moving on to the Preliminary Exam. Students must complete the Doctoral Preliminary Examination Registration form and submit it to the Program Manager before taking the exam.

Program Candidacy Status and Dissertation

After completing preliminary examinations students are advanced to Program Candidacy; all students write and defend a dissertation proposal, do their dissertation research, then write and defend a dissertation. Students must take the following steps, and advance in this order, presuming they have successfully completed all requirements at each stage:

  • After advancing to Program Candidacy, students should maintain continuous registration in EDUC 995 under their advisor until they graduate. Students must contact the GSE Registrar's Office directly to register for EDUC 995.
  • Form a Dissertation Comittee by completing the online request form. Students should include pdf attachments as requested. This form may take up to two weeks to process.
  • After the committee approves, students should request an Oral Proposal Hearing by completing the online request form. Again, students should include pdf attachments as requested.
  • After the committee approves, students should complete their dissertation research. Likewise, under the supervision of the committee, students should begin writing their dissertation.
  • After the dissertation is written and the committee approves, students should schedule an Oral Defense. Students should then complete the online request form and include relevant pdf attachments. This form may take up to two weeks to process.
  • Students should apply to graduate in the same semester in which they plan to defend their dissertation. This online form should be completed parallel to scheduling the Oral Defense.

Graduation

Students must complete the online graduation form in the semester in which they plan to graduate.

Courses

ECS Course Descriptions and listings of Recent Course Offers are available. 

Core and Basic Courses

  • EDUC 727 Education, Culture, and Society

Basic Methodology Courses include:

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

Advanced Research Methodology Courses include (but are not limited to):

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

Social Theory Courses include (but are not limited to):

  • EDUC602 Youth Cultural Formations
  • EDUC 524 Philosophical Aspects of Education Policy
  • EDUC 647 Linguistic Anthropology of Education
  • EDUC 576 The Social and Political Philosophy of Education
  • EDUC 706 Culture/Power/Subjectivities

Electives:

  • To be determined in conference with advisor as they align with the Planned Program of Study. In general, each course carries 1 course unit, and all courses counted towards the degree must be at the 500 level or above. With faculty advisor approval, electives may potentially be taken in Education, Culture and Society (ECS), other programs in the Graduate School of Education or from programs across the University of Pennsylvania.

Meet Our Students & Alumni

The Ph.D. in Education, Culture, and Society prepares students for careers as educational researchers, particularly within universities as scholars, but also within research institutes, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. The ECS Community HUB (Canvas Site) is available for current students (PennKey Required). Alumni and current students may request membership in the ECS LinkedIn group page.

 

Meet some of our Current Students (under construction)

View ECS Alumni Careers

Contact

 

Literacy, Culture, and International Education Division

University of Pennsylvania
Graduate School of Education

3700 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104


Lauren Scicluna-Simon
Program Assistant
(215) 898-5199
sclauren@upenn.edu

 

Sharon Lipscomb
Program Assistant
(215) 898-9372
sharonl@upenn.edu

 

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