The comprehensive exam is the second major component of the
curriculum and instruction doctoral degree. Learn more about the exam and how
to adequately prepare.
The comprehensive examination is a written and
oral examination given to curriculum and instruction students to ascertain their
ability to apply acquired knowledge and skills.Read more
The comprehensive examination covers three major areas in
- foundations/curriculum and instruction
- focus studies
Exams are usually taken in the semester following the
completion of all coursework and planned in a face-to-face meeting with the
doctoral committee. At that meeting, a comprehensive exam scheduling form is
completed to identify:
- who will author each set of questions
- who will be the second reader
- what kind of exam it will be
- the dates for these exams to take place
Committee members are often chosen to write and/or be second
readers, but non-committee members may be chosen as well. It is the student’s
responsibility to gain permission from each author and second reader in advance
of the exam.
The following tips and information will help you prepare for
- Meet with the committee to determine formats,
dates, authors, and second readers for the three exams.
- Only curriculum and instruction resident faculty
and those who are qualified in the area can write questions unless you are teamed
- The sit down exam takes place in a room with a computer and no materials
- You have 8 hours to complete the exam. Go to the Teaching and Learning Department office for help with arranging a room and computer.
- The take home exam occurs over a two week period. The writer of the question you e-mails you the exam question on the start date and time. You e-mail back your answer to the writer and second reader. We suggest you time this exam when you will have the most time to focus on writing.
- You are allowed 16 weeks (four months) to
complete all three exams and must be registered for three hours in one of the
Each of the three areas may address questions related to:
- history and philosophy
- concepts and interpretation
- applications and problem solving
Three examples of the foundations/curriculum exam
1. Given the current policies and laws of the country and
your state, explain the common structures and elements of curriculum in your
school system. How are Dewey, Tyler, and one other thinker of your choice
represented in the curriculum and instruction and in what ways would you recommend
that these thinkers be more or less represented?
2. Trace the history of two curriculum theories (humanism
and pragmatism), identifying the major thinkers for each, the basic tenants of
each, and show how each are alike and different in their basic characteristics.
If found in the curriculum of a school today, what would each look like in
terms of broad themes, approaches, and philosophical underpinnings?
3. You have been asked to develop a sequence of professional
training workshops in literacy acquisition for an elementary school district
which has a high percentage of students from minority cultures and many low SES
students as well. What bodies of literature constitute the core of knowledge
from which you would draw in developing this curriculum? What conceptual
framework do you bring to this development process and how is this framework
revealed in the curriculum you would develop? (Do not develop the actual
curriculum in response to this question.) In your response make clear what
paradigmatic perspective you are using, which curriculum theorists you are
drawing on, and what role critical inquiry plays in this discussion.
For further guidance, talk with your adviser and other
doctoral students, and be sure to read page 15 of The Curriculum and Learning
Doctoral Application and Program Guide.
Four examples of the research comprehensive exam
1. Present as thoroughly as possible three paradigms for
research (traditional positivism, logical positivism, and interpretive) by
explaining each perspective’s history, earliest thinkers, and any associated
schools of thought, and how each paradigm defines ontology, epistemology,
causality, generalizability, and validity.
2. Compare and contrast the epistemological perspectives of
Bacon or Hume, Carnap or Popper, and Dilthey or Husserl. Show how each would
design a research study including purpose, problem/questions, methods, data
collection, and data analysis.
3. Examining the research study in the article provided,
carefully identify and critically analyze the methodology, methods, sampling,
data collection, analysis, and interpretation. Be detailed in your response.
4. Using an outline format, carefully present your
dissertation study from methodology to analysis. In using a full narrative
format, show how, by reformulating your study question, your dissertation study
would be designed using an opposite paradigm.
The following are statuses and options available to you
after the exam:
- conditional pass: conditions are provided
- fail: one more chance is allowed but not in same
term (for part failed only)
- obtain questions from authors/readers to prepare
an oral presentation
- oral meeting may be used for dissertation status
review or proposal meeting