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Early Childhood Education Master's Specialization

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If you were initially admitted into the Early Childhood Education Specialization in the Curriculum Instruction Master’s degree, we will continue to work with you as you complete the program. Specific information is available here to support you as you work with an early childhood program adviser. Please note, there a time limit to complete the master's degree. You are allowed 7 years from admission to complete the required coursework. Coursework older than 7 years will not count toward your degree.

Beginning in 2015, the Early Childhood Education Specialization program was phased out and our new interdisciplinary and fully online master's degree in Early Childhood: Inclusive Education and Curriculum & Instruction was introduced.

Planning guide

Download the ECE program planning guide. You must bring your ECE planning guide with you to every advising session you attend. Please do not confuse the ECE planning guide with the CI planning guide. For our specialization, we use a separate ECE planning guide. Please fill out the planning guide and keep it up to date.

There are several main coursework components to the ECE Specialization that students must consider. First, we offer a 30-credit core set of courses and 15 elective credits that students must take to complete this program specialization (this means that you do not follow the regular CI core in full nor do you complete both program core course-lists). Next, the ECE Specialization core courses currently overlap three courses with the regular Master's in Curriculum and Instruction (CI) program core (CI 581, CI 580, and CI 560). The remaining courses in the ECE Master's Specialization are designed more specifically for the early childhood professional. While your degree lists a Master's in Curriculum and Instruction on your diploma, you will also receive a specialization certificate of completion in early childhood.

You and your advisor will determine the remaining 15 elective credits to best match your educational interests and professional development. Additionally, some core courses may be negotiated for changes, in consultation with your advisor, and determined by your advisor before a course has been taken in place of another.

Program information

The ECE Specialization is a non-licensure degree program, culminating in a master of arts (MA) or sciences (MS). It is a 45-credit degree; 30 credits are in core (required) courses and 15 credits are elective and designed between student and advisor based on student needs and advisor assessment. The program courses are offered in a variety of formats with the majority being fully online. 

NOTE: For our public school licensure program, please visit our Graduate Teacher Education Program. In addition, the GSE offers an Online Master's in Early Childhood: Inclusive Ed and Curriculum and Instruction.

Use this ECE Specialization program plan, if you are specializing in early childhood education.

The following program is in effect for MS/MA: ECE Specialization candidates.

Course requirements 

Total credits: 45 (minimum for a MS/MA)

Core classes (30 credits)

  • CI 581: Issues in Education (3 credits)
  • CI 580: Theories of Instruction (3 credits)
  • CI 570: Child Development and Education (3 credits)
    (currently replaced with ED 551 Child Development in Early Childhood and Inclusive Education (4 credits))
  • CI 571: Play: Early Childhood Curriculum (3 credits)
  • CI 572: Language and Literacy in Early Childhood Education (3 credits)
  • CI 573: Assessment and Technology in Early Childhood Education (3 credits)
  • CI 576: Equity and Cultural Diversity in Early Childhood Education (3 credits)
  • CI 558: Advanced Curriculum Design in K-Primary Grades (3 credits)
    (currently replaced with CI 577 Learning Designs: Environments in ECE)
  • CI 590: Action Research Proposal (3 credits)
  • CI 591 or 501: Action Research Project Implementation (3 credits)

*Or other culminating activity (Thesis or Exam) (3-6)

*The program will evaluate students to assure that they have coursework and/or experience regarding Early Childhood Special Education prior to graduation. 

Electives (15 credits)

The remaining 15 credits are electives chosen with the help of the advisor. Electives that can be applied to other specializations and/or endorsements are listed in brochures available through the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. See your advisor for further information about these programs/endorsements that can be taken in conjunction with your core classes. Electives for the ECE Specialization program are not limited to ECE courses and recommended offerings are provided by your advisors each year based on the schedule. Students may choose courses offered throughout the Graduate School of Education and other departments on campus as well.

The following list are suggestions only.

Possible electives

  • CI 579: Young Child As Scientist (3 credits)
  • CI 577: Learning Designs in ECE (3 credits)
  • CI 578: Constructivist Curriculum: Big Ideas (3 credits)
  • CI 509: Practicum in Early Childhood Education (3 credits)
  • ECE Summer Intensives (check schedule of classes)
  • Continuing Education ECE online courses  
  • Other curriculum and instruction courses
  • Special education courses to be determined
  • Counseling courses to be determined
  • Ecology, Culture, Technology, Leadership and Learning courses to be determined

MS/MA culminating activity

Students will select one of the following three options to complete the requirements for the master's degree:

  1. An independent project—3-6 credits
  2. A thesis—6 credits
  3. A written comprehensive exam

Independent project option (Action Research Project)
Candidates completing the independent project option must complete the following prerequisites.

  • CI 590: Action Research Proposal (3 credits)
  • CI 591: Action Research Implementation (3-6 credits)

The purpose of action research is to systematically study and improve one’s own classroom practice. In CI 590, candidates design and write their independent action research project proposal. In CI 591, candidates implement their project.

Candidates selecting the thesis option will register for 6 graduate credits for the completed project.

  • Prerequisites: CI 590: Action Research or equivalent research methods course.Candidates will follow the most current Graduate School of Education style manual for dissertations and theses. Candidates selecting this option will be expected to work closely with their advisor and may be required to join a thesis seminar that may be taken as an independent study.

Comprehensive examination option
The comprehensive examination is a rigorous experience covering all curriculum and instruction MS/MA core content areas. The examination is evaluated by an examining board of faculty members.

  1. Development of the comprehensive examination
    Questions for all comprehensive examinations are developed by program faculty. Three questions will be selected from a pool at the time of the examination – two related to specified course requirements and one related to the elective area.
  2. Administration of the comprehensive examination
    The exam will be administered on designated dates, at a site to be announced. Students may take up to three hours for the examination. Appropriate accommodations will be made for students with special needs and/or disabilities.
  3. Evaluation of the examination
    Students must pass all sections of the examination. If a student fails either the entire examination or any section thereof, the department may dismiss the student from the degree program, or allow the student to repeat the entire examination, or the section that was failed after a minimum of three months. The result of the second examination is final. Question evaluations will be completed within four to six weeks from the date of the examination, and students will be notified of the results.

*A minimum enrollment of 1 credit is required during the term in which oral or written exams are taken.