Department of Educational Studies

Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education

 M.Ed. Degree in Educational Theory and Social Foundations (ETSF)

Program Philosophy

This Masters program is based in democratic philosophy and the philosophy of social reconstructivism: schools are seen as sites for examining, interpreting, and critiquing society, and for developing citizen skills and knowledge to constantly reconstruct society to better reflect democratic values and practices at its core.  Working in urban or rural settings presents both opportunities and challenges for teachers, community service providers, or public officials who needs to understand the social and political environment and their histories in order to better help the communities and constituencies whom they serve. 

The purpose of UT’s Masters of Education Degree in Educational Theory and Social Foundations (ETSF) is to prepare citizen leaders with the knowledge, skills, and supportive intellectual environment necessary to act for effective change in the real world.  We recognize that most of our Masters students bring extensive experience working in schools and other community institutions, and thus bring to the program pressing issues and the desire to develop both background knowledge and research skills to address them.   We believe in praxis: by framing concrete issues with interdisciplinary theories from the social sciences, students come to recognize different aspects of—and develop innovative solutions to—the problems present in their communities and institutions.  [back to top]

Areas of Concentration

The Toledo area, rich in both immigrant and migrant history, continues to be home to many citizens and activists who work to address social justice and equity issues at all levels.  Faculty in Social Foundations of Education join in the work—both scholarly and applied—to address contemporary urban and other societal issues and needs including

    • Raising academic performance of underserved students and the social factors involved
    • Equity and access for all in a multicultural, democratic society
    • Social justice issues including funding and other distributive justice and policy issues
    • The place of teachers as leaders in urban school reform, and the recruitment of a diverse teaching and teacher education workforce
    • The purpose of education—both formal in school and informal in other settings—cross-culturally and in global society

With the collaborative guidance of their advisor, each student develops their own area of concentration, planning a sequence of interdisciplinary classes in the humanistic social sciences, including anthropology, history, philosophy, political science, and sociology.  This coursework can be enriched through taking classes throughout the University, including Africana Studies, Disability Studies, Women and Gender Studies, Social Linguistics, Criminal Justice, and Political Science.  An action research approach, combining theory with practice, is threaded throughout the coursework, always with an eye toward improving practices in community and institutional settings.  [back to top]

Categories of Inquiry

The following questions constitute broad categories of inquiry that frame the inquiry-based model of graduate education in the field of Educational Theory and Social Foundations.  

Social Justice

    • What is the nature of social justice?
    • What constitutes educational and social justice in a democracy?
    • In what ways and to what degree are American (and other) educational systems just or unjust?
    • How is educational and social justice enacted?
    • What is the relationship between justice, education, and peace?
    • What is the impact of our knowledge of justice and foundations on educational theory, policy, and practice?


    • What is the nature of power?
    • What is the current and historical distribution of power in American society?  
    • How should power be distributed in a democratic society?
    • What implications does a particular distribution of power have on education and other social institutions?
    • What are the power dynamics in schools and classrooms?
    • Is there are a relationship between school and classroom power dynamics and those of the larger society?
    • How is power exercised in society and in educational institutions?
    • What is the relationship between power and justice?
    • What is the source(s) of power?
    • What is the relationship between power and wealth?


    • What is the nature of knowledge?
    • What does it mean to know something?
    • What is the difference between belief and knowledge?
    • Is there a relationship between knowledge and power?
    • Are there various ways of knowing and forms of knowledge?
    • Is knowledge socially and culturally constructed?
    • What knowledge is most valuable?
    • In what ways does knowledge define teaching and learning?
    • Do race, gender, and ethnicity influence what and how we know?


    • What is culture?
    • Is reality culturally constructed?
    • What is the relationship between power, knowledge, and culture?
    • Do schools reflect the culture of the society within which they are situated?
    • What constitutes a just response to cultural diversity?
    • What is the nature of multicultural education?
    • Is justice culturally relative?
    • Is there a cultural mismatch between the school and the student’s home life?


    • What is the nature of ideology?
    • Do all societies have an ideology?
    • Is justice defined by ideology?
    • What is the relationship between power and ideology?
    • Do schools promote ideological hegemony – a dominant ideology?
    • What is the relationship between knowledge and ideology?
    • Does ideology drive politics?
    • Is the curriculum shaped by the dominant ideology?
    • Does ideology justify a particular distribution of power and wealth in society?  What role does schooling play in this distribution?
    • What is the relationship between ideology and religion?
    • Is there a relationship between American democracy and imperialism?


