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Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education (CTE)

The Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education (CTE) Area offers a Ph.D. and MA degrees: Elementary Education (PhD), Literacy, Language, and English Education (PhD), History/Social Science Education (PhD), Mathematics Education (PhD), Science and Environmental Education (PhD), Teacher Education (PhD), cross-area specialization in Learning Sciences and Technology Design, and Curriculum and Teacher Education (MA only).

The Area is designed to prepare scholars and practitioners to address a number of fundamental educational questions: what should be taught, to whom, for what ends? How can school programs be organized to optimize the educational development of students? What processes can be employed to enable teachers and policy makers to understand the strengths and weaknesses of schools?

CTE is based on the premise that schools are most likely to improve when those engaged in their improvement recognize the highly interactive nature of school processes. How science is taught, for example, is not independent of the time teachers spend planning their programs or how they believe their efforts will be evaluated. How school subjects are defined and the time allocated to them influence what students are able to learn. What options exist for the organization of the school curriculum? How do evaluation practices influence the priorities of both teachers and students and how can such practices be designed so that they support, rather than inhibit the achievement of educational aims? The CTE Area helps graduate students learn how to think about such questions and how to develop the specialized understanding and research skills needed to study and improve educational practice.

The Elementary Education specialization is designed for students interested in exploring and contributing to scholarship and teaching related to issues of pedagogy, curriculum design and implementation, school reform, equity and equality, as they relate to elementary schools, classrooms, and educators. The specialization aims to prepare scholars, practitioners, and leaders to address a range of important questions in the field of elementary education and elementary teacher education.

The Stanford Graduate School of Education includes a number of faculty whose scholarship and teaching take place in the context of elementary schools and classrooms and who have an interest in, and enthusiasm for, cultivating scholars in the field of elementary education. Students collaborate closely with faculty on research, teaching, and the design of their graduate programs.

Our home in Stanford's Graduate School of Education enables students to appreciate the myriad connections between elementary education and the full range of disciplinary specializations and research foci of the School’s faculty. Students also make good use of the wider resources available at Stanford, routinely enrolling in courses across the University.

Admission depends on a combination of factors, including successful teaching or related experience, strong academic achievement, professional accomplishments, GRE scores, and the fit between student interests and background on the one hand and faculty availability and research areas on the other.

Elementary Education Faculty:

The program in Literacy, Language, and English Education is designed for students interested in exploring and contributing to the research and scholarship on literacy learning and instruction from preschool through secondary school. Students in this area are able to study linguistic, psychological, social, historical, and cultural issues related to oral and written language, as well as focus on the preparation of prospective teachers of literacy, language, and English language arts.  The program seeks to produce scholars who are able to provide intellectual leadership in the field and to work at the intersection of theory and practice. The Graduate School of Education has multiple faculty who study different facets of literacy.

Students will have opportunities to study and work with Professors Maren Aukerman, Arnetha Ball, Claude Goldenberg, Sarah Levine, Ramon Martinez, Peter Williamson and John Willinsky.

Our students have often explored questions in one or more of  the following domains:

Early literacy development
Adolescent literacy
Curriculum development
The teaching of reading and/or literature
The teaching of writing
Reading comprehension
Classroom discourse
Literacy theory
Literacy and language development for English Language Learners
Social, cultural, and critical dimensions of literacy learning
Teacher education
Teacher professional development

As part of their programs, students are encouraged to take courses in the English, linguistics, sociology, history, and psychology departments as well as in the Graduate School of Education. All programs are individually designed, with the assistance of a faculty advisor, in light of a student’s background and interests.

 Although there are no degree prerequisites for admission to the program in Literacy, Language, and English Education, many applicants have undergraduate degrees in English, literacy education, linguistics, anthropology, psychology, or other related areas. Admission depends on a combination of factors, including successful teaching experience, strong academic achievement, professional accomplishments, and GRE scores, as well as the fit among student interests, program offerings, and faculty availability and research areas.

The program in History/Social Science Education is concerned with how young people make sense of both the past and their present in school and out-of-school settings. The program explores core issues of teaching and learning and, most broadly, engages the very nature of historical consciousness: What does it mean to live in a present suffused by the past? How can the skills of historical reasoning be leveraged to help us understand digital information that confronts us in the present? Over the past several years, our focus has increasingly been on what we call “Online Civic Reasoning,” and how to help students and teachers prepare for a world in which the very idea of truth is under assault.

Taught well, history fosters tolerance for complexity and intolerance for simple answers. How can schools teach young people to discern reasoned interpretations from stances that seek to extinguish--not promote--critical judgment? What can educators do to cultivate historical reasoning and teach young people that there's more to the past than just names and dates? Cutting-edge research shows that even elementary school children can learn to think historically, but such classrooms are rare. How can we design bold pedagogies and adventuresome curriculum so that such classrooms become the rule, not the exception--for all students, not just the privileged?

New technologies offer a potential answer but one that has yet to be realized. Digital media allow 10-year-olds to enter on-line archives that a few years ago required flights across the country and layers of written consent. How can we mobilize such technologies so that students embrace the rich complexity of the documentary record? How can we prepare future teachers who can turn digital materials into programs for advancing students' understanding? How do we develop curriculum that allows students to see through the falsehoods and deceptions that pervade the Internet?

