College of Education and Human Development

Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Elementary education MA / PhD

The MA/PhD track in elementary education will allow you to contribute to the advancement of knowledge necessary to address the dynamic challenges of contemporary education at the elementary level. We train leaders in educational research and encourage students to dive deep into their own area of research.

This program emphasizes:

  • A focus on interdisciplinary approaches to curriculum development
  • The use of inquiry as a key pedagogical approach
  • The importance of a strong understanding of diversity and its social and educational implications
  • Child development and learning theories as the foundation for research and teaching in elementary settings

Quote from Younkyung Hong

I was drawn to this program when I learned that the faculty and graduate students in the program are not only doing academic work, but also engaging with the public to improve education.

Younkyung Hong PhD 2021



As a full-time graduate student, you will have opportunities to:

  • Supervise student teachers
  • Teach courses in elementary teacher education
  • Conduct research
  • Engage with faculty and student colleagues in research/discussion groups related to the study of elementary education as a contextual space
  • Present at conferences for researchers and practitioners

Your PhD coursework will center on your research interests. The program consists of 48 course credits and 24 doctoral thesis credits for a total of 72 credits

To view the core curriculum and electives visit the course catalog and view Requirements > Program Sub-Plan Requirements > Elementary Education. 

Research opportunities

Students can engage in research that ties into their area of interest. Faculty work closely with each cohort to achieve research and educational goals. Learn more about the student research experience in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

Masters of arts students

Students can choose either a thesis (Plan A) or final paper (Plan B) to complete their degree. See the requirements for both curriculum plans.

To view the core requirements for elementary education in the course catalog, find Requirements > Program Sub-Plan Requirements > Elementary Education.

Doctoral curriculum

Your PhD coursework will center on your research interests. The program consists of 48 course credits and 24 doctoral thesis credits for a total of 72 credits.

To see the curriculum requirements in detail, visit the course catalog under sub-plans for elementary education.

Career outlook

Graduates of the program have assumed positions as university faculty, instructional leaders in the public schools, curriculum development specialists, and assessment specialists.

Graduates have found employment in the following positions:

  • Associate professor, Wright State
  • Professor, University of Minnesota
  • Associate professor, Western Carolina University

    Blanca Caldas Chumbes Blanca Caldas Chumbes

    Blanca Caldas is an assistant professor in Multilingual Education and Elementary Education—College of Education and Human Development at The University of Minnesota Twin Cities. She completed her Ph.D.

    Blanca Caldas Chumbes

    Colleen Clements Colleen Clements

    Santa Barbara Independent Innovation in Theatre Award ICQI, International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry NWSA, National Women’s Studies Association AERA, American Educational Research Association, Division G – Social Context of Education SIG -…

    colleen clements

    Jeff Henning-Smith Jeff Henning-Smith

    Jeff Henning-Smith is a Senior Lecturer in the Elementary Education and Social Studies program areas.

    Jeff Henning-Smith

    Jana LoBello Miller Jana LoBello Miller

    Jana LoBello Miller is the Elementary Teacher Education Licensure Program Lead in the department of Curriculum and Instruction.


    Keitha-Gail Martin-Kerr Keitha-Gail Martin-Kerr

    Keitha-Gail received her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Minnesota in 2016. Her research interests live at the intersection of collective memory work, elementary education, teacher education, being Black, and living queerly.

    Keitha-Gail Martin-Kerr

    Mark Vagle Mark Vagle

    My research, teaching, and service are intentionally linked as I study, teach, and lead efforts designed to critically examine some of the broad social and philosophical concerns that take concrete (lived) shape in the curriculum and pedagogies of…

    Mark Vagle

    Ramon Vasquez Ramon Vasquez

    Dr. Vasquez is an Assistant Professor of Critical Elementary Education. Before working in higher education, he served as an elementary school teacher in California.

    Ramon Vasquez

    Cynthia Zwicky Cynthia Zwicky

    Cynthia Zwicky has been an educator for more than 25 years. In this time she has worked as a classroom teacher, a mentor to new teachers, and as a coordinator for various programs and initiatives, primarily with Minneapolis Public Schools.

    Cynthia Zwicky
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    How to apply

      Application deadline and instructions

      Priority deadline: December 1 for admission to the fall of the following year
      Admissions decisions: January

      Applications submitted after this date are considered on a case-by-case basis and may not be reviewed until the following year. Faculty review applications in mid-late December, and the Graduate School will notify applicants about admission decisions shortly thereafter. Final admission decisions are based on complete applications. All application materials must be included for the application to be released for review.

      Before applying online, go through the application checklist to ensure you have all the required materials. We are here to help! If you have questions, please contact the Graduate Studies Coordinator. If you are a returning Graduate School student, follow the Readmission guidelines. If you are a current Graduate School student and need to change your program, follow the Change of Status guidelines.

