SHEG serves as the umbrella for Stanford's Ph.D. program in History/Social Science Education and for the Masters program for individuals who aspire to become high school teachers.

Ph.D. Program

Overview & Description

The program in History Education is concerned with how young people make sense of the past in school and out-of-school settings.

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 reasoning and teach young people that there's more to the past than just names and dates? State-of-the-art research shows that even elementary school children can learn to think historically, but such classrooms are rare. How can we design bold pedagogies and innovative 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 use new technologies so that students grasp the rich complexity of the documentary record? How can we prepare teachers who are able to turn digital materials into programs for advancing students' understanding?

Our current research focuses on how young people make decisions about what to believe about social and political issues they encounter online. We know a great deal about what students don't do, but less about what they do in order to make accurate judgments about what is true or false. To read about our current research, see this press release and view this video.

There are no formal prerequisites for admission to our Ph.D. program. Experience in teaching history is a definite asset and provides a useful entry point to many of these questions. But more important than any particular prior experience is a boundless curiosity to understand how young people make sense of the world around them. Many backgrounds prepare one for successful graduate study: teaching, filmmaking, museum or web design, tour guiding, and archival work are some of the many possibilities.

The following FAQs were designed to answer the most common questions about the program. By reading these FAQs and looking through the information on the Stanford Graduate School of Education's website you will find answers to the many questions you might have about next steps. If your questions are still not addressed by these materials, please write a follow-up email and we will respond as soon as possible.

Stanford's Ph.D. courses are not offered online.

1. What faculty members are associated with History Education?

Sam Wineburg, Margaret Jacks Professor of Education and Professor of History (by courtesy) directs the program, which is one of five specializations in the Ph.D. program in Curriculum and Teacher Education. In addition to Wineburg, the Graduate School of Education is fortunate to have two historians of education, Professors David Labaree and Leah Gordon, who teach courses on the history of education. We are a fairly small faculty – only 46 professors – so you will have many opportunities to interact with us as well as to take courses with professors across the entire university.

2. What can I do with a Ph.D. in this field?

Many things. Conduct educational evaluations, direct a history museum, design educational software, write curricula, open a consulting business, shoot history videos – the possibilities are endless. However, the bulk of our Ph.D. students end up pursuing college and university teaching. About three-quarters of our graduates ultimately become professors.

3. How long does the program take?

This is hard to answer. If you enter our program with Master's degree credits that can be transferred (see the Stanford registrar's website for details), you can finish coursework in about 2.5 years; if not, then expect about three years to complete coursework. In general, we expect students to complete their degrees in four to five years.

4. What about required courses?

Students in the History Education concentration take the required courses for the Ph.D. program in Curriculum and Teacher Education. Beyond these courses, the program is individually tailored with your advisor and constructed to meet your own interests and aspirations.

5. Can I continue to work and complete Stanford's program part-time?

No. Stanford's Ph.D. program is a full-time endeavor.

6. Can I take Ph.D. courses online?

No. Courses are offered at Stanford Graduate School of Education's campus only.

7. What does Stanford "look for" in applicants?

Another one of those impossible questions. It bears repeating the information that appears on the general GSE website: We receive more qualified applications than we have places. There are several excellent programs in History Education, not just Stanford's (see, for example, the program at the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, Michigan State University, or the University of British Columbia). You should check out those programs as well to determine the best fit. At Stanford, we look for people who have thought hard about what they want to do in life, who have some significant accomplishments under their belts, and who have demonstrated perseverance, creativity, resolve, and a dedication to improving education, broadly defined. Applicants who fulfill these criteria don't fit a cookie-cutter mold.

8. But still, there has to be some basic aspect that unifies the kind of people Stanford admits?

Perhaps what unites the people we admit is their commitment to asking questions about the educational process. Even if they don't quite understand what it means to do research in education, they have an innate curiosity about why things do and don't work, and what we might do to make them better.

9. How competitive is admission?

Competitive. In an average year, we admit only one or two people to the Ph.D. program in History Education. On average, we receive anywhere from 15 to 20 applications per year.

10. I wasn't accepted last year. Can I reapply?


11. Are GREs needed for admission? Is there a "cutoff score"?

Yes to the first question, no to the second. See the information on this on the general GSE site.

12. Oh no! I looked at Stanford's tuition! There's no way I can pay this.

Relax. All students admitted to our Ph.D. program receive generous financial aid. You won't get rich doing your Ph.D., but you won't go into hock either. All students admitted to the program receive five years of guaranteed funding – this aid covers tuition and provides a monthly living stipend!

