Program of Study

The tentative program of study below is provided to give a general idea to prospective students and current students about the course work involved in the educational neuroscience concentration. Each student's individual program of study is developed by the student with the advisor, considering each student's backgrounds, strengths, interests, and the type of research they consider for their eventual dissertation study. Please refer to the UA course catalog for details and alternative courses. As a reminder, the sequence below adheres to the requirements ONLY for the PhD in Educational Psychology with a concentration in Educational Neuroscience.

Current students, please click the and icons for information and FAQs respectively. To download a PDF version of this guide, click here.
  • Educational Psychology Core Courses 7 credits
  • BEP 500 Advanced Educational Psychology 3 credits
  • BEP 600 Doctoral Pro-Seminar 3 credits
  • HD 500 Human Development OR HD 501 Child Development 3 credits

    • Foundations of Educational Psychology Courses 9 credits
    • Courses that satistfy this requirement are typically BEP 500 or HD 500 level courses.

    • BEP 570 Foundations of Educational Neuroscience

      3 credits
    • BEP 571 Computational Methods in Educational Neuroscience

      3 credits
    • BEP 5## Course (Student Choice)

      3 credits

    • Foundations Courses 12 credits
    • Students must take one BEF course of their choosing and either BER 631 or BEF 642. The remaining six credits in this category can be fulfilled by course in other departments, indicated by "Foundations Course #" below.
    • BEF Course Number (Student Choice)
      [Suggestions: BEF 503 History of American Education; BEF 504 Philosophy of Education; BEF 510 Philosophical, Historical, and Social Foundations of Education] 3 credits
    • BER 631 Qualitative Analysis 1 OR BEF 642 Philosophy of Science

      3 credits
    • Foundations Course 3 (Student chooses course)

      3 credits
    • Foundations Course 4 (Student chooses course)

      3 credits

    • Specialization Courses (Educational Neuroscience) 12 credits
    • Student chooses a combination of courses to meet the minimum credit requirement (12 credits). The following courses may be used to satisfy this requirement. This list is not exhaustive, and students are encouraged to work with their advisors to develop a suitable plan-of-study here.

    • BEP 670-Methods and Trends in Educational Neuroscience

      3 credits
    • BEP 6## Course (Student Choice)
      [Suggestion: BEP 600-Contemporary Educational Psychology Problems. This course is offered under multiple sections that differ by topic and instructor. See the "Specialization Courses" tab for a listing of available offerings or the COE Graduate Catalog.

      3 credits
    • The courses listed below can be used to satisfy the remaining two courses needed in the "Specialization Courses" category. Consult with your advisor to choose courses that best prepare you for your dissertation topic (Source: Dr. Steve Thoma, May 2018).
    • PY 650 Cognition and Learning 3 credits
    • PY 655 Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging 3 credits


    • Research Methods Courses 15 credits
    • Note: 15 hours must be devoted to research courses of which 2 must be Quantitative Research Methods. These can include BER courses or courses in other departments that are research-method based. The list of courses below is a suggestion only.
    • Quantitative Research 1
      [Suggestion: BER 540 Quantitative Research Methods]

      3 credits
    • Quantitative Research 2
      [Suggestion: BER 640 Quantitative Research Methods

      3 credits
    • Research Course 3
      [Suggestion: BER 641 Multivariate Statistics OR BER 642 Advanced Regression Methods]

      3 credits
    • Research Course 4
      [Suggestion: BER 645 Advanced Experimental Design]

      3 credits
    • Research Course 5
      [Suggestion: BER 658 Psychometric Theory and Practice]

      3 credits

      • Coursework Total

        57 credits

Relevant Educational Neuroscience Courses

Below is a sampling of courses offered by the Educational Psychology program and that are relevant to students concentrating in Educational Neuroscience. Required ed neuro courses are indicated. Course offerings change by semester and year, so check the official course catalog for updated information.

Motivation and Self Regulation

BEP 505

In this course, students investigate the development of self-regulatory processes and the match between those processes and educational practice. Transitions from home to school, elementary to secondary, and high school to college/work are considered in depth.

Foundations of the Learning Sciences

BEP 541

This course provides a foundation in the learning sciences and cognitive research, with a particular focus on educational settings.

Social and Cultural Basis of Behavior

BEP 561

Provides fundamental knowledge regarding the methods in which social and cultural interactions and histories influence human behavior. Focuses on application of social psychology principles and multicultural issues to increase awareness and improve skills across a variety of social settings, including schools and human-service agencies.