    • What is the nature of society?
    • What is the relationship between social structures and forces and social institutions?
    • What is the relationship between power and social structure?
    • What is the nature of the school-society interface?  Does schooling reflect the nature of the society’s structures?
    • What is the nature of the “good” society?
    • Are schools social institutions?
    • What is the relationship between dominant social institutions (government, economy, media, military-industrial complex, etc.) and educational institutions?
    • In what ways are power, knowledge, and ideology institutionalized?   [back to top

M.Ed. Program Requirements

The M.Ed. in ETSF consists of 30 hours of coursework:

    • Major coursework in TSOC or related disciplines (15 credit hours) 
    • Foundations Core (12 credit hours)
    • Capstone Experience: Thesis or Project (3 hours)

For a complete description of UT College of Graduate Studies Policies and Procedures, see the 2016-2017 Graduate College Catalog at Graduate catalog .  [back to top]

Master's Thesis OR PROJECT Process

Masters students are encouraged to start thinking about their major research interest within the first semester of coursework, and to discuss ideas with their advisor and other faculty members. 

Students may choose to do a Masters Thesis or Masters Project.  Both are similar in that they require research and address practical applications.  A thesis involves primarily research, with discussion in the conclusion about practical implications.  A project focuses on developing a practical project for implementation, based on sound research.

Students should determine their topic and the faculty advisor who will guide them within the first 15 hours of coursework so they can begin planning and researching.  The faculty advisor is often the advisor to whom the student was assigned at the beginning of their program; however, students are encouraged to ask any faculty member with whom they share interests to be their thesis or project advisor.

Students should use the template for formatting the thesis or project available on the UT College of Graduate Studies webpage: Thesis Dissertation

To be accepted officially, a thesis must be read and approved by two faculty members in addition to the thesis advisor; a project must be read and approved by one faculty member in addition to the thesis advisor.

Recent Master’s theses and projects have included:

Compton, Tiffany. (2011). Peace in the CRC Partial Hospitalization Program (masters project chaired by D. Snauwaert). Department of Educational Foundations and Leadership, The University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio.

Docis, Diane. (2010). Employing Feminist Action Research to Create an Alternative to News Media Coverage of Take Back the Night (masters project chaired by R. Martin). Department of Educational Foundations and Leadership, The University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio.

Schilb, Maggie. (2016). An Introduction to Meaning Value within Environmental Ethics and Education (masters thesis chaired by D. Snauwaert). Department of Educational Foundations and Leadership, The University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio.   [back to top]

Course Descriptions

  • For a current listing, see the current Provost’s Office University of Toledo Catalog at: Catalog.

Students may also take relevant coursework in the social sciences and humanities in other departments and programs including but not limited to Africana Studies, Disability Studies, Women and Gender Studies, Sociology/Anthropology, Philosophy, and Political Science.  See course descriptions in the UT Catalogue and discuss with advisor when creating Plan of Study. [back to top]

Application Process 

To apply for admission into the Master's Degree for this program, visit the College of Graduate Studies Website.

The UT Graduate College homepage:
Admission Guidelines:
Admissions online application:

About the College of Graduate Studies: Every graduate student at The University of Toledo belongs to and is monitored by the College of Graduate Studies (COGS). Students in the TSOC program must fulfill the academic requirements set forth by COGS as well as the specific requirements of the TSOC program. For this reason, current graduate students are advised to remain in contact with and use COGS as a resource throughout their studies.

Graduate Student Handbook:

Main Campus
University Hall, Room: 3240
Phone: 419.530.GRAD (4723) 
Fax: 419.530.4724

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College of Graduate Studies (COGS) Annual Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards

Each year, UT graduate students may apply for a fellowship, scholarship, or award given by the College of Graduate Studies. 

Complete descriptions and criteria are located on the College of Graduate Studies website:
Fellowships and Scholarships for Prospective Graduate Students

Scholarships and Awards for Current Graduate Students

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M.Ed. Program Graduates

Graduates of M.Ed. in ETSF program generally work in P-12 classrooms (though the M.Ed. is not a licensure program), research, community agencies, governmental institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), businesses valuing diversity expertise, urban development and planning, urban education reform, or university administration, faculty and staff positions. 

The M.Ed. in ETSF is an excellent degree for those planning to pursue the Ph.D. in Theory and Social Foundations or other social scientific and humanistic disciplines, or in specific professional and licensure programs such as Higher Education and Educational Administration.    [back to top]

Last Updated: 7/17/19