13. What kind of research do students do?

Students engage in research apprenticeships in the Stanford History Education Group’s ongoing projects. At present, our research focuses on the development of assessments that gauge students’ ability to assess the credibility of online sources. This is an extension of our ongoing effort to marshal the forces of technology to improve history teaching and learning. Past research projects have included validating new assessments of historical thinking; evaluating the efficacy of the Reading Like a Historian curriculum in urban classrooms; using the web to promote cross-cultural historical understanding; tracking changes in young people's historical consciousness by comparing their ideas to those of their parents and grandparents; and developing a new methodology to understand what people learn during visits to museums.

14. Will I get a chance to teach during my Ph.D. program?

Most students do. For example, Professor Wineburg teaches the "Curriculum and Instruction" methods course for new history teachers, and many Ph.D. students serve as the TA in that course – especially those with prior middle school or high school teaching experience. By the time most Ph.D. students graduate, they will have served as a TA in at least one or more courses, preparing and delivering lectures on the topics of their dissertations.

15. What is the relationship between the program in History Education in the school of education and Stanford's History department?

The relationship isn't formal, but several students in our program have decided to do their Ph.D. "minor" in history, and to pick up a history M.A. along the way. (For information on the Ph.D. minor, see the general GSE website). Because our program has few required courses, you will have the full range of Stanford's course offerings to choose from as you design your program of study.

16. I saw there is a program called "Learning Sciences, Design and Technology" and my interests are in History Education and Technology. What should I do?

If you have experience in technology and are interested in weaving aspects of technology into your Ph.D. work, you might consider the LSDT program option as well. See the LSDT website for more details.

17. I started my Ph.D. in history but now think I am really interested in teaching. Is this the program for me?

Possibly. But recognize that our program, like all of the GSE's Ph.D. programs, is research oriented. Rather than engaging in archival historical research, you will learn to do research on the thinking and learning of history (known in higher education as the "Scholarship of Teaching and Learning").

18. I have read all of these materials, looked at the books and articles, and I've come to the conclusion that this is the program for me. Now what?

Apply! Devote a lot of thought to your statement of purpose – the admissions committee looks carefully at these statements. It should not be a narrative of your resume ("I did this, then I did that, and then I did something else") even if the things you did do were impressive. The best statements convey something of your essence and communicate why you think our program is the best fit. We look forward to reading your application. 

Sample Ph.D. Courses

EDUC 325A: Proseminar 1

Instructors: Martin Carnoy & Claude Goldenberg

Required of and limited to first-year Education doctoral students. Core questions in education: what is taught, to whom, and why; how do people learn; how do teachers teach and how do they learn to teach; how are schools organized; how are educational systems organized; and what are the roles of education in society?  

EDUC 325B: Proseminar 2

Instructors: Rachel Lotan & Dan Schwartz

Required of and limited to first-year Education doctoral students. Core questions in education: what is taught, to whom, and why; how do people learn; how do teachers teach and how do they learn to teach; how are schools organized; how are educational systems organized; and what are the roles of education in society? 

EDUC 325C: Proseminar 3

Instructors: Anthony Antonio & Prudence Carter

Required of and limited to first-year Education doctoral students. Core questions in education: what is taught, to whom, and why; how do people learn; how do teachers teach and how do they learn to teach; how are schools organized; how are educational systems organized; and what are the roles of education in society?  

EDUC 356/HISTORY 337C : Memory, History, and Education

Instructor: Sam Wineburg | Syllabus

The program in History Education is concerned with how young people make sense of the past 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 is history taught and learned in schools? How does history become part of one's resources for building a meaningful identity and life?

EDUC 395: Scholarly Writing in Education and the Social Sciences

Instructor: Sam Wineburg

Focus is on producing articles for scholarly journals in education and the social sciences. Ethics and craft of scholarly publishing. Writing opinion articles for lay audiences on issues of educational and social import.

EDUC 201/ HISTORY 158B: History of Education in the United States

Instructor: Leah Gordon

How education came to its current forms and functions, from the colonial experience to the present. Focus is on the 19th-century invention of the common school system, 20th-century emergence of progressive education reform, and the developments since WW II. The role of gender and race, the development of the high school and university, and school organization, curriculum, and teaching.