Personality and Social Development

BEP 561

Examines the major theories of personality and social-emotional factors as they impact on the learning process and educational practice. Writing proficiency is required for a passing grade in this course. A student who does not write with the skill normally required of an upper-division student will not earn a passing grade, no matter how well the student performs in other areas of the course.

Foundations of Educational Neuroscience

BEP 570 Ed Neuro Requirement

This is an introductory course on Educational Neuroscience, an emerging area of research grounded in multiple disciplines including (but not limited to) educational psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science, and learning sciences. The purpose of this course is to provide an introduction to major issues and topics in these domains and discuss implications for educational research and practice.

Design of Computational Tools for Learning and Research

BEP 571

This course is a hands-on practicum in designing and building computational tools both for learning interventions and research studies. Topics covered include programming techniques for stimulus presentation and data analysis, agent-based modeling, 3D modeling, tangible computing, and interface design.

Contemporary Educational Problems and Educational Psychology (Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience)

BEP 600-Section Option

Educational Neuroscience is an emerging area of research grounded in multiple disciplines including (but not limited to) education, psychology, neuroscience, and cognitive science. The purpose of this course is to explore major research trends and methodologies in educational neuroscience through readings and discussions, and hands-on data analysis activities.

Contemporary Educational Problems and Educational Psychology (Morality)

BEP 600-Section Option

The human morality is one of the most popular topics in recent neuroscience, behavioral psychology, and evolutionary psychology. Such natural scientific methodologies and approaches have attempted to provide us with novel perspectives for the examination of the nature and mechanism of moral cognition, moral emotion, and moral behavior. The intent of this class is to review the current research on the human morality, and discuss various related topics from multidisciplinary perspectives, including but not limited to, moral development, social neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, and biological psychopathology. Furthermore, we discuss how to apply such interdisciplinary methodologies and perspectives in moral education in diverse educational settings.

Contemporary Educational Problems and Educational Psychology (Language and Literacy Development: Diverse Processes and Populations)

BEP 600-Section Option

What is it about the development of reading and writing skill that vexes so many students and teachers? If all typically-developing children soak up their first language ‘like sponges’, why do so many struggle with academic language, the language of schooling, in written form but even in oral form? What cognitive mechanisms are crucially involved in language processing across modalities? What strategies facilitate literacy development across diverse student populations? And what happens when a child knows, or is expected to learn, more than one language, but then needs to use each one for different purposes across the contexts of her home and school life?

“Language and Literacy Development: Diverse Processes and Populations” is the first in a series of Special Topics courses on the development of language and literacy in children, and it is designed to identify and develop theoretically nuanced, empirically informed, and academically applicable answers to these questions and others. In this iteration of the course, participants critically engage with seminal and state-of-the-art research on the development of language and literacy with a particular focus on the illuminating population of English-language learners/bilingual children. Readings focus on cognitive, social, and psycho-linguistic processes, and support the class’ collaborative development of an experimental study exploring a related phenomenon, to be submitted for presentation at a disciplinary conference. Some knowledge of language development is presupposed.

Seminar in Learning and Cognition

BEP 641

Cognitive approaches to learning/teaching with focus on what constitutes authentic learning. Topics/themes include nature of preschool learning, sources contributing to learning, constructivism and holistic perspectives.

The Psychology of Morality

BEP 650

An overview of the psychology of morality with a particular focus on the processes leading to moral action. Specialty topics include measurement, gender, cross-cultural, and educational issues. Character education will be discussed with special attention to the empirical and theoretical background of current character education programs.

Research Methods and Trends in Educational Neuroscience

BEP 670 (Multiple Sections) Ed Neuro Requirement

Educational Neuroscience is an emerging area of research grounded in multiple disciplines including (but not limited to) education, psychology, neuroscience, and cognitive science. The purpose of this course is to explore major research trends and methodologies in educational neuroscience through readings and discussions, and hands-on data analysis activities.

Readings in Educational Psychology (Brown Bag)

BEP 690 Ed Neuro Requirement

An advanced, weekly seminar covering special topics in Educational Psychology and Educational Neuroscience. Students also present their research projects every year in this seminar.

Advanced Topics in Educational and Cognitive Neuroscience

BEP 671

This course covers advanced topics in educational neuroscience. Some of the topics covered are neuroplasticity, structural, functional and effective connectivity, evolution of brain and cognition, sensory-motor integration, and genetics of learning.


