May 28, 2024  
2014-2015 Graduate Catalog 

Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Psychology

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The doctoral degree program in educational psychology enables students to acquire an understanding of psychological processes that underlie human development, learning, and teaching and to develop necessary skills to interpret and design research in educational settings. The program provides students with opportunities to develop original and creative thinking and research in the areas of human development, learning, and motivation. Students may relate this knowledge to selected areas of interest, which may include sociocultural, historical, and philosophical foundations of education, instructional technology, research methods and assessment, linguistics, special education, or teacher education.

The student learning outcomes for this degree are located at


Applicants for the doctoral degree in educational psychology are expected to have course work in learning theory, theory of development, research methods, basic statistics, and foundations of education. Where deficiencies are found by the admissions committee, additional courses for the doctoral degree may be prescribed.

Successfully completing requirements of Option A of the Master of Science in Education in Educational Psychology from Northern Illinois University satisfies the above requirements. Similarly, successfully completing requirements of the Master of Science in Educational Research and Evaluation from Northern Illinois University (including 3 semester hours of course work in theories of learning, 3 semester hours of course work in theories of development, and a thesis or equivalent study) satisfies the above requirements.

Applicants for admission must

  • have completed a master’s degree.
  • submit scores from the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) or the General Test of the Graduate Record Examinations.
  • provide three letters of recommendation from knowledgeable professors, employers, or supervisors.
  • write a three-four-page essay describing their career goals and interests relevant to educational psychology, the origins of those interests, goals for pursuing those interests in research and study, and how the educational psychology program should be able to help them reach those goals.

Applicants may be invited for an interview. The Graduate School notifies the applicant of the decision of the admission committee. Students should contact the Graduate School for information about admission deadlines and materials.

Questions about the program or the application process should be directed to the program admissions chair. Students seeking to take courses while admission papers to the Graduate School are being processed should receive approval of the program admissions chair.

After all admission forms are completed and Graduate School requirements for admission are fulfilled, the applicant is considered by the department’s admissions committee and may be invited for an interview. The recommendation of the admissions committee is forwarded to the Graduate School, which informs the applicant of the admission decision. Any applicant who is denied admission may submit an appeal to be reviewed by the entire educational psychology faculty. Appeals must be in writing, explain the basis for the appeal, and include information not previously submitted. Limited facilities and/or resources may necessitate the rejection of some students who meet the minimum requirements for admission.


The student’s program adviser provides advisement on courses in the major, cognates, deficiencies, additional courses, prerequisites, and the candidacy examination. The student’s departmentally approved program of courses is forwarded to the Graduate School for final approval.

Course Requirements

The doctoral program in educational psychology requires the equivalent of at least three years of full-time academic work, or a minimum of 93 semester hours of graduate work beyond the baccalaureate degree including the following.

Course work in an area of interest related to the major chosen in consultation with adviser. At least one course must be in the major (18).

A maximum of 30 semester hours from a master’s degree may be included in the doctoral program. These hours may be applied to prerequisites, cognates, or other requirements with the consent of the program adviser. The combined total of student-at-large and transfer hours beyond the master’s degree may not exceed 15 semester hours for students pursuing the Ph.D. degree in educational psychology. See “Requirements for Graduate Degrees” for limitation on study-abroad credit.



The student must receive approval from his or her adviser to take the candidacy examination. The candidacy examination is conducted in conjunction with the oral defense of a portfolio. It is expected that the student will have completed at least 60 semester hours of graduate course work.

Competencies to be demonstrated in the portfolio include the following:

  • Demonstrate proficiency in coursework based on individual goals for professional growth and development.
  • Demonstrate experience using research methodologies. One example must come from a thesis (or comparable research study) approved by the faculty.
  • Demonstrate in-depth knowledge of theory and expertise in a domain within educational psychology.
  • Demonstrate effective communication and presentation skills, both (a) oral and (b) written.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and application of ethical standards.
  • Demonstrate evidence of successful research internship experience supervised by a faculty member.

A final oral examination related to the dissertation is required and is conducted in accordance with the general requirements of the Graduate School.


Upon satisfactory completion of the candidacy examination, the student is accepted as a candidate for the Ph.D. degree. A student who fails the candidacy examination may be granted the opportunity to take a second examination. Failure on the second examination denies the student admission to candidacy.


The dissertation in educational psychology is expected to make a substantial contribution to knowledge in the field. Candidates are expected to conduct original scholarship and independent research appropriate to their major and communicate the results of their research effectively. The dissertation director and committee are selected by the student in consultation with the department chair or assistant chair. The committee represents graduate faculty of the university with knowledge in the area of the candidate’s topic. At least two members of the committee are selected from the graduate faculty in educational psychology. Official approval of a dissertation director by the Graduate School must be effected by the conclusion of the first semester in which the student registers for dissertation credit.

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