There are no formal prerequisites for admission to the program in History/Social Science Education. Experience in teaching history/social science is definitely asset and provides a useful entry point to many of these questions. But more important than any set of prior experiences is a boundless curiosity to understand how the past shapes understanding in the present and how we can learn more about designing effective educational programs. Many backgrounds prepare one for successful graduate study in this Ph.D. concentration: teaching, filmmaking, web design, programming, and archival work are some of the many possibilities. Successful candidates will probably possess an academic background in one or more of the following areas: history, anthropology, geography, cognitive science, computer science, cultural studies, American Studies, philosophy, political science, psychology, or sociology.

For more information and examples of our latest research projects, please visit

For those interested in mathematics education, there are opportunities to work with several faculty who are studying mathematics teaching and learning, within and outside CTE and Stanford GSE. In CTE, Professors Jo Boaler and Hilda Borko work with students on research projects, and teach a combination of courses, seminars, and directed reading on mathematics teaching and learning. Current research projects are addressing issues of equity, interactions between teaching and student learning, the impact of different mathematics teaching and curricular approaches, and lesson study (teacher professional development). Students may also make mathematics education the focus of their inquiries in different courses in Stanford GSE. Students can choose to take mathematics and mathematics-related courses from the department of mathematics, engineering and other departments outside Stanford GSE, as well as work with professors and students in those departments. For those interested in teacher education and teacher professional development, there are opportunities to develop materials for pre-service and in-service mathematics teachers, and to work in the Stanford Teacher Education Program (single-subject mathematics and multiple-subject).

Students applying to this specialization will be expected to have worked in mathematics education, as a teacher or another education professional, and to have an undergraduate degree in mathematics or another subject that will inform analyses of mathematics teaching and learning. Admission depends on a combination of factors, including evidence of academic achievement, professional accomplishments, GRE scores, and fit between students' interests and program offerings.

The program in Science and Environmental Education prepares students for teaching and research in a number of research areas. The research conducted in the program in Science Education includes research on teaching, teacher education, curriculum development, assessment, program evaluation, the informal learning of science, environmental literacy and policy formulation. Classes are offered on Research in Science Education, Policy and Practice in Science Education, the Science Curriculum, Science Assessment and Evaluation, Science and Environmental Education in Informal Contexts, Learning in Science, and the Theory and Practice of Environmental Education.

For those interested in science and/or environmental education, there are opportunities for participation in the ongoing research projects of Professors Nicole Ardoin, Bryan Brown and Jonathan Osborne, directed reading or research, and internships in the fields of special interest (like non-formal science education in museums or environmental education centers). Recent science education research projects have focused on students’ attitudes towards science, argumentation in science education, the role of language and identity, exploring issues of access for STEM majors, formative and summative assessment with an emphasis on performance assessment of students, reading science for understanding, and climate change and environmental behavior. Currently, there are projects in argumentation in science education in the science classroom and evaluation of programs that promote gender equity in science, mathematics, and engineering. There is also a laboratory group, which holds regular seminars on research in science education that meets 7/8 times a quarter. For those interested in science teacher education and teacher professional development, there are opportunities to develop materials for pre-service and in-service teachers and to work in the Stanford Teacher Education Program (a master's level program for students working for a secondary-school California teaching credential). In addition, Stanford is a leading site for research in science itself with many outreach programs for those interested in communicating science or working with scientists.

Science teaching experience in a classroom or an out-of-school setting is required for admission to the program. An undergraduate degree in a science field is also necessary, and graduate work in science is desirable.

Please e-mail any one of Professors (Ardoin, Brown or Osborne) for further information about the program.

Job placement

Virtually all of our students seeking employment find employment within a year after graduation. Many of our masters students go back into teaching. into departments or ministries of education, or non-profits. Most of our doctoral students assume academic positions and the balance find work consistent with their interests in research companies (e.g., Rand Corp, WestEd, American Institutes for Research, SRI International).

Other Information

Students in the masters program complete a project that reflects their interests and future endeavors.  These projects have focused on policy issues revolving around curriculum, formative assessment, teacher-research and development as well as alternative forms of education including experiential and museum education.

Doctoral students dissertations are wide ranging from public engagement in science to impact of robotics on programming skills, to impact of formative assessment on motivation and learning, to argumentation in inquiry teaching and learning, to mathematical barriers to learning understand laws in physics to the nature of learning progressions in physics to an evaluation field-based environmental education program to impact of language background of teachers’ scoring science performance of native and non-native English speakers.

