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Curriculum, Instruction and the Science of Learning, PhD

The Curriculum, Instruction and the Science of Learning (CISL) is a multidisciplinary doctoral degree program that focuses on addressing practical educational problems through research in diverse contexts for learning and teaching.


While educational programs in Curriculum and Instruction are common, our program stands out by emphasizing the Science of Learning, a 21st century approach to developing evidenced-based practice through design research. In design research, we implement innovative practice/curriculum, study the effects, and improve the implementation for further study. The field emerged out of new technological innovations but has expanded to include diverse interdisciplinary formations to create educational solutions.

In the CISL program you can:

  • Create a custom program to meet your particular research and career interests.
  • Participate in cutting-edge research and position yourself at the forefront of educational innovations to solve educational problems by working with faculty experts across formal disciplines.
  • Help investigate complex problems across different fields.

Applications are considered for fall and spring admission, with a rolling deadline for admission.

Teach and conduct research at the intersection of multiple disciplines

Work in multidisciplinary research clusters such as:

  • Arts Integration
  • Early Learning
  • Educational Informatics
  • Educational Technologies
  • Integrated STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Education
  • New and Multimodal Literacies
  • Product Design
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) Education
  • Spatial Literacy
  • Social Learning and Culture
  • Real and Virtual Learning Spaces
  • Situated and Embodied Cognition

Program Requirements

The only required course in the CISL program is LAI 615: Seminar in Curriculum, Instruction and the Science of Learning (although some of the specializations do require certain courses for their students). The courses listed below are frequently taken by CISL students in their first semester, but it is important that students correspond with their initial advisors to determine the best course plan for them. This program can be completed fully online on a part-time or full-time basis and there are no residency requirements.

  • LAI 610SEM: Introduction to Doc Students in Learning and Instruction
  • LAI 615SEM: Curriculum, Instruction, and the Science of Learning

If you have questions regarding available courses, please contact Tracey McNerney (

Your program of study will include:

24 credit hours in Multidisciplinary Concentration
28 credit hours in Research
10 credit hours in Dissertation
62 doctoral credit hours
10 relevant credit hours from master’s degree
72 total credit hours

Students enrolled in the CISL Program are expected to have specific prerequisite technology skills. It is further expected that, if needed, early requisite skills will be developed individually. These skills are required for completion of assignments and are not covered in program courses. It is your responsibility to gain proficiency to successfully complete course objectives and assignments.

What is the Time Commitment?

Online courses traditionally require a minimum of 9 to 12 hours of dedicated study outside of participation in the virtual classroom, so it is important that you take into consideration other personal and professional commitments as you pursue your coursework.


Application Requirements

Students are accepted into the program and may start coursework in either the fall or spring semester. Students are admitted on a rolling basis.

Application Requirements

Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and must submit:

  • An online application.
  • A $50 non-refundable application fee in US currency.
  • Undergraduate and graduate transcripts from all post secondary institutions attended other than UB. 
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test (MAT) scores (scores must be from within the past five years).
  • Statement of career goals and objectives.
  • Resume or curriculum vitae.
  • Two academic or professional references.
  • Admission interview.
  • Sample of academic writing (e.g., master's thesis, professional publication).

Former/Maiden Name

The Graduate School of Education must be made aware if applicants have ever changed their name.  If this is the case, be sure to ask the institution sending your transcripts to indicate your current name and any former or maiden names.

Admissions Decision

The admissions decision will be communicated to you as soon as review is complete. The decision is based on a number of factors and is the result of a thorough and deliberate process. All decisions are final and cannot be appealed.

In order to be compliant with FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), we are prohibited from discussing the admissions decision with anyone other than you, the applicant.

Supporting Documentation

All supporting documents must be uploaded and attached to your online application. This includes unofficial copies of your transcripts and any other documents required for review.


Recommendation Letters

You will be asked to provide contact information about each individual providing a recommendation. Please note that your recommenders will receive the electronic request to provide a recommendation letter only after you "formally submit" the application.

The Curriculum, Instruction, and the Science of Learning (CISL) is a doctoral degree program in the Department of Learning and Instruction, in the Graduate School of Education, at the University at Buffalo.

University Computing Standards

All students are required to have access to an adequately equipped computer that meets the University computing standards as well as daily access to a reliable broadband  connection (i.e., DSL or cable). Students are also expected to have basic computer competency before beginning their course work.