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Early Childhood Education Doctoral Program Overview

Overview of Program

The Ph.D. program in Early Childhood Education (ECE) at UAB is designed to allow the doctoral student to have a tailored curriculum with enough flexibility to meet the needs of individual candidates, while developing a strong developmental foundation in early childhood. The program is one of only a handful in the country providing a Ph.D. in ECE and not a more generic degree with an "emphasis" or "specialty" in early childhood. In contrast to a generic approach to training, candidates immerse themselves in doctoral level experiences specially designed to focus on early childhood research, teaching, and service. The program offers doctoral level early childhood seminars, internships, courses, and experiences where candidates can specialize in one of five areas (Piagetian Theory, early childhood literacy, early childhood curriculum, leadership, or early intervention/early childhood special education). Preparation focuses on the ability to successfully research and teach at the university level.

Conceptual Overview

A recent national report on the training of early childhood educators noted that although training across multiple age areas is attractive to administrators, candidates may not be highly qualified in early childhood education. To meet the needs of the future early childhood Ph.D., a doctoral degree from UAB will prepare you to be highly qualified and highly knowledgeable and skilled in the three traditional areas of research, teaching, and service.

  • Research and Scholarship: Courses and experiences are designed for the candidate to become confident and competent in not only reading and applying research, but in designing and implementing studies that guide the field. Complementing the research agenda is an expectation of scholarship (presenting and publishing) contributions to the early childhood field. Faculty mentoring and participation in "emerging scholar communities" help to complement master teachers with research and scholarship skills required at the Ph.D. level.
  • Teaching: Experiences: Candidates are provided opportunities to design, implement, analyze, and evaluate varied pedagogical approaches to early childhood education. As a significant proportion of the Ph.D. program is offered using online asynchronous technology, candidates may have the opportunity to develop skills in using and designing 'distance education' that, according to a 2009 report, continues to grow at a faster rate than traditional face-to-face education.
  • Service: Through close interactions with, and mentoring from the ECE faculty, the ECE doctoral candidate is expected to learn about, develop a service agenda, and provide service through a variety of local, state, national, and international venues.

International Opportunities: As multiple faculty have international backgrounds and experiences, opportunities present themselves to research, teach, and serve in international contexts. Also many faculty have held leadership positions with the Association for Childhood Education International and the World Organization for Early Childhood Education (OMEP) and use these experiences to provide service and scholarship opportunities.

Urban Opportunities: Collaborative opportunities with the UAB School of Education, Center for Urban Education allows Ph.D. candidates to focus scholarship activities on issues related to "quality education for socially and economically disenfranchised groups residing in urban areas".

Preparing Ph.D.'s for Future Opportunities

Graduates from our program are prepared to take positions in a variety of roles. Examples include:

University Teaching and Scholarship - Just within the United States, a 2006 report noted that almost one third of all institutes of higher education (IHE) offered some type of early childhood training program. This translates to over 1300 IHE where the largest program within a college of school of education is early childhood education. Graduates have worked in local, regional, and university positions inside and outside of the USA.

Policy Development and Service - Candidates are well trained to take leadership positions in local, district, and state agencies with the intent of being curriculum and research implementation specialists. Graduates have become leaders in local and state government entities.

Finding Out More About the Program

If you have any questions, please contact the Ph.D. Coordinator for the Early Childhood Education and Development program:

Dr. James Ernest
Assos. Professor of Early Childhood Education
University of Alabama at Birmingham
117 SOE; 901 13th Street South
Birmingham, AL 35294-1250
Tel: (205) 934-8360
jernest@uab.edu