Recent student Dissertations

Ryoo, K. (2009). Teaching science as a language: A 'content-first' approach to science teaching. (The substance of this disseration was published in the Journal of Research on Science Teaching and won the Best Paper award in 2009)

Dewitt, J. (2007) Supporting Teachers on Science-Focused School Trips: Towards an integrated Framework of theory and practice. (A paper from this dissertation was published in the International Journal of Science Education in 2007)

This specialization focuses on the study and improvement of teaching (across subject areas in elementary and secondary schools) and teacher education (throughout the career span). Students in this program are often interested in the relationship between the subject being taught and the particular pedagogical knowledge and skills needed to teach that subject effectively, and in effective ways of facilitating teacher learning of this body of knowledge and skills. They are concerned with the educational consequences of different approaches to teaching and the policies that shape teaching and teacher education. Many students build careers within institutions of higher education where teachers are prepared and where the practice of teaching can be studied and improved. The purpose of this specialization is to help students develop a framework for understanding teaching, research on teaching, and the implications of research for the improvement of teaching, teacher education, and policy. The program aims to prepare teacher educators and educators to understand and address the needs of students in culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms.

Affiliated faculty include (are not limited to): Hilda Borko, Linda Darling-Hammond, Ira LitJonathan Osborne

The learning sciences are dedicated to the systematic study and design of psychological, social, and technological processes that support learning in diverse contexts and across the lifespan. Students in the Learning Sciences and Technology Design (LSTD) Ph.D. program complete foundational research on learning, and they design innovative learning technologies. Graduates of the program take leadership positions as faculty, research scientists in universities and companies, designers and evaluators of formal and informal learning environments, and in learning technology policy-making.

A significant challenge for the field is to prepare scholars with expertise in the multiple areas relevant to learning in meaningful contexts. The LSTD curriculum includes courses on learning, research, and design, as well as small integrative seminars and explicit apprenticeship opportunities. Students also develop advanced technical proficiencies in a medium of their choice (e.g., programming, computer animation, graphics design, simulation modeling, robotics, user experience design, game development, video production, museum display).

Students interested in the program apply to the Learning Sciences and Technology Design specialization in the online university application for graduate admission form. In the online form, under Additional Academic Interests, applicants should indicate the area with which they wish their LSTD program be linked: Developmental and Psychological Sciences (DAPS), Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education (CTE) or Social Sciences, Policy and Educational Practice (SHIPS).  As a unique cross-area specialization, students will study the learning sciences and technology design within the context of the area (DAPS, CTE or SHIPS), to which they are formally admitted also. In their first year, students work within the requirements of their area to build a strong base of disciplinary knowledge while also developing additional discrete skills relevant to LSTD. Starting with the second year and working closely with their LSTD Faculty Advisor to design a personalized program, students advance their interests and abilities by integrating the distinct skills and area perspectives in applying their theoretical, research, and design work to specific topics in learning.

More information about degree requirements is available in the Doctoral Degree Handbook.

Stanford University, situated in Silicon Valley, provides unique resources for the doctoral student including interactions with world-class faculty who have expertise or interests in technology, access to industry leaders, and on-going exposure to state-of-the-art developments. Stanford University and the Graduate School of Education draw the finest students from around the world, ensuring a rich graduate experience. The LSTD program benefits from its close ties to the H-STAR Institute (Human Sciences and Technologies Advanced Research), an interdisciplinary center at Stanford focusing on people and technology, and its industry affiliates program, Media X, as well as faculty and courses associated with the d-School at Stanford – an institute using design thinking to drive multidisciplinary innovation. The Ph.D. program has grown from a common vision among a broad base of professors whose interests range from visualization and agent technologies to the analysis of cultural and collaborative processes in education and informal learning. The faculty believes that the development of new information and communication technologies provides a powerful coordination point for joining previously isolated bodies of scholarship to understand and enhance learning.

Graduate training in the LSTD program benefits from use of Stanford's advanced computing and teaching facilities, including Wallenberg Hall (Building 160) on the front of the campus on the central quadrangle, where H-STAR is located, and the Graduate School of Education's CERAS computer labs.

Area Faculty

Many other faculty within the Graduate School of Education and Stanford's departments related to the LSTD program (especially Computer Science, Communications, Psychology, Linguistics and Engineering) will contribute to a vibrant intellectual culture for LSTD students.

To learn more about the LSTD program, its requirements and faculty research interests, and other issues, please download our document providing many answers to frequently asked questions.

Contact Information

For additional inquiries, please contact LSTD Director and Professor Roy Pea.

To learn about the Department of Information Technology that serves the Graduate School of Education community and the LSTD program, see

Doctoral Graduates

Asst. Professor, University of Michigan
Asst. Professor, University of Washington
Asst. Professor, SUNY, New Paltz
Asst. Professor, Southeastern Louisiana University
Asst. Professor, U Colorado, Boulder
Asst. Professor, U of the Andes, Bogota, Colombia Asst. Professor, Notre Dame University
Asst. Professor, University of Colorado
Asst. Professor, Sonoma State University
Asst. Professor, Purdue UniversityResearch Scientist, SK Partners, LLC
Asst. Professor, U Maine
VisitingAsst. Prof, Teachers College Columbia
Associate Professor, Educational Policy and Planning, The University of Texas at Austin
Associate Professor, University of Connecticut
Associate Professor, University of Minnesota
Associate Professor, U. of Michigan
Post-doc at Center for the Support of Excellence in Teaching, Stanford

Area Faculty