Your browser is unsupported

We recommend using the latest version of IE11, Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Course of Study

PhD Program Components Heading link

  1. A sequence of six core courses, focusing on the multi-disciplinary nature of the learning sciences, the scientific foundations of inquiry into learning from multiple disciplinary perspectives, methods of learning sciences research, and applications of learning sciences in the design and modification of learning environments. See individual course descriptions below (24 credit hours).
  2. Five semesters of Journal Club, a journal-review seminar that students take five times during their course of study, beginning in the first semester.  Students have the opportunity to hear speakers present their own research as part of a regular series. The seminar creates a learning community in which students and faculty engage in critical review, analysis, and discussion of key journal publications in the learning sciences or related fields (ten credit hours).
  3. A minimum of 12 hours in an area of disciplinary specialization, selected in consultation with the student’s Learning Sciences Faculty Advisor and an advisor in the disciplinary specialization. Students take courses offered through existing graduate programs at UIC such as
    • Chemistry
    • Cognitive Psychology
    • Computer Sciences
    • Mathematics or Mathematics Education
    • Literacy, Language, and Culture or
    • Urban Educational Leadership.
  4. Elective courses — additional graduate-level courses in the disciplinary specialization, research methods, other disciplines, or special topics courses offered periodically in the Learning Sciences program. These courses will be selected in consultation with the student’s advisor in the Learning Sciences program and in consultation with the course instructor to determine relevance and appropriateness of course content to the student’s program goals and academic preparation for the course (minimum 16 credit hours).
  5. A minimum of 34 research credit hours.

Benchmarks Heading link


Each year, students submit an Annual Review, following a provided template, to show evidence of academic and professional progress. These are reviewed by the faculty and the Director of Graduate Studies generates an annual progress letter which is presented to the student by the advisor.


An Independent Research Project that is to be included as one of the artifacts in the Progress Portfolio (Comprehensive Examination – see below). The focus of the project should be determined in consultation with the LS Faculty Advisor, and can be based on work done in one of the core courses, within a research assistantship, or independently under the guidance of the Advisor.


The Comprehensive Examination takes the form of a Student Progress Portfolio and an oral defense based on it.

In each core course, students generate at least one product or document to be added to the Progress Portfolio. The point is to demonstrate understanding of the core theories, methodologies, and knowledge base in learning sciences and the disciplinary specialization. It is an opportunity to consolidate learning from the core program experience. It should reflect both mastery of this content as well as reflection on the student’s learning experience during the initial years of the program.

Upon completion, the student will orally defend the contents of the portfolio before a committee who will determine passing or failing of the comprehensive exam. The committee is comprised of at least three Learning Sciences or affiliated faculty.


The Preliminary Examination is an oral defense of the completed dissertation proposal before a committee comprised of a minimum of five members, with at least three LS or affiliated faculty. Ordinarily, this committee is the same one before which the student will defend his or her completed dissertation.

This exam cannot be undertaken until after the Progress Portfolio/Comprehensive Examination has been passed. The primary purpose of the Preliminary Examination is review and approval of the thesis research proposal and admission of the student to candidacy for the PhD.


The completed dissertation must be defended orally and publicly before the committee.