Doctor of Philosophy in Education and Human Development, Inclusive Early Childhood Education

School of Education & Human Development


Degree: PhD

Classroom Type: Online and on campus classes

The Inclusive Early Childhood Education PhD prepares candidates to be faculty members, researchers and leaders at the forefront of change in the areas of early childhood education, early childhood special education, and early childhood multilingual education. Our program focuses on preparing scholars, researchers and future teacher educators to support child-centered early childhood education that is committed to educating children across races, ethnicities, abilities and languages.

Application​ deadlines

December 1

Program Details

Interest Categories: Education & Counseling

Campus: CU Denver

What you'll learn

Our program helps to prepare scholars to define problems and conduct research that informs programs and policies aimed at promoting child- and family-centered early childhood education, with a focus on educating children across races, ethnicities, abilities and languages. To do so, we ground our coursework in multiple theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches.

Students in this program will

  • Critically examine the theoretical literature that undergirds the study of child development, early childhood education, and early childhood special education.
  • Deepen knowledge of theory and research in child- and family-centered approaches in inclusive early childhood education.
  • Develop the skills to conduct rigorous research related to culturally sustaining practices that demonstrates a commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  • Conduct applied and translational research that makes connections among research, practice and policy to help reduce inequities in opportunities and outcomes for young children.
  • Create, evaluate and improve preservice teacher education programs in child development, early childhood education, and early childhood special education.
  • Advocate for and lead change to assure all children's growth and development in a variety of early childhood settings serving young children from birth through age eight. (Students particularly interested in deepening their knowledge in leadership for equity and who primarily hold careers goals to advocate and lead change within organizations should consult our EdD program in Inclusive ECE).

Faculty advisors for this concentration

Our faculty’s collective research has themes in

  1. Inclusive and culturally responsive pedagogy
  2. Social-emotional learning
  3. Bilingual children’s development and learning
  4. Family-school partnerships
  5. Teacher preparation and workforce development
  6. Early childhood policy

Program of Study

The core course rotation begins every fall. Students complete a plan of study that includes 48 semester credits of coursework and 27 semester credits of dissertation. PhD coursework is intensive and substantive, requiring significant writing, analysis, and critique of theory and professional literature. All students in the Inclusive Early Childhood Education Program take 12-credits in foundational courses, 3-credits in professional seminars, 18-credits in research methods courses, and 15-credits in concentration area courses. Students also complete a research apprenticeship and higher education teaching practicum or equivalent experience.

The curriculum includes a combination of on-campus, hybrid, remote, and online courses each semester.

Every student must be available to attend on-campus courses each semester.


Child, Youth, and Family Studies Foundation Courses - 12 Credits

  • Advanced Studies in Applied Child Development
  • Children in US and Global Context
  • Contemporary Family Theories and Research
  • History, Child Development and Equity

Proseminar in Child, Youth, & Family Studies I, II, and III - 3 Credits 

Research Methods - 18 Credits

  • Doctoral Seminar in Research Methods
  • Intermediate Statistics
  • Methods of Qualitative Inquiry
  • Electives (select three courses (9 credits) of advanced research methods)

Concentration Courses - 15 Credits (choose 4 courses from below and one additional 3-credit elective)

  • Examining Practices, Policies, and Key Issues in ECE
  • Inclusive Education: Practices and Policies
  • Scholarship in Teacher Education
  • Social Emotional Development & Supports
  • Equity Issues in Educational Practices for Young Children
  • Language and Literacy in Young Children


Scholarships to offset the cost of tuition may be available for first-year students. Students work with their advisors to identify additional funding possibilities available through external scholarships, internships, funded grant projects, teaching assistant opportunities and/or a mix thereof. Student funding support varies based on funding streams. Students can also elect to self-pay and thus, self-support.

Recommended Completion Time:4 to 6 years

Required Credits for Completion:75 Credits

Admission Requirements

We encourage students to review the concentration area choices on our website and understand the differences between the PhD and EdD in Inclusive ECE prior to submitting an application. We require interested PhD applicants in Inclusive ECE to contact one or more of the faculty associated with this concentration area for an appointment prior to submitting their application. This ensures the students have an opportunity to discuss their research area of interest, as well as introduce themselves to the faculty. Also, the financial support we provide our PhD students is often tied to federal and state funding decisions, so meeting with a faculty member will let you know if any funding opportunities will be available in the upcoming year.

As part of gaining admission to the PhD program, students are paired with a doctoral faculty advisor/mentor. The doctoral faculty may request a personal interview to complement the information provided in the application materials.

Application Deadline

December 1

Application Requirements

  • Minimum requirements:
    • Master's degree or equivalent
    • 3.5 GPA in graduate-level course work recommended
  • Recommendation Letters: three letters; two should come from faculty with whom an applicant has taken courses
  • Official Transcripts from all institutions attended
  • Resume/CV: Applicants must have and show evidence of relevant professional and/or academic experience.
  • Written Statement: In 4-6 pages (double-spaced, Times New Roman 12-point font or larger), discuss professional/educational experiences that led you to seeking a PhD, your research interests and their relationships to problems you have identified in the field, and a potential advisor with which you would like to work.
  • Writing Example: Examples include but are not limited to: Master's thesis or other course/seminar papers for prior coursework, and/or published materials such as articles, book chapters, and technical reports.
  • Application Fee: $50.00
  • Admissions Interview: Applicants who advance to the interview phase will be contacted to participate in an interview with concentration area faculty.
  • International Applicants only: Proof of English Language Proficiency (International applicants should review the following information regarding English language proficiency)

For more information, email Cristina Gillanders.

Choose CU Denver’s School of Education & Human Development

You can trust CU Denver to provide an education that will prepare you for excellence in your career as a faculty member or researcher. The university and school are recognized for preparing leaders of distinction who value educational excellence and social justice. Additionally, CU Denver’s School of Education & Human Development is counted among U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Graduate Schools,” making us one of the top education schools in the country.