Prospective Students

Program Overview

The Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction is an interdisciplinary degree program involving faculty from across the University of North Carolina at Charlotte campus, and primarily the Departments of English; Mathematics and Statistics; Middle, Secondary, and K-12 Education; Reading and Elementary Education; and Educational Leadership.

The Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction is designed to prepare teacher education faculty and other educational professionals for work in various agency, policy, non-profit, and educational settings. Studies include a substantive core in urban education and educational research. Doctoral students may focus their study on education for learners at elementary, middle grades, secondary, K-12, or post-secondary/adult levels. 

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction is awarded for completion of scholarly inquiry, study, and research that advances the knowledge base in the chosen field of study within the larger context of urban education. All students will demonstrate their competence in the field by writing and successfully defending a Ph.D. dissertation.  In addition, recipients of the degree must demonstrate a mastery of relevant subject matter and a potential for success in future research and teaching within their concentration.  The program requires a minimum of 60 hours of approved coursework.

Study is available in one of the following areas, each of which is examined through the lens of an urban educator. The five concentrations within the Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction emphasize the context of urban education issues and perspectives related to curriculum and instruction.  To learn more about each concentration, check out the Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instructions tab. 

  1. Curriculum and Educator Development (CED) with research and theory applied to problems and applications of curriculum, instruction, learning, teaching, teacher education, professional development, and teacher leadership in K-12 and higher education. Emphases within the concentration include Elementary Education, Middle Grades and/or Secondary Education, K-12 Curriculum Specialization and Professional Development. 
    1. Elementary Education with research and theory applied to problems of learning and teaching in elementary education. [NOTE: This concentration became part of the Curriculum and Educator Development (CED) Concentration beginning in 2021-2022.]
  2. Learning, Design and Technology (LDT) with research and theory applied in the design of effective learning experiences and environments that incorporate technology to address educational needs and problems in elementary, middle/secondary, or post-secondary settings with an emphasis on urban contexts.
  3. Literacy Education with research and theory applied to problems of literacy and language learning and instruction, oriented toward Reading, English Education, and Teaching English as a Second Language.
  4. Mathematics Education with research and theory applied to problems of learning and teaching mathematics. Students focus on elementary, middle/secondary, or post-secondary.
  5. Urban Education with research and theory applied to critical social issues affecting schools and society from a historical, contemporary, and theoretical perspective in a global context. In order to address the complexities of urban schooling, this program is interdisciplinary and draws on education, public policy, sociology, anthropology, and ethnic studies.

Admissions Information And Program Requirements

Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction Student Handbook PDF
EDCI Three Year Course Schedule PDF
Curriculum and Educator Development (CED) Concentration Plan of Study [includes Elementary Education] PDF
Math Education Concentration Plan of Study PDF
Urban Education Concentration Plan of Study PDF
Literacy Education Concentration Plan of Study [oriented toward Reading Education, English Education, or Teaching English as a Second Language] PDF
Learning Design and Technology (LDT) Concentration Plan of Study PDF

More information about the program of study can be found in the Graduate Catalog for the most recent year. 

Applications are being accepted for Summer/Fall 2023. Complete applications (including all transcripts, recommendations, statement of purpose, curriculum vitae, and writing sample), will be due to the Graduate School, through their online application system, by February 1st, 2024 for admission consideration in Summer 2024. Summer admission allows doctoral students to begin coursework in either summer or fall semester.  This choice of start date is determined after admission in consultation with the program director.  Most students accepted enroll in at least one course in summer.  Although a summer start is recommended, all accepted students must begin coursework in fall semester.  If accepted applicants do not enroll in summer/fall courses, they will need to reapply to the program. 

Applicants are expected to submit a statement of purpose, curriculum vitae, a minimum of three recommendations, and a writing sample from their most recent degree. Applicants may submit GRE or Miller Analogies Test (MAT) test scores for consideration but these are not required. Admissions counselors are available in the Graduate School should you need assistance with the online application process.  Applications submitted after the deadline will be reviewed once applications which met the dealine have been considered.  Please note that a summer start is not guaranteed if the February 1st deadline is not met.  

