Doctor of Philosophy in Science Education

Doctor of Philosophy in Science Education

The Doctor of Philosophy program 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.

The Mallinson Institute for Science Education (MISE) offers six Ph.D. programs in Science Education, each with a different area of concentration and each leading to a specific degree. 

  • Program 1:  Ph.D. Science Education
  • Program 2:  Ph.D. Science Education: Biological Sciences
  • Program 3:  Ph.D. Science Education: Chemistry
  • Program 4:  Ph.D. Science Education: Geosciences
  • Program 5:  Ph.D. Science Education: Physical Geography
  • Program 6:  Ph.D. Science Education: Physics

These programs share a set of requirements that are common to all of the Ph.D. programs. All programs can be completed 1) completely in-person, 2) partially in-person and partially online, or 3) completely online. 

For the most recent program information please see the 2023 MISE Ph.D. in Science Education 2023 brochure.

Admission requirements

In addition to the general admission requirements of The Graduate College, applicants must have a master's degree in a science or in 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. Program-specific admission requirements are as follows:

  • Program 1:  A master’s degree in a science discipline, science education, or education with a science emphasis is required.
  • Programs 2-6:  A master's degree is required in the appropriate science discipline (Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Geosciences, Physical Geography, Physics) comprised of a program of study comparable to the master’s level program at the appropriate WMU Department.
  • Concurrent Enrollment:  Students without a master’s degree and interested in programs 2-6 can apply simultaneously to the master’s degree program in a science discipline and the Ph.D. program in science education. Note that this option is only available to in-person students since none of the WMU science departments currently offer online master’s degree programs.
Note: Additional application requirements are described below.
Applicants not meeting these requirements may be admitted provisionally.

Program content

The Ph.D. programs are excellent preparation for three primary career goals: College Science Teacher, Discipline-Based Educational Researcher, and K-12 Science Specialist. All programs share a common core of course content, along with some specialization.

College Science Teacher

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.

Discipline-based Educational Researcher

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.

K-12 Science Specialist

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 three concentrations above are not mutually exclusive but are offered as guidelines for the best preparation with regard to career options. All three 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.

Program Requirements

Total 69 credit hours (about 45 credit hours beyond master's degree)

Science content cognate—24 credits

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

Science education coursework—24 credits total

SCI 6510: Core 1: Introduction to the History, Philosophy and Sociology of Science, 3 hrs.
SCI 6520: Core 2: Learning Theory and Instructional Models in Science Education, 3 hrs.
SCI 6530: Core 3: Current Research Areas in Science Education, 3 hrs.
SCI 6540: Core 4: Theory and Practice of College Science Teaching, 3 hrs.
SCI 6170: Science Education: Early Research I, 3 hrs.
SCI 6171: Science Education: Early Research II, 3 hrs.
SCI 6200: Science Education Seminar (take three times), 1 hr. each (3 hrs. total)
SCI 6400: Science Education Research Experience (take three times), 1 hr. each (3 hrs. total)

Research tools—9 credits total

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

Dissertation—12 credits total

SCI 7300 Doctoral Dissertation

Graduate assistantships — application deadline February 15

Full-time students in the Mallinson Institute for Science Education can apply for a graduate assistantship.  A limited number of these assistantships are available each year for new students. Current students in good standing have first priority for this funding. A graduate assistantship typically includes a stipend, tuition remission, and health insurance.

Typical duty is teaching a section or two of an introductory science course for prospective teachers. The courses are in the disciplines of life science, physical science, and earth science. It is anticipated these courses will provide opportunities for research as well as invaluable teaching experience.

Other financial assistance 

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.