      Tuition and funding

      We have several funding options to support students full-time through program completion. Support is available in the form of:

      • Teaching Assistantships. The majority work as student teaching supervisors for MEd initial licensure students. Daytime availability, a teaching license, and teaching experience are required
      • Research Assistantships
      • Fellowships. Based on a departmental nomination process. You will be notified by the Director of Graduate Studies if you are being considered for a fellowship. Decisions are made by April 15.
      • Graduate students are also eligible to apply for fellowships and graduate assistantships through other University departments. Visit the University's employment page or fellowships through the Graduate School's Graduate Fellowship Office.
      • Find more detailed federal financial aid and graduate tuition information.

      Application requirements

      What we look for

      Admission to our master's of arts and doctoral programs are competitive and we look for candidates whose goals and interests align with the program’s research and scholarship. Program faculty make admissions decisions based on the candidate’s experience and research competencies, along with compatibility of research goals.

      Please look at our current faculty members’ research interests.

      Our masters and doctoral candidates display

      • Evidence of strong interest in research and in the development of research competencies
      • Evidence of substantial experience in the discipline
      • Strong writing skills
      • Bachelor's degree from an accredited U.S. institution or foreign equivalent

      Required application documents

      1. Unofficial transcripts.Upload your transcripts into the application system. Please include all transcripts from any institution you have attended, even if you did not earn a degree or certificate. Please do not mail your transcripts. Official transcripts are required only after you are admitted. Tips for uploading your transcript(s).
      2. Resume.
      3. CI Application Form. Upload in the graduate program additional materials section.
      4. Three letters of recommendation. Ask professors, employers, or supervisors to speak to your potential for successfully completing your degree; they will upload their letters directly into the online application.

      The GRE is being waived for those applicants applying for Fall 2025.

      Required written statements

      1. Personal statement.Upload to the Applicant Statements section of the online application. (Most statements are 1.5-3 pages, single spaced). Please trace how you became interested in research in this discipline, as well as what problems interest you the most and why. Be sure to speak to:
        1. Why you want to study in our department
        2. What strengths, expertise, and research experience would contribute to your success in our program
        3. Your professional goals for pursuing a research-focused degree
      2. Diversity statement.Upload to the Applicant Statements section of the online application. Identify the distinctive qualities, characteristics, and life experiences you would contribute to our community. You may wish to include examples that address your contribution to the diversity of the student body and illustrate your motivation to succeed by setting high standards for accomplishing intellectual and other goals, overcoming obstacles to achievement, and/or helping others to gain access to the resources necessary for success. (please do not exceed one page in length)
      3. Short writing sample.(Optional except for Literacy Education applicants). For example, an excerpt from a term paper or research paper for publication. No longer than five pages in English.
      4. Common Ground Consortium Fellowship. (Optional) The primary purpose of the CGC is to assist graduate programs in the College of Education and Human Development to recruit exceptional students with the distinct experience provided by HBCUs or similarly distinguishing contexts, provide these students with financial assistance support during their graduate studies, and assistance with career development and job placement afterwards. It offers a pipeline to excellence and an opportunity to diversify perspectives in the academy. If you wish to apply, submit a statement that describes how your participation as a CGC scholar would a) enhance your graduate student experience, b) prepare you for your chosen career, and c) benefit the public. Upload to graduate program additional materials section.

      Additional admissions information

      Application checklist

      Before applying online, go through the application checklist to ensure you have all the required materials. We are here to help! If you have questions, please contact the Graduate Program Coordinator.

      If you are a returning Graduate School student, follow the Readmission guidelines. If you are a current Graduate School student and need to change your program, follow the Change of Status guidelines.

      Transfer credits

      MA students must complete at least 60 percent of their coursework (not including thesis credits) within our program. PhD students may transfer no more than 15 credits from an outside institution.

      A maximum of 12 graduate course credits taken as non-degree seeking or non-admitted status at the University of Minnesota can be transferred; this is counted separately from the maximum 60 percent or 15 non-UMN credits. For example, a PhD student could transfer a maximum of 27 credits (15 non-UMN and 12 non-degree from UMN).

      If you earned a MA at the UMN, please contact the Graduate Studies Coordinator to discuss transfer procedures. Thesis credits cannot be transferred.

      After you are admitted, you will work with your adviser to determine which credits may transfer.

      International applicants

      International applicants may also need:

      • An English translation of your transcripts, if the transcript is not in English. Please note: the Graduate School Admissions Office will not accept an evaluation of your international coursework by an outside agency such as ECE or WES; they only accept the original transcripts.
      • TOEFL/IELTS or MELAB. You may qualify for an exception if you have completed 16 semester or 24 quarter credits within the past 24 months in residence as a full-time student at an accredited institution of higher learning in the United States or other country where English is the official language (i.e. U.K, Canada). Score requirements and submission guidelines

      Request information

      We’re here to help. Simply complete one of these forms and a member of our department will be in touch