Social Foundations

There is much more to education than schooling and much more to schooling than educational techniques. Learn how our multidisciplinary approach enables you to get a broad perspective and better understand education.

The School of Education and Human Development Impact

In the Social Foundations program, you will examine issues that reach beyond the given roles and goals of educational specialists and practitioners and delve into the complex interrelationships between school and society as well as education and culture. Discover how schools are viewed as social organizations having policies that affect, and are affected by, collective intellectual perspectives. This broad view of education includes both schooling and non-schooling enterprises. Because Social Foundations offers you a perspective on education in its larger dimensions, this program can be described as the “humanities of education.”

Here at the UVA School of Education and Human Development, our Social Foundations program features a range of academic disciplines. Its multi-disciplinary approach provides insight into the goals and consequences (intended or unintended) of educational activities as a whole. An interdepartmental area of emphasis is offered in Educational Policy Studies. This area is a unique partnership between the Department of Leadership, Foundations & Policy; the Center for Higher Education; and Social Foundations of Education.

“I hope to further my teaching career, learn more about Lao/Asian culture and how to incorporate it into a multicultural and culturally responsive classroom.”

– Corey Haines, M.Ed. in Educational Psychology—Social Foundations Graduate, 2016



Our master’s degree offers you a broad understanding of the complexities and processes of today’s education environment. You’ll also gain the knowledge and skills necessary to help students in the classroom. This degree prepares you for teaching positions in K-12 education and community colleges, for policy-related functions in schools and school systems, and for employment in various governmental agencies.

Training at the doctoral level prepares you for positions in universities and colleges, for policy-related functions in schools and school systems, for work in educational research agencies or for other positions in professional education. Opportunities also exist for employment in various governmental agencies, both domestic and international.

Explore Our Degrees

Choosing the right degree within our program is important to ensuring that you achieve an outcome that supports your career goals. Let us help guide you through your choices.

  • Global Studies in Education Minor

    For UVA undergraduates, the Global Studies in Education Minor (18 credits) provides an interdisciplinary view of social theories and comparative frameworks that stretch beyond traditional definitions of teachers and school administrators. It delves into concepts of school and society; history, philosophy, and culture; and educational policy, theory, and practice. This minor is excellent if you’re considering a career or further education in: Business, Domestic and international NGO work, Education leadership and social entrepreneurship, Government positions in education, Law, Non-profit work, The Peace Corps, Policymaking, and Teaching, including Teach for America or teacher certification programs.

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  • M.Ed. in Educational Psychology—Social Foundations

    By earning an M.Ed. in Educational Psychology—Social Foundations, you’ll receive a broad foundation of knowledge that will enable you to effectively teach to a more diverse student body and gain insight into our educational system and its effectiveness in supporting various student populations. In addition, elective courses give you the knowledge required to address specific needs in the classroom, and you’ll have the opportunity to develop skills to be a more effective educator to various types of learners. While earning this M.Ed., you can simultaneously earn an endorsement in Gifted Education or English Language Learners Education. We also offer Focus Area elective courses in Reading Education and Instructional Technology. The program is offered full- or part-time. Core courses are provided in Charlottesville, or at UVA’s Regional Center in Falls Church currently which will be changed to fully online starting next year. Elective courses are provided at the same locations or online.

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  • Ph.D. in Education—Social Foundations

    The Ph.D. in Education—Social Foundations program offers an interdisciplinary course of study that explores the interrelationship between education, schooling, and society. You will examine issues that reach beyond the given roles and goals of educational specialists and practitioners. Education is reviewed critically within social, cultural, and collective intellectual perspectives. While the program embraces traditional disciplinary approaches in analyzing and interpreting education, it also vigorously promotes an interdisciplinary approach using a variety of research methods to explore complex questions and issues in education. Its synergistic and flexible curriculum exposes you to sociological, anthropological, philosophical and historical approaches to understanding and researching education and schooling.  All PhD students are fully funded (tuition and a graduate stipend) for four years.

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By the Numbers

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Program Details

  • Associations

    The following links will take you to educational associations related to the varying fields of Social Foundations.

    • American Educational Research Association: The general educational association, with over 26,000 members; publishes a variety of journals; conference held late March to early April.
    • American Educational Studies Association: An association for those involved in the Foundations of Education; publishes Educational Studies; conference held late October.
    • History of Education Society: A small but high quality association; publishes The History of Education Quarterly; conference held late October to early November.
    • Philosophy of Education Society: A small association with less variety than AESA; publishes Educational Theory and the Philosophy of Education Yearbook; conference held late March to early April.
    • Sociology of Education Association: A small, more regional association; conference held late February.     
    • American Anthropological Association: The largest organization of those interested in anthropology; publishes American Anthropologist and Anthropology News, among others; conference held in mid-November.
    • American Sociological Association: An association with over 14,000 members; publishes American Sociological Review, among others; conference held in late August.
  • Resources