EDUC 265/HISTORY 158C: History of Higher Education in the U.S.

Instructor: Leah Gordon

Major periods of evolution, particularly since the mid-19th century. Premise: insights into contemporary higher education can be obtained through its antecedents, particularly regarding issues of governance, mission, access, curriculum, and the changing organization of colleges and universities.

EDUC 220D/HISTORY 258E: History of School Reform: Origins, Policies, Outcomes, and Explanations

Instructor: David Labaree

Focus is on 20th-century U.S. intended and unintended patterns in school change; the paradox of reform that schools are often reforming but never seem to change much; rhetorics of reform and factors that inhibit change. Case studies emphasize the American high school.

EDUC 253X /HISTORY 237B: Teaching the Unteachable: Teaching and Representing the Holocaust

Instructor: Sam Wineburg | Syllabus

Theodore Adorno asked whether it was possible to write poetry after Auschwitz; whatever the answer, each year witnesses exponential growth in state-sponsored mandates to teach the Holocaust. How and to what end does catastrophe become curriculum? How to assess what students learn from these efforts. The Nazis' efforts to teach for hate, and contemporary parallels. Historical and educational sources, especially films and memoirs.

EDUC 373X: Teaching in the Humanities-Research into Adolescent Literacy

Instructors: Pam Grossman Sam Wineburg

Relatively little attention has been paid to the role of humanities courses in teaching both general and disciplinary skills in reading and writing. With the growth of small schools, more middle and high school teachers find themselves teaching Humanities courses. This seminar will explore what it means to teach the humanities, with special attention to how such courses can develop disciplinary reading and writing skills. Course will investigate how we develop tools to assess teaching and learning in the humanities.

EDUC 200C: Introduction to Statistical Methods in Education

Instructor: Dan Schwartz

Describing measured, count, and categorical data. Statistical inference procedures for comparisons of group outcomes and for associations among variables. Course content integrated with statistical computing in R.

EDUC 250B: Statistical Analysis in Education: Regression

Instructor: Eric Bettinger

Primarily for doctoral students; part of doctoral research core; prerequisite for advanced statistical methods courses in School of Education. Basic regression, a widely used data-analytic procedure, including multiple and curvilinear regression, regression diagnostics, analysis of residuals and model selection, logistic regression. Proficiency with statistical computer packages.

EDUC 250C: Qualitative Analysis in Education

Instructors: Mitchell Stevens & Ari Kelman

Primarily for doctoral students; part of doctoral research core; prerequisite for advanced statistical methods courses in School of Education. Basic regression, a widely used data-analytic procedure, including multiple and curvilinear regression, regression diagnostics, analysis of residuals and model selection, logistic regression. Proficiency with statistical computer packages.

EDUC 318X: The Discourses of Teaching Reading

Instructor: Maren Aukerman

Students examine language, social relationships, and students' textual sense-making to further develop their conceptions of reading comprehension and their pedagogical practice as reading teachers. What it means to comprehend text; how classroom discourse matters in the development of textual understanding; and what understandings, purposes, and relationships should matter in classroom talk about text. Field work in which students facilitate small group text discussions for the duration of the quarter at a location of their choice.

EDUC 424: Introduction to Research in Curriculum and Teacher Education

Instructor: Hilda Borko

Limited to second-year doctoral students in CTE. How to conceptualize, design, and interpret research. How to read, interpret, and critique research; formulate meaningful research questions; evaluate and conduct a literature review; and conceptualize a study. Readings include studies from different research paradigms. Required literature review in an area students expect to explore for their qualifying paper.

EDUC 466: Doctoral Seminar in Curriculum Research

Instructor: Sam Wineburg

Required of all doctoral students in CTE, normally during their second year in the program. Students present their ideas regarding a dissertation or other research project, and prepare a short research proposal that often satisfies their second-year review. (CTE)

Sample Dissertation Titles

MA Program

Overview & Description of Approach

The M.A. in teaching history/social science at Stanford is housed within the internationally recognized Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP). The program is a 12-month, full-time program leading to a Master of Arts in Education and a preliminary California Teaching Credential. Its small size, access to top faculty and qualified cooperating teachers, and coherent design offer highly focused instruction interwoven with hands-on teaching experience, sustained mentoring, and personalized advising.

Drawing on the frameworks laid out in the California History-Social Science Standards, the teacher preparation program in history/social science prepares its graduates to be teachers of history as well as teachers who possess a repertoire of skills for developing students' capacities as literate and effective citizens.