Timeline to the Comprehensive Exam

All degree-seeking students in the Educational Psychology doctoral program are required to successfully complete a written comprehensive examination before a degree is granted. The following timeline is meant to illustrate the steps of the process involved in working towards the comprehensive exams and planning for the dissertation phase.

Note: Calendar icons indicate deadlines by which steps should be completed (Fall and Spring, respectively). Always check with your advisor, program director, and the Registrar for the most up-to-date policies.

  • Semester Before Planned Exam
  • Step 1

    As you finish up your required coursework, consult with your advisor to confirm you are ready and prepared for your written exam. This usually occurs when you have completed your core classes (Year 3 or 4) and when you have identified a dissertation topic.
    You may want to read up on the field of educational psychology, so click here for the APA Educational Psychology Handbook.

  • Step 2

    Register for 3-6 dissertation hours in myBama during the semester you intend to take your exam. Enroll in the section corresponding to your committee chair.

  • Semester of Exam
  • Step 3

    Notify the department office of your intent to take your comprehensive exam. This must be done within the first two weeks of the semester.

  • Step 4

    Form your dissertation committee. Make sure to fill out this FORM , and submit it to the Graduate School.

    REMINDER: A dissertation committee, with the director of the dissertation as its chairperson, supervises the preparation of the dissertation. The committee shall have not fewer than five members, all of whom are appointed by the dean of the Graduate School. All members of a dissertation committee must hold Graduate Faculty status at UA and must represent at least two academic departments.The chair of the committee must be a full member of the Graduate Faculty. A majority of the Dissertation Committee members must be regular UA faculty. It is the student’s responsibility to determine whether or not the department has dissertation committee policies in addition to those of the Graduate School.

  • Step 6

    Submit your completed written exam. The exam must be submitted within 30 days of receiving it.

  • Step 5

    Receive and begin your written exam.
    REMINDER: You must work on this exam individually, without assistance from faculty or peers.
    HELPFUL TIP: Students are encouraged to refer to the following handbook (UA credentials required) while completing the comprehensive exam: APA Educational Psychology Handbook.

  • Step 7

    Receive your written exam score from faculty (exams must be scored within 2 weeks of submssion).
    If you passed, be sure to celebrate, and continue to the next step! If you were unsuccessful this time around, meet with the program coordinator.

  • Step 8

    No later than two-weeks before the end of the semester, submit your oral exam document (i.e., prospectus). Like the written exam, this must be completed without assistance from faculty or peers. Your committee will have approximately 10 days to review your prospectus before providing you with feedback.

  • Step 9

    During the last week of the semester, defend your oral exam document (i.e., prospectus) to your committee. Plan for a 20-minute oral presentation, and expect 40-minute question and answer session by your committee.

  • Step 10

    After your oral exam, your committee will hold a meeting. They will conduct two votes:
    Vote 1: Pass/Fail oral exam
    Vote 2: Approve/Reject dissertation topic
    If you fail your oral exam or if your dissertation topic is rejected, see the program coordinator.

  • Propose the Dissertation
  • Step 11

    Now, you will begin the prep work for your dissertation. At this point, you are encouraged to work with your advisor/mentor. Before you can begin the formal work of your project, you must propose your dissertation and be admitted to candidacy. The proposal involves writing the first three chapters of your dissertation. Details about the content of each chapter can be found on the department website HERE. Scroll down to "Dissertation Proposal" for information.

  • Step 12

    The proposal needs to be presented orally to the dissertation committee, who will provide feedback and decide whether or not the student can progress to the next stage by becoming a PhD candidate (this is known as the proposal defense).

    After successfully passing the proposal defense, you will consult your advisor about dissertation committee feedback, apply to the IRB if necessary, start to conduct your project, and write your dissertation. At this point, you will be "admitted to candidacy!"

  • Begin Formal Dissertation Work

Want to Apply?

Interested in applying to our PhD program? Use the link below to access the application. Please note that you must apply to the PhD program in Educational Psychology and indicate your concentration choice as "Educational Neuroscience".

Apply Now

Have a Question?

If you're interested in learning more about our program, please explore this website. For faculty research interests, click the "Research" button from the menu or feel free to contact our faculty. For general program-related questions, contact the program coordinator, Dr. Firat Soylu, at fsoylu@ua.edu. We look forward to connecting with you!

Are you a Current Student?

Looking for resources? Click the link below to access resources for students and faculty in our program.

Resources