4 Overview of the Proposed Program

The long-term objective of this program is to provide the research base needed to help solve the urgent problems of urban education. To this end it specifically seeks to prepare students to complete significant research in the field of Urban Education. To meet these objectives, the course of study leading to the degree will consistently emphasize two themes: (1) the interdependence of reasoning about curricular and instructional issues and reasoning about policy issues, and (2) the interdependence of critical, reflexive insight into research methodology and sophisticated epistemological and disciplinary understandings. This principle provides the underlying logic for five core courses required of all students in the program (see Table 2 and Section 7).

The Ph.D. Program in Urban Education is designed as a single, unified program and will not have separate subprograms with their own requirements or faculty. To ensure that students achieve a high level of disciplinary sophistication within at least one professional specialization, postcore coursework will be guided by a Studies Committee with expertise in one of three studies specializations:

  1. Arts, Humanities, and Social Studies in Urban Education (AHSS)
  2. Science, Mathematics, and Technology in Urban Education SMT)
  3. Urban Education Policy Studies (Policy)

These studies specializations will not have separate course requirements or distinct faculties; each student will be advised by the appropriate Studies Committee on an individualized course of study that will meet three objectives for further coursework:

  1. a high degree of disciplinary sophistication within one area of professional specialization
  2. continuing preparation to integrate curriculum-studies perspectives and policy perspectives
  3. sufficient preparation to undertake a particular dissertation research project

Studies Committees will include at least one faculty member whose primary expertise is outside the focus of the studies specialization.

We believe that this program structure will ensure both that all students are well prepared in at least one specialization within Urban Education and that the overriding rationale of the program in fostering integration of curriculum studies perspectives and policy perspectives is maintained in the crucial period between their core coursework and their dissertation studies.

In the first year of the program, in addition to the five core courses, there will be a two-semester, required, noncredit core colloquium in which students will reflect on their experiences of the urban education. They will also be introduced to the logic and expectations of the program as a whole, the research interests of the faculty, and the process of conceptualizing, carrying out, and writing up research on the scale of a Ph.D. dissertation. The core colloquium for first-year students will remain distinct from the general program colloquium for all students, but share with it the sessions in which faculty present their research interests.

Table 2. Overview of Proposed Program Structure

Core Courses (15 credits)
Fall semester
Core 1. The Structure of Social Knowledge
Core 2. Historical Contexts of Urban Education
Spring semester
Core 3. Logics of Inquiry
Core 4. Pedagogy and the Urban Classroom
Core 5. Educational Policy (includes internship)
First Examination
Research Methods Courses (6 credits)
Qualitative Methods (see list, Section 8)
Quantitative Methods (see list, Section 8)
Program and Studies specialization Coursework (24 credits)
Program and area seminars
Approved elective courses in other CUNY Ph.D. programs
Second Examination
Dissertation Research
Dissertation cluster seminars

[Transfer Credits: Up to a maximum of 30 approved credits, for a program total of 60+ credits]

In the second and following years, under the guidance of a Studies Committee, students will select from among program seminars and area seminars, as well as complete advanced research methods courses and relevant elective courses offered by other doctoral programs.

Area seminars will enable students to achieve disciplinary sophistication in their studies specialization (AHSS, SMT, or Policy) by intensive critical reading in the current research literature of the field and in dialogue with faculty members who work in that field as well as with their peers.

Each semester the area seminar will have a different topical focus within the field and will bring together students with a wide range of experience in the program. We believe that in doctoral education it is important that students become accustomed to learning with and from more experienced peers as well as from the faculty. Possible topics (see also Section 9) include: Aesthetic Experience in Urban Education (AHSS), Computer Technologies in Science and Mathematics Education (SMT), and Evaluating Systemic Reform Initiatives (Policy).

Program seminars will focus on research issues that integrate curriculum-studies perspectives and policy-studies perspectives in Urban Education. In many cases these seminars will explore the research focus areas of the program as a whole and may include participation by more than one faculty member. Initially only one program seminar will be offered each semester to create a series of shared experiences among all students in the program. Possible topics include: Urban Education and Linguistic Diversity; Schools and Community Organizations; Technology, Teaching, and Policy; New Educational Partnerships (see also Section 9).

The program will draw on existing courses in doctoral programs, such as Sociology, Political Science, History, Linguistics, Educational Psychology, and Psychology for research methodology courses and on these and a wide range of other disciplines for relevant electives for each student's studies specialization. This will serve to ensure that research students understand the logic of these disciplines and their methods, and will afford them great freedom and flexibility in constructing a course of studies relevant to their emerging research interests. Students will need considerable guidance in this, and it will be the role of the Studies Committee, and particularly of one designated committee member who will act as the student's principal adviser, to ensure that selection and sequencing of coursework for each student provides a coherent and well-focused preparation for dissertation research.

