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Joint PhD Program in English and Education

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The Program-Frequently Asked Questions

How many courses are required to complete the program?

Four to six courses in English and an equal number in education are required beyond the Master's degree.

Which courses are required?

Students design their own program of study, electing courses and designing exam reading lists in their areas of interest.  Students consult regularly about their program of study with one of the Program Co-Chairs.  A "specialization" should be considered early in the student's program of work.  It has proved useful to students to reach general ideas about specialization before the end of the first year of study.  Such general notions, however tentative, are useful in planning course selections and in laying the groundwork for the dissertation.

What are typical areas of specialization?

Students focus on a variety of areas ranging from topics in rhetoric and composition to theories and pedagogies of literacy to professional concerns.  Students usually specialize in the area in which they write their dissertations.

Examples of specific topics include:

  • an examination of composition instruction at several historically black colleges
  • a study of the way readers compose literacy practices in order to place themselves in a social world
  • an investigation of the ways that white teachers, students, teacher educators, and researchers approach multicultural issues in white-dominated educational settings

The three examinations (see below) usually include the area of specialization but will also move beyond it.

How does a student satisfy the foreign language requirement?

Students are encouraged to fulfill the language requirement as early as possible after enrollment in order to gain its maximum educational benefit.  Students in the program must demonstrate advanced competence in one foreign language or basic competency in two foreign languages, the study of which complements the students' educational and professional goals.

Typical goals include: to gain competence in a language that will provide access to research literatures pertinent to a student's major area of specialization; to gain competence (including speaking ability) in a a language spoken by one of America's linguistic minorities (such as Spanish); to gain competence in a language (or literature in that language) that will be a focus of a student's advanced research or dissertation.

You may do so in one of three ways: by taking coursework in one language at an advanced level or two at the basic level; by taking and passing one advanced language exam or two basic language exams; or by taking coursework in one language at the basic level and passing one basic language exam.

In addition, you may petition the Program Committee to fulfill the requirement in another way that will better fit your individual background or academic plans.

Can you describe the qualifying Examinations in this program?

The three major qualifying examinations are the Specialized Paper Examination, Theorization of Learning Examination, and Prospectus Examination.

The Specialized Paper Examination consists of a long paper based on a specific area of interest. Although it may develop out of a seminar paper, this examination goes beyond the paper to demonstrate capacity to do independent scholarly research of publishable quality. The exam is designed to allow the student to map an area of scholarly inquiry and make an original intervention in that area. It is typically completed by the fall of the second year.

The Theorization of Learning Examination is usually completed in the spring/summer of the second year and requires a critical reading of learning experiences during the first two years. Although the format may vary, it generally consists of a long paper that creates a coherent intellectual trajectory out of the student’s program of study and explores the intellectual consequences of doing this work, typically in the form of scholarly problems or questions the student foresees focusing on in future work.

The Prospectus Examination includes both oral and written components. The written prospectus defines the subject, research questions, and theoretical and methodological approach planned for the dissertation. It also includes an extensive bibliography of relevant work and explains how the dissertation will make an original contribution to scholarship. The prospectus is defended orally to a four-member dissertation committee. Completion of this examination, along with coursework and the Foreign Language requirement, entitles a student to Candidate Status.

To make timely progress toward the degree, students should complete all examinations and meet the foreign language requirement by the beginning of winter term of the third year. Students who do not adhere to this schedule are not eligible for some fellowships.

Next: JPEE Admissions Frequently Asked Questions>

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