Curriculum and Degree Information

Urban Education Students

Find information about required and elective coursework to be completed during students' time at The Graduate Center. 

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.

Electives fulfill 27 credits of coursework that advance students’ trajectories in their chosen research topic.

Core Course Descriptions

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.

The Core Colloquium is designed to serve a dual-role: first, to welcome our newest cohort into our intellectual community (with closed seminar sessions in which we work to demystify this thing we call "the academy" and to provide opportunities to reflect on the content of the core courses in relation to their own experience); and second, to engage in community-wide conversations that take up pressing themes in education (with a range of session formats including a speaker series and community dialogues). 

This course will braid three interrelated but distinct strands: the first strand focuses on developing a sense of positionality in an academic setting while demystifying academic practices that the entering cohort will encounter as doctoral students at the Graduate Center. The second strand includes a public speaker series focused on working towards justice in schooling and the third strand is comprised of a series of conversations led by Urban Education students on the possibilities of using Restorative Justice principles and practices to build community and address injustices that we face within  "the academy."

(3 credits; 30 hours plus conferences)

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.

(3 credits; 30 hours plus conferences)

Course Description
This course is designed to introduce students to large themes in the history of US education and to historical research and historical thinking. We will examine how, by whom, and for whom educational institutions have been established, maintained, and reformed throughout US history. We will pay attention to who participated in schooling at various historical moments and places, who was excluded, and who resisted and/or reformed existing educational structures and practices. We focus on the history of urban education, broadly defined, and locate that history within a larger political, social, and economic context. This course also examines how historical narratives are constructed and prepares students to develop and research their own questions about the history of education.

(3 credits; 30 hours plus conferences)

Course Description
This course is designed to introduce students to key concepts and approaches undergirding research related to urban education in the United States. The readings and assignments will introduce students to key terms in the field of urban education, enduring dilemmas and debates in educational research, and ethical concerns in the social sciences. Throughout the semester, students will: 1) continue to articulate their research interests and situate them within the field of educational research, 2) craft and revise an emerging set of research questions, 3) explore a range of methodologies, and 4) learn from one another and established scholars to continue to demystify what it means to conduct research in the field of urban education.

(3 credits; 30 hours plus conferences)

Course Description
This course provides a critical overview of major issues in the development, implementation, and consequences of urban educational policy. We will explore the merits and limitations of various policy initiatives and reforms using historical, sociological, economic, and political analysis of educational issues. Major topics include: school funding, school choice, school closures/privatization, testing/learning assessments, racial/spatial segregation, school discipline, etc. Students learn to develop and apply critical thinking skills to the understanding and analysis of urban educational problems; and to interpret and assess both the intended and unintended consequences of urban educational policy initiatives.

Research Methods Courses

Research methods courses fulfill the required 9 credits. The program requires a 3-credit quantitative and 3-credit qualitative course, and students select a third (3-credit) methods course including (but not limited to) the following: research design, statistical reasoning and analyses, ethnographic methods and data analysis; visual and narrative research methods, document analysis, policy, historical, and philosophical analyses, among others. 


Students will complete approximately 27 credits of elective courses, chosen from: recommended courses offered at The Graduate Center across its many doctoral programs; the program seminars and special topics courses in Urban Education; independent studies courses under the supervision of a member of the doctoral faculty (subject to approval of the Executive Officer); and, if appropriate, by courses that students can take at other universities belonging to the Inter-university Consortium. The electives feature analytical, empirical, theoretical and practice-based engagement in a student’s chosen field of study.  

Electives are selected––in consultation with students' academic advisor and dissertation committee members. The electives that complete a students’ course of study and preparation for dissertation work are carefully and collaboratively curated by students and their advisors, who ensure that students achieve a high level of interdisciplinary sophistication related to their chosen research topic.

Program seminars focus on the ever-evolving issues/debates within the field, their historic antecedents and imagined possibilities. Program seminars help students develop theories of culture, language, race, gender, political economy, science, mathematics, curricular and policy analysis while linking higher education to cultural institutions, technology, and teacher education within the urban context.

  • Countering the Carceral Continuum
  • Troubling “Normal” in Education and Culture: Examining Disability through a Social Justice Perspective
  • Shaping the City: Schools and the Racial Geography of New York
  • What is Curriculum Studies?: Theories and Practices of Reconceptualization and Post-Reconceptualization
  • Critical Sociocultural Theories and Transformative Practice: Intersections of Human Development and Education
  • Exploring Connection between Disability, Imagination, and Creative Expression
  • The Private War on Public Education
  • Power, Discourse and Knowledge in Education: Postmodernist and postcolonial critical theory
  • Raciolinguistics and Education
  • The Hidden Curriculum of Gender and Sexuality in Schools: A Critical Race Theory Perspective
  • Reimagining Youth Civic Engagement in the Digital Age
  • Critical Lenses on Literacies: The Politics of Ideologies of Language and Literacies
  • Emotions, Wellness and Sustainability: A Critical Exploration
  • Educating Educators
  • Mindfulness and STEM Education

Exams and Dissertation

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

  • all program requirements

  • passing all parts of the First and Second Examination

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

See details: Exams and Dissertation Requirements.