Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development, PhD

The doctoral program in Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development, (ISHD) provides a strong interdisciplinary foundation in developmental theory and research, and prepares students for faculty positions and research careers.

The ISHD Ph.D. program combines the study of social, emotional, and cognitive aspects of human development considered within cultural contexts and relevant to social policies. Penn GSE’s commitment to urban education as well as its West Philadelphia setting offers students the opportunity to create a specialized program of study that leads to an enriched understanding of the diverse perspectives of human development across the lifespan. Students create an individualized program of study in close consultation with an academic advisor. Students are encouraged to take an interdisciplinary approach to human development and may take courses in other schools and departments at Penn.

View the University’s Academic Rules for PhD Programs.

Each student creates his or her own program of study in consultation with faculty mentor.
Recommended Courses include:
Inter/National Development and Education
Psychology of the African-American
Qualitative Studies of Developmental Interventions
Cultural Perspectives on Human Development
Peer Relationships in Childhood and Adolescence
Poverty and Child Development
Cognitive Processes
Complex, Multilevel, and Longitudinal Research Models
Contact the program for electives
Total Course Units for Graduation16

Required Milestones

Qualifications Evaluation (Also known as Program Candidacy)

A Qualifications Evaluation of each student is conducted after the completion of 6 but not more than 8 course units. The evaluation is designed by the specialization faculty and may be based on an examination or on a review of a student’s overall academic progress.

Preliminary Examination (Also known as Doctoral Candidacy)

A Candidacy Examination on the major subject area is required.  The candidacy examination is a test of knowledge in the student's area of specialization, requiring students to demonstrate knowledge and reasoning in the key content areas in their specialization as defined by their academic division. This examination is normally held after the candidate has completed all required courses.

Oral Proposal

All doctoral candidates must present their dissertation proposals orally and in person to the dissertation committee.

Final Defense of the Dissertation

The final dissertation defense is approximately two hours in length and is based upon the candidate’s dissertation. 

The degree and major requirements displayed are intended as a guide for students entering in the Fall of 2023 and later. Students should consult with their academic program regarding final certifications and requirements for graduation.