Although the social studies curriculum is made up of many different disciplines, at its core is the discipline of history, which is the focus of the M.A. program in teaching history/social science. As a school subject in a democracy, history has multiple aims. Taught well, it forces us to raise questions and often unsettles us with the questions it raises. It teaches us how to function in a democracy by sharpening our skills to discern truth from falsehood. It teaches us above all that to understand the past we must listen to multiple voices and come to reasoned conclusions about what to believe. It teaches us that the claims we make should be backed by evidence – primary sources, secondary sources, and sources that reflect different perspectives and different beliefs. The study of history provides citizens with the knowledge of key events, people, and trends that allow them to understand their present and make thoughtful decisions about their future.

Stanford's M.A. courses are not offered online.

Courses & Syllabi

EDUC 268A: Teaching History/Social Science (Summer)

Instructor: Sam Wineburg | Syllabus

At the core of the M.A. program is a 3-quarter linked course in teaching history/social science. Summer quarter has three interwoven strands. First, we will consider what history is and how it differs from students' everyday notions about what the past is. We will attempt to understand and be more explicit about how historical knowledge is made, how and when historians change their minds, and how new historical questions come into view. Second, we will examine what it means to learn history—how does historical thinking develop over time? How can we "see" historical thinking so that we can shape, guide, and assess it? The third strand brings together the first two as we consider what it means to teach history. By the end of three quarters of Curriculum & Instruction in History/Social Science, you will emerge with concrete strategies that you can directly apply in your own classrooms.

EDUC 268B: Teaching History/Social Science (Fall)

Instructors: Sarah McGrew & Will Colglazier

Education 268B is continuation of 268A. Our focus this quarter is on teaching the literacies of history and the social sciences. We will pay special attention to the teaching of historical reading and writing. We also examine the "new literacies" of digital media and film. We will analyze these literacies and learn how to use them effectively in the classroom.

EDUC 268C: Teaching History/Social Science (Winter)

Instructors: Sarah McGrew & Will Colglazier

In this continuation of Curriculum & Instruction in History/Social Science, we focus on curriculum design. Using the tools and ideas from prior work, you will create a cohesive unit of instruction that features thinking in discipline-specific ways while supporting students' literacy development. We will draw on the "backwards planning" model of Wiggins and McTighe to guide us through this process. To support your growth as curriculum writers, we'll begin the quarter by developing unit questions and enduring understandings that will lend your unit coherence and help you make decisions about what to teach. We'll then consider how assessments can further your goals. We will also devote some class time to the teaching of economics and government, as well as the use of media in the classroom. This course has been designed as a workshop, where you'll reflect on your work with peers as well as receive ongoing feedback from us.

More about STEP

Find out more about the Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP), here. For information about admissions and financial aid, visit the admissions section of the STEP website.

Dana Mejías
San Diego, CA

I am a middle school teacher in San Diego and was fortunate enough to attend a SHEG workshop in...

Mark Helman
Taichung, Taiwan
A huge thank you to the Stanford History Education Group!  Your incredible work and stimulating...
Loi Laing
Miami, FL

I can't recall how or when I stumbled upon Reading Like a Historian, but it was a...

Nicole Ritter
Fort Mill, SC

I am using these lessons and loving them.  I have always been a firm believer in use of...

Ermelinda Sosa
Dallas, TX

I have really enjoyed the lessons from your group. Thank you very much. I love the primary...

Bobbi Young
Colorado Springs, CO

I'm thrilled that I found this site! I have wanted to try this methodology in my classroom, but...

Tammi Holman
Dothan, AL

Congratulations!  I have begun to integrate your curriculum into my U.S. History and U.S....

Sandy Smaltz
Big Rapids, MI

I came across your site while researching to update and improve my U.S. History classes. I was...

Quinn Longhurst
Taylorsville, UT

I just wanted to thank you all for this brilliant curriculum. I have been trying to find primary...

Heather Ihde
Nashville, TN

I just wanted you to know how much I love and appreciate all of the Reading Like a Historian...

Matthew McDonald
Woodbridge, VA

I love using your lessons in my classroom! I teach both 6th and 7th-grade U.S. History in...

Paul C. Beavers
Nashville, TN

I use these documents and lesson plans all the time!  This is an amazing resource...

Kevin Hodges
Pereira, Colombia

Let me just say that I love this program. It has a variety of useful information that helps...