Suggestions for writing a good statement of purpose can be found here

Funding Options

The best information for funding your doctoral degree can be found at: Funding for Graduate Education | The Graduate School | UNC Charlotte
The UNC Charlotte Holmes Scholars Program 
The Holmes Scholars Program is a national university-based program that supports doctoral students who self-identify as racially and ethnically diverse and are pursuing graduate degrees in education and counselor education. UNC Charlotte's Holmes Scholars Program has recently been expanded and revitalized, with plans for three immediate cohorts in the next three years and four doctoral students in each cohort. 
Who is eligible to apply? The Holmes Scholars Program supports doctoral students (EdD and PhD) who identify as racially and ethnically diverse and intend to work in faculty positions in higher education upon graduation. Holmes Scholars must participate in the program for at least three years, therefore we are accepting applications from new doctoral students (who start in Fall 2023) or doctoral students with at least three years remaining in their programs of study. 
What do Holmes Scholars receive? UNC Charlotte Holmes Scholars receive on-going mentoring, peer support, and professional development. They also receive funding to attend the AACTE annual conference, a Washington Week advocacy experience, and a writing retreat.
Who should I contact with questions? Please email questions to either of the program coordinators-- Dr. Daniel Alston (REEL) or Dr. Clare Merlin-Knoblich (CSLG)-- or the Holmes Scholars Advisory Group members-- Dr. Lisa Merriweather (EDLD), Dr. Brittany Anderson (MDSK), and Dr. Ya-yu Lo (SPED).
Holmes Scholars Final Video 2.mp4 - Google Drive

Grades Required

A student must maintain a cumulative average of 3.0 in all coursework taken. An accumulation of two C grades will result in termination of the student’s enrollment in the program. If a student makes one grade of Unsatisfactory in any course, then enrollment in the program will be immediately terminated.

Transfer Credit Accepted

The program will accept six transfer hours from an accredited institution if these align with program requirements, providing the appropriate Curriculum and Instruction faculty determine that the course or courses to be transferred are appropriate for the program of study and are graduate-level courses beyond the master’s degree.  (See the concentration coordinator and program director about this course-by-course review.) Courses accepted for transfer are subject to the same time limitation as courses taken in residence.  Finally, the grades in these transfer courses must be an A or B.  The remaining 54 hours, including all dissertation work, must be completed at UNC Charlotte. 

Time Limitation

Students will be admitted each summer/fall with the understanding that most students will be part time and will usually take six hours per term.  (NOTE:  Students will take some courses together as a cohort, including those taken the first semester.)  The program requires a minimum of 60 semester hours.  Students will have a total of nine years to complete the program, including dissertation, beginning from the date of the first course, including transfer credits. With the approval of the student’s strand coordinator and the doctoral program coordinator, six hours of transfer credit for post-Master’s coursework earned at an accredited university within the previous five years will be accepted.

After acceptance into the program, students will begin work in both the urban core and the area of specialization; for example, it is recommended that a student take the foundations course and an urban core course in the first semester and one specialization course and either an urban core or research course in each of the second semester if beginning in fall.  The program recommends students begin their coursework in summer with an urban core, research, or specialization course before joining the fall cohort.  Guidance concerning course selections will be provided by the program and concentration coordinators upon the student’s acceptance to the program.  The program director will also offer guidance on avaialble and recommend coursework. 

Note, as well, that summer courses will be available based on demand and funding.  Though the university will target three or more summer courses each year, variations may not always be available.  (For example, the same courses might be taught every summer, with minimal rotation.)  The program director and concentration coordinators will talk with students during fall semester to determine summer course needs and will work to accommodate those needs whenever possible.  

Student Dispositions and Faculty Expectations

Doctoral students are expected to actively and enthusiastically engage in a variety of opportunities that will both contribute to their program and prepare them for their desired careers after graduation.  For example, students should be able to:

  • Read and reflect on complicated texts
  • Prepare for class thoroughly in order to participate in intellectual discussions with deep analysis and synthesis
  • Submit reflective and purposeful assignments with appropriate formatting by the established due date
  • Develop an organized compilation of foundational readings throughout all courses using a systematic process of tracking and note taking
  • Plan for and embrace the depth of knowledge and skills required to produce a research study that has the potential for making a significant contribution to the field
  • Present at local, state, and/or national conferences
  • Write for publication
  • Show the potential for service to the field
  • Exhibit professional ethics and outstanding conduct in all situations


For additional information contact:

Tina Heafner

Professor and Graduate Program Director- Curriculum and Instruction Doctoral Program

 COED 317 


Contact the Office of Middle, Secondary, K-12 Education
Phone: 704-687-8875 or 704-687-8878
Fax: 704-687-1630