Foundations of Education, Ph.D.

Program Description

The doctoral program in foundations of education at the University of South Carolina offers both breadth and depth in the study of social, philosophical, and historical issues in education. Faculty combine teaching and scholarship with involvement in the local community as well as work at the state and national levels. In addition to course work in foundations in education, doctoral students are offered the opportunity of an expansive social sciences and humanities education based on an individual program of study they can craft with their advisor and doctoral committee.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Cultural Competence. Advanced program candidates demonstrate a high level of competence in understanding and responding to diversity of culture, language, and ethnicity.
  2. Knowledge and Application of Ethical Principles. Advanced program candidates demonstrate in-depth knowledge and thoughtful application of the Code of Ethical Conduct and other guidelines relevant to their professional role.
  3. Communication Skills. Advanced program candidates possess a high level of oral, written, and technological communication skills, with specialization for the specific professional role(s) emphasized in the program. For programs for the advanced preparation of teachers, candidates meet ISTE standards. For doctoral programs, candidates are prepared to publish and present at conferences.
  4. Mastery of Relevant Theory and Research. Advanced program candidates demonstrate in-depth, critical knowledge of the theory and research relevant to the professional role(s) and focus area(s) emphasized in the program.
  5. Skills in Identifying and Using Professional Resources. Advanced program candidates demonstrate a high level of skill in identifying and using the human, material, and technological resources needed to perform their professional roles and to keep abreast of the field’s changing knowledge base.
  6. Inquiry Skills and Knowledge of Research Methods. Using systematic and professionally accepted approaches, advanced program candidates demonstrate inquiry skills, showing their ability to investigate questions relevant to their practice and professional goals.
  7. Skills in Collaborating, Teaching, and/or Mentoring. Advanced program candidates demonstrate the flexible, varied skills needed to work collaboratively and effectively with other adults in professional roles.
  8. Advocacy Skills. Advanced program candidates demonstrate competence in articulating and advocating for sound professional practices and public policies for the positive development and learning of all students.
  9. Leadership Skills. Advanced program candidates reflect on and use their abilities and opportunities to think strategically, build consensus, create change, and influence better outcomes for students, families, and the profession.

Specialized Competencies

  • Historical/Contemporary Perspective. Program candidates must demonstrate in-depth, critical knowledge of scholarly literature on historical and contemporary issues in education.
  • School & Society. Program candidates should demonstrate an understanding of the complex relationship between schools and society from historical, sociological, cultural, political, and global perspectives.
  • Human Growth. Program candidates teaching should demonstrate an understanding of human growth and development as a foundation for analyzing and understanding behavior.
  • Development & Presentation of Research. Program candidates will demonstrate an expertise in the development and presentation of research that includes purpose, methods, results, and conclusions.


For the comprehensive exam, students complete a Web-based professional portfolio and present to program faculty at the end of their degree program.


To be considered for admission all of The Graduate School’s application requirements, a letter of intent that expresses the applicant’s professional goals and specific interest in foundations of education, a curriculum vitae listing prior experiences and scholarly activities, and a writing sample (such as a class paper or a published article) must be on file in:

The Graduate School
University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC 29208

Degree Requirements (63 Post-Baccalaureate Hours)

Doctoral students must complete residency requirements, a program of study, a qualifying examination and written and oral comprehensive exam, and must complete and defend a dissertation.

Educational Foundations & Inquiry Core Courses (24 Hours)

Course Title Credits
Educational Foundations Core
EDFI 741International and Comparative Education3
EDFI 743The History of Education in the United States3
EDFI 747Critical Race Theory and Education3
EDFI 749The School in Modern Society3
Inquiry Core
EDFI 730Qualitative Epistemologies, Paradigms, & Theories3
EDFI 731Qualitative Inquiry3
Two EDFI 800-level Qualitative Inquiry Courses (as approved by advisor)6
Total Credit Hours24

Specialization in Educational Foundations or Qualitative Inquiry (6 Hours)

Students select either two additional educational foundations courses or two additional qualitative inquiry courses.

Multiple Methodologies (6 Hours)

Students complete 6 hours of coursework from different research traditions to establish competence in multiple methodological areas. Courses approved by advisor.

All Ph.D. programs in the College of Education require a minimum of 18 hours of research coursework. Students in the Ph.D. in Educational Foundations and Inquiry meet this requirement by completing 12 hours of research in the EDFI Inquiry Core and an additional 6 hours from different research traditions to establish competence in multiple methodological areas. 

Cognate (12 Hours)

Students complete 12 hours of coursework toward a cognate as approved by advisor.

Equity and Justice Internship (3 Hours)

The Equity and Justice Internship may be completed once for 3 credit hours or in 1-2 credit hour increments across matriculation in the program for a total of 3 credit hours. 

Dissertation Preparation (12 Hours)