Doctor of Philosophy in Science Education

Doctor of Philosophy in Science Education

Science Education Degrees

Masters of Arts | Doctor of Philosophy | Ph.D. Graduates 1969 to Present

Doctor of Philosophy in Science Education

Advisor: William W. Cobern
For appointment, contact: Heather White, 269-387-5398

The Doctor of Philosophy in Science Education is for those with a science or science education background who wish to pursue careers as college or university science teachers, science education researchers, 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).
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: 1. college science teaching; 2. college science teaching with discipline-specific research focus; 3. curriculum and instruction (K-12). The tracks share a common core, along with some specialization.

Track Program description & requirements
1. CST - college science teaching

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

Program: 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.

Science qualifications at master's level or equivalent.

2. 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: 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.

3. 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: 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: Masters degree in science education or equivalent.

These program tracks are not mutually exclusive but are offered as guidelines for the best preparation with regard to career options. WMU also offers a unique concurrent-enrollment program where students are jointly admitted to an MA program in science (biology, chemistry, earth science, geography, or physics) and the PhD program in science education.

All tracks seek to provide:

  • a rich understanding of the history of science education in the United States and current national reform efforts.
  • a familiarity with the history and philosophy of science that can inform science teaching and learning.
  • a critical understanding of pertinent issues in cognitive psychology and cognitive science.
  • a critical understanding of the major research traditions in science education.
  • a 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.
  • a background in the diverse approaches to educational research.

Program Requirements
(72 credit hours--about 48 credit hours beyond the Master's degree)

Component Courses Credits

Science Content Cognate

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


Science Education Core

SCI 6140 Hist/Phil of Science
SCI 6150 Hist/Phil of Science Education
SCI 6160 Models of Teaching & Learning
SCI 6170 Early Research I
SCI 6171 Early Research II
SCI 6200 Science Education Seminar (3X)
Research Tools
Research Design, Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods, Evaluation Methods

Printable file of Research Tools course options:
Word or PDF format
Track Specializations

1. CST
SCI 6180

SCI 6180

3. C&I
SCI 6260


Dissertation SCI 7300


Total Credits 72

The Doctoral Program has six areas of concentration:

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

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.

Note: Assistantship application deadline is February 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 Financial Aid and Scholarships.


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:

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.

Ph.D. Graduates - 1969 to Present


3225 Wood Hall
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5444 USA
269-387-5398 | 269-387-4998 Fax