Doctor of Philosophy in Science Education

Doctor of Philosophy in Science Education

The Doctor of Philosophy offered by the Mallinson Institute for Science Education at Western Michigan University is for those with a science or science education background who wish to pursue careers as college or university science teachers, science education researchers, informal science educators, science teacher educators, curriculum specialists, high school science department chairs, or professionals in government agencies or school districts.

Admission requirements

In addition to the general admission requirements of The Graduate College, applicants must have a master's degree in a science or science education, unless applying for the concurrent enrollment program (a special WMU program for those wishing to become college teachers of science or researchers regarding the learning of science). In the MISE concurrent enrollment program, students are jointly admitted to a master's program in science (biology, chemistry, geoscience, geography, or physics) and to the doctoral program in science education (focusing on the teaching and learning of science). If you are interested in earning an M.A. or M.S. in a science discipline on your way toward a Ph.D. in science education, we strongly urge you to contact the Director by email or phone.

Note: The GRE is required for Ph.D. application, and additional application requirements are described below.
Applicants not meeting these requirements may be admitted provisionally.

Program content

The program has three tracks: CST—college science teaching; CST/DRF—college science teaching with discipline-specific research focus; C&I—science curriculum and instruction (K-12). The tracks share a common core, along with some specialization.

CST—college science teaching track

Career goal: Teaching undergraduate science at community colleges, liberal arts colleges, teaching-focused universities.

Program description: Graduate study in the scientific, historical and philosophical aspects of science teaching and learning with a specific focus on the teaching and learning of science at the college level.

Requirements: Science qualifications at master's level or equivalent.

CST/DRF—college science teaching with discipline-specific research focus

Career goal: Faculty in a university science department or teacher education unit, involved in both teaching and research.

Program description: Graduate study and research in the teaching and learning of science concentrating on specific disciplines: i.e., biology, chemistry, geography, earth sciences or physics. Emphasizes pedagogical content knowledge for these disciplines.

Requirements: Science qualifications at master's level or equivalent.

C&I—science curriculum and instruction with K-12 focus

Career goals: Science teacher educator; science curriculum specialist; science education researcher; school science department chair; at colleges and universities, government education agencies or school districts.

Program description: Graduate study in the scientific, historical and philosophical aspects of science curriculum and instruction with a specific focus on the teaching and learning of science at the K-12 level.

Requirements: Master’s degree in science education or equivalent.

The above three program tracks are not mutually exclusive but are offered as guidelines for the best preparation with regard to career options. All three tracks seek to provide a:

  • Rich understanding of the history of science education in the United States and current national reform efforts.
  • Familiarity with the history and philosophy of science that can inform science teaching and learning.
  • Critical understanding of pertinent issues in cognitive psychology and cognitive science.
  • Critical understanding of the major research traditions in science education.
  • Graduate level understanding of at least one science discipline that will inform subsequent research and teaching in that area.
  • Critical understanding of the role of technology in facilitating science teaching and learning.
  • Background in the diverse approaches to educational research.

The doctoral program offers six different areas of concentration that lead to six specific degrees:

Ph.D. Science Education
Ph.D. Science Education: Biological Sciences
Ph.D. Science Education: Chemistry
Ph.D. Science Education: Geosciences
Ph.D. Science Education: Physical Geography
Ph.D. Science Education: Physics

Program Requirements

Total 72 credit hours (about 48 credit hours beyond master's degree)

Science content cognate—24 credits

Master's degree in science or in science education (or equivalent)

Science education core—18 credits total

SCI 6140 History and Philosophy of Science (three credits)
SCI 6150 History and Philosophy of Science Education (three credits)
SCI 6160 Models of Teaching and Learning (three credits)
SCI 6170 Early Research I (three credits)
SCI 6171 Early Research II (three credits)
SCI 6200 Science Education Seminar (three times, one credit each)

Research tools—12 credits total

Research design, quantitative and qualitative research methods, evaluation methods
Printable file of Research Tools course options: Word or PDF

Track specializations—three credits total (select one)

SCI 6180 Teaching/Learning in the College Science Classroom (three credits)
SCI 6260 Curriculum Studies in Science Education (three credits)

Dissertation—15 credits total

SCI 7300 Doctoral Dissertation

Doctoral associateships—application deadline, anytime

For the past several years, all qualified full-time students in the Mallinson Institute for Science Education have received adequate funding through doctoral associateships offered each year by the Institute and the graduate college. (Most students are part-time and support themselves by other means.)

A limited number of these associateships are competed for each year. They typically include a stipend, remission of the out-of-state portion of tuition, and, in some cases, remission of all tuition. (They do include health insurance.) Typical duty is teaching a section of one of the introductory science courses for prospective teachers. The courses are in the disciplines of life, physical science, and earth science. It is anticipated these courses will provide opportunities for research as well as invaluable teaching experience.

Assistantship application deadline is Feb. 15 (different than a doctoral associateship). Information about student loans and other federal, state and University need-based financial aid programs may be obtained from the Office of Student Financial Aid.

Application instructions

WMU has a new online graduate application system that allows all students (domestic and international) to submit required information into one system. General application information for the University, as well as specific requirements for individual programs, are captured into this system.

Applicants are asked to include some program-specific information, with a summary for these application requirements found below:

Ph.D. Science Education  
Ph.D. Science Education: Biological Sciences
Ph.D. Science Education: Chemistry
Ph.D. Science Education: Geosciences
Ph.D. Science Education: Physical Geography
Ph.D. Science Education: Physics

Applicants are encouraged to bookmark this information for quick reference while working through the graduate application process.

Apply Now

Thank you for your interest in applying for this graduate program.