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Course of Study

Course of Study

All students in the Ph.D. Program in Urban Education will be required to complete four core courses:

  • Historical Contexts of Urban Education
  • Pedagogy and the Urban Classroom
  • Introduction into Research Methods
  • Educational Policy

In addition to the core courses, there is a required one-credit core colloquium seminar, that will be taken in the first semester.

The core courses are unified by two themes that run through them all: the interdependence of curricular and policy issues, and the connections between research methodologies and fundamental questions of knowledge, its nature and reliability. All courses address issues of cultural, historical, and political dimensions of inquiry.

By taking the core courses as cohort groups, students with diverse backgrounds and intended areas of interest will begin the process of collaborative inquiry that is central to the structure of this program. At every stage of their doctoral studies, students will learn to articulate their research questions, procedures, and outcomes with those of other students approaching related problems from different perspectives.
Students are also required to take 9 credits of courses related to methodology, one in quantitative research, one in qualitative research methods, and an advanced research methods course.

Course Descriptions

For each core course we present a brief course description. The links from each course title lead to more details. Note that the actual course may vary from the proposed outline in its details.

Core 1: Intro. to Research Methods in in Urban Education

(3 credits; 30 hours plus conferences; 15-20 students per offering)

Course Description
The course examines research design and methods appropriate for studies in urban education. Ethical issues pertaining to the conduct of research are examined, including issues of informed consent involving research with human subjects. Also, the course examines theoretical research and research designed to test innovations in education as ends of a continuum in which the methods studied are appropriate for addressing questions/issues at multiple levels (e.g., macro, meso, micro levels of society). The theory and methods included in the course are: historical, philosophical, ethnographic, hermeneutic/phenomenological, narrative inquiry, participatory action research, discourse analysis, descriptive statistical, and inferential statistical (parametric and non parametric). Each of the research methods will be examined in terms of the underlying theory (i.e., logics), procedures associated with the methods, and ways in which each the methods has been applied in urban education. In relation to all of the methods studied in the course, the potential of mixed methods will be studied.

Core 2: Pedagogy and the Urban Classroom

(3 credits; 30 hours plus conferences; 15-20 students per offering)

Course Description
This course examines the relationships through which knowledge is constructed and communicated in urban schools. It approaches pedagogy as a set of relationships among teachers and students mediated by culture, history, learning theories, assumptions about childhood and adulthood, and assumptions about knowledge and ignorance. Students will study pedagogical interactions in schools and the forms that knowledge assumes in the curriculum in discourse, activities, texts, materials, and technology. Students will also be asked to consider the ways that pedagogy is shaped by institutional culture and professional governance. Resources from cultural anthropology and comparative education will be studied to frame contemporary practice as particular versions of what is possible.

Core 3: The Historical Contexts of Urban Education

(3 credits; 30 hours plus conferences; 15-20 students per offering)

Course Description
This course will explore the emergence and transformation of urban educational institutions--public and private, inclusive and selective, fee-paying and free, religious and secular--out of the dynamic interplay of individual, group, and larger scale intellectual, social, political, and economic factors. Students will study the formation of social identities in the history of education, specifically race, class, gender, ethnicity, and religion, and the relationship of identify formation to current issues in education. The history of the politics of education also will be studied, especially as politics relates to defining educational mission, determining resources, including or excluding individuals and groups, providing equity of educational opportunity, and encouraging community participation in establishing and maintaining schools.

Core 4: Educational Policy

(3 credits; 30 hours plus conferences; 15-20 students per offering)

Course Description
This course will study educational policies and subsequent implementation as the intended and unintended consequences of many processes: ideological, social, judicial, scientific, political, and economic. Within the context of each issue, potential policy alternatives will be identified and actual policy and implementation decisions studied. Students will learn to use relevant concepts and methodologies from the social and behavioral sciences to analyze issues critically, including appropriate quantitative and qualitative methods. Case studies of real-world policies and practical outcomes will be studied to explicate within a specific temporal and political context complex urban educational problems. 

Core Colloquium

In addition to the four core courses taken in the first year, a colloquium is required. The Colloquium is a one-credit seminar required of all students in the Urban Education Ph.D. Program. It is a very important part of the curriculum and helps to prepare students for the rest of their work in the program, including researching and writing a dissertation.

The Core Colloquium is designed to:

  • Introduce students to the requirements and organization of the program, including opportunities for elective courses in other programs and the required program Examinations
  • Introduce students to the faculty and their research interests
  • Provide opportunities to reflect on the content of the core courses in relation to their own experience and across other courses
  • Discuss the process of identifying a dissertation topic, finding a dissertation sponsor and committee, acquiring the research expertise to complete a dissertation, and planning the work of the dissertation itself
  • Discuss current issues in urban education with faculty and invited speakers


Students will complete approximately 27 credits of elective courses, chosen from: recommended courses offered at The Graduate Center across its many doctoral programs; the area and program seminars in Urban Education; and reading courses and special topics courses under the supervision of a member of the doctoral faculty (subject to approval of their Studies Committee).


The student is advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree after completing:

  • all program requirements
  • passing all parts of the Second Examination

Dissertation Oral Examination: The Ph.D. is awarded after the dissertation