Doctoral Certification Process | Philosophy and Education | Arts and Humanities

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Philosophy Secondary

Philosophy & Education

In the Department of Arts & Humanities

Doctoral Certification Process

Before proposing a specialized topic for dissertation research, all doctoral students must first demonstrate their broad competence in philosophy and education by successfully completing the program's certification process.

Students should initiate this process after they have completed the majority of their coursework (e.g., once they have completed at least 63 points toward a Ph.D., or 75 toward an Ed.D.). Typically, students seek certification in their 3rd or 4th year of Doctoral Study.


Certification in Philosophy and Education is conducted in three stages:

I. A Three-hour Written Exam centering around the following pivotal texts in philosophy and education:

    • Plato, The Republic
    • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
    • Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile
    • John Dewey, Democracy & Education

The exam will feature one broad question focusing upon a contemporary educational issue or problem, and you will be asked to address it by drawing upon your understanding of these core texts. The exam is closed book and without notes. When you and your adviser agree that you are ready to sit for this written exam, sign up with the Office of Doctoral Studies (153 HM). They administer the exam three times a year, in the morning and the afternoon. You will only need to register for one of the two time slots, AM or PM, since the philosophy and education in-house exam is three hours long.

II. A Take-home Written Exam centered around a field of study selected from among the following: Aesthetics, Epistemology and Philosophy of Science, Ethics, Feminism, Foundations of Education, and Philosophical Anthropology. Please see the reading lists below for each field of study.

In consultation with your adviser, you will choose one of these fields as an area of study. Then, when you and your adviser agree you are ready, you will pick up from the Program office an assigned question pertaining to your area of study and you will have three days to respond to it. Your response must be no longer than 12 double-spaced pages exclusive of references; you may use notes and texts, but you must work alone on the exam. You must complete this take-home exam no later than two weeks after completing the written in-house exam. Note: for purposes of the exam, you will be responsible for all but two selections (of your choosing) on the reading list that pertains to your area of study.

III. A Qualifying Paper. This paper will be a 20-30 page (double-spaced) critical review of the literature in contemporary educational inquiry on a topic related to the student's research interests.  The topic is likely to be at the center of the student's proposed dissertation research.  The purposes of the Qualifying Paper are (1) to ensure that students understand how to conduct a comprehensive literature review, a crucial step in doing independent scholarship, and (2) that they are fluent in the current research in the field on the topic of interest to them.

Both of the exams and the qualifying paper will be read by two faculty, chosen in consultation with your adviser. If a student's performance at any stage is unsatisfactory, he or she will be asked to re-take the exam(s) or revise and resubmit the qualifying paper. In rare cases, when a student shows little or no progress after repeated attempts, a grade of "fail" may be submitted. In such a case, the student would be asked to leave the doctoral program while receiving either an M.A. or Ed.M.

Successful completion of this process certifies the student's readiness to undertake the highly-focused, independent, and original research that are the hallmarks of dissertation-level scholarship.


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