In their first two semesters and one summer/fall, students will take five core courses, as in Table 2 (see descriptions in Section 7 and Appendix B):

Fall Semester
Core 1. The Structure of Social Knowledge
Core 2. Historical Contexts of Urban Education

Spring Semester
Core 3. Logics of Inquiry
Core 4. Pedagogy and the Urban Classroom

Core 5. Educational Policy

This core sequence was designed to achieve a number of specific goals. The primary purpose of Core 1 is to begin the reflective and critical process that is needed for reading the research literature in any area of the human sciences and for developing a thoughtful research agenda. Most of our students will have previous professional experience in urban education; they need an opportunity to reflect on the assumptions about knowledge that have been deeply embedded in their practice, and they need an opportunity to consider alternative viewpoints. The first two semesters' courses will be paired as shown, so that in the first term students can examine issues in the epistemology of social knowledge in the context of their specific historical studies of urban education. Many historical issues in urban education continue to have significant relevance today, showing us the changing assumptions about the education of new immigrants, responses to ethnic, racial, linguistic, and cultural diversity in the city schools, effects of economic cycles of boom and bust, changing definitions of the goals of elementary and secondary education, etc. In addition to the connections with Core 1, many of these themes, particularly those dealing with the critical issue of educational response to urban diversity, will be developed further in Core 4 and Core 5. The core colloquium will also work in parallel with Core 1 and Core 2 to ensure that students continuously engage with the rich realities of contemporary urban education at the same time that they reflect on conceptual issues and deepen their historical perspective.

In the second semester, students and faculty will examine issues of research methodology in Core 3, while identifying research questions and appropriate methods in relation to observations and collection of data in the real-school settings of the Core 4 course. Core 3 will emphasize the triangulation of different types of data and the integration of complementary research methods and techniques of data analysis, including ethnographic observation, interview data, analysis of curriculum and policy documents, textbooks, and student writing, and quantitative data from test scores and economic indicators. Core 4 will examine curriculum and policy issues in the school and classroom context, helping students to engage with current theory, practice, and debate about teaching methods, student assessment, teacher preparation, appropriate response to urban diversity, and effective methods of program evaluation, as well as fundamental curriculum questions about what should be taught.

Issues of policy will be raised throughout the first two semesters, but specific questions of policy-analysis methodology and the study of decision-making and policy implementation in complex institutional contexts, from school and district level to state and national policy, will become the primary focus in the culminating Core 5 course, which will include a summer internship (with the seminar offered either in the summer or in the immediate following fall term). Just as research in urban education must be informed by direct experience with instruction in schools, so research students also need to observe and participate first-hand in the offices and agencies where policy analysis is done and policy itself is made and communicated.

By taking the core courses as cohort groups, students with all the specialist interests and career goals represented in the program will begin the process of collaborative inquiry that is central to the program's goals. The interdisciplinary structure of inquiry in education requires such collaborative approaches to address effectively and act on significant real-world educational problems. At every stage of their doctoral studies, students will learn to articulate their research questions, procedures, and outcomes with those of other students who are approaching related problems from different perspectives.

Students will extend their coursework beyond the core requirements (which total 15 credits) with at least one additional qualitative research methods course and one quantitative research methods course (6 credits), and a program of elective courses for their studies specialization (24 credits), as negotiated with their Studies Committee (see also Section 8 and Appendix B). Together with up to 15 credits accepted from prior graduate study, this work will provide a minimum of 60 credits toward the degree.

Upon successful completion of the core courses, students will be eligible to take the First Examination; they must pass the examination before proceeding beyond 45 credits. The First Examination will cover the topics of the core courses, including an announced list of specific readings drawn from the course bibliographies (see Appendix B). After passing the First Examination, students will choose to be guided by one of three standing Studies Committees (for Arts, Humanities, and Social Studies Education; Science, Mathematics, and Technology in Education; and Educational Policy Studies), each of which will have a majority representation of faculty members with research experience in that studies specialization, but also at least one member whose primary area of research is outside the specialization.

The Studies Committee will then guide the student through to the Second Examination (at completion of coursework) and on to Advancement to Candidacy. The Second Examination will cover (a) quantitative and qualitative research methodology, (b) the content of the studies specialization, and (c) such additional topics as the Studies Committee may designate as appropriate preparation for an individual student's dissertation research. The purpose of the Second Examination will be to certify that the student is academically prepared to be advanced to candidacy. The Second Examination will likely be given in two separate parts. At the time of approval of a dissertation proposal, the Studies Committee will be succeeded by the formal Dissertation Committee. Members of dissertation committees must be regularly affiliated members of the program's doctoral faculty (some of whom may also be members of other doctoral programs), and the composition of the committee must be approved by the program's Executive Officer.

Students will be expected to conceptualize their dissertation research in the context of larger, compelling issues in urban education. Students who have not already had prior teaching experience at a level relevant to the areas their research will address will normally be expected to acquire such experience in the course of their work in the program. Clusters of focused dissertation studies, coordinated with the continuing research programs of the faculty, will form the basis for continuing study of critical issues in urban education. Such focused and continuing research has an important role to play in the renewal of urban education. This focused research approach will aim to integrate work in both curriculum studies and policy studies to provide a genuinely useful research base for the solution of contemporary educational problems. Examples of such research focus areas are described in the next section.