Doctoral Degree: Children, Families and Schools Concentration

...school, family, and community are the three major contexts in which children grow and develop...

The Children, Families, and Schools (CFS) doctoral program is designed to address the growing concern for meeting the educational and developmental needs of children in the varied settings in which learning and development occur. The curriculum addresses the philosophical, historical, and cultural foundations of learning and development.  It offers future researchers and practitioners a program of study in child development, childhood studies, and learning, and examines how they relate to educational practice from birth through the early childhood and elementary school years. The program philosophy is based on the assumption that a complex interdependent relationship exists among school, family, and society and espouses an approach that requires those working with educational settings to be aware of the impact of culture, ethnicity, gender, history, values, and economics upon the lives of children and families.

Highlights/Points of Pride

Reflecting the research interests of the faculty, student research includes topics on the child as learner, the psychological foundations of development and early education, the relationship between childhood, education  and culture, educational psychology, the human interactions involved in the teaching process, the definition of the teacher's role, the implications of the new technologies for learning, character development, the family of the special needs child, early intervention, family development, and the role parents, families and communities play in the education and development of the young child. CFS doctoral students also have the opportunity to engage program field supervision and teaching assistantships associated with our early childhood and elementary teacher preparation programs.

Program of Study

The Program of Study for theChildren, Families and Schools Doctoral Concentration consists of:

Nine (9) required courses totaling 27 credits:

            Two (2) courses in the Child Development Core Area

            One (1) course in the Family and Community Core

            One (1) course in the Assessment Core

            Five (5) courses in the Teaching and Learning Core

Three (3) elective courses totaling 9 credits

With the required eighteen (18) dissertation credits, the total number of required credits is 54.

The required and elective courses that are eligible to fulfill the doctoral requirements can be found at the following link: Children, Families and Schools Graduate Program Curriculum Outline:

Required Courses

Doctoral students in the Children, Families and Schools concentration are required to take a minimum of 7 courses within CFS (taught by CFS faculty) and are encouraged to take at least one course outside of the Department of Teacher Education and Curriculum Studies, preferably outside of the College of Education. Students work with their advisory committee to identify courses that align with the College of Education competencies, the NAEYC Professional Standards, as well as their own scholarly interests.

Doctoral course requirements are aligned with the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s Professional Standards for Advanced Programs. We include the NAEYC competencies and course requirements below:

1. Promoting Child Development and Learning

Candidates' demonstrations of competence may include using effective methodologies to generate new knowledge about development and the conditions that promote it, as well as using effective teaching strategies to make current child development knowledge meaningful and powerful for future teachers or other community practitioners.

2. Building Family and Community Relationships

Candidates show skill in using sound methodologies to generate new knowledge about families of young children, or they may devise more effective ways to help future teachers and community practitioners understand, engage, and support families.

3. Observing, Documenting and Assessing

Candidates work to develop and validate assessment tools and are able to analyze the effects of various assessment approaches in improving child and program outcomes. Candidates show evidence of knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions related to the study and promotion of sound assessment practices.

4.  Teaching and Learning

Candidates should identify significant research questions, critique current research, and design worthwhile studies utilizing in-depth knowledge of qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Those candidates who will be preparing future teachers in higher education or community programs will learn and demonstrate research-based approaches to building others’ skills in curriculum development and teaching strategies.

At least two qualitative methods and two quantitative methods courses at the 600 level or higher are required for all doctoral candidates.

Depending on the research methods to be used in the dissertation, doctoral students are recommended to take additional courses in related methodologies and research competencies. Some example courses:

Educational Planning and Evaluation (EDUC 862)
Writing Ethnography (ANTHRO 697CC)

5.  Growing as a Professional

Candidates should know and use effective, sound methodology to develop and conduct studies of the profession. To be effective, their work requires them to engage collaboratively with others both within and outside academia. And researcher candidates require special competence in understanding and using ethical guidelines for the protection of human subjects, especially when those research subjects are vulnerable young children.

This requirement is experiential. The specifics may be negotiated with the guidance committee members and will be explicitly documented in detail as part of the candidate's degree plan and qualification and as a pre-requisite for beginning preparation for comprehensive examinations.  Competencies may be met by some or all of the following:

  • Attending and presenting at local, national or international conferences in the field
  • Writing a research or theoretical paper for a practitioner audience, or as part of comprehensive examinations
  • Being a mentored research or teaching assistant in the concentration 
  • Completing the CITI training for human research subject use through the UMass research office (required)

Contact Information

Coordinator:  Sally Galman (Associate Professor)

Associated Faculty

Ysaaca Axelrod (Assistant Professor), Camille Cammack ( Lecturer), Portia Elliott (Professor), Darrell Earnest (Assistant Professor), Sally Galman (Associate Professor), Claire Hamilton (Associate Professor), Alfred L. Karlson (Associate Professor), Ray Sharick (Lecturer), Ernest D. Washington (Professor), Seon Jeong Yu (Assistant Professor).

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