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Our Approach

POME’s approach is built on a cohort model, where students support each other throughout their graduate experience. POME students also rely on courses, research groups, employment opportunities, and faculty advising to move forward. This framework equips our graduates with the knowledge, tools, and experience to make important contributions to educational research, policy, and practice.

The Cohort Model

We believe that students do much of their most important learning with and from one another. Preliminary coursework, peer mentorship, and social activities help incoming students form a close cohort. All POME students enroll in the yearlong POME Seminar, which provides a “home base” for their first year. This is an opportunity to get to know all the program faculty through lunchtime talks about their current research and informal, faculty-hosted dinners. Over the course of the year, students learn about the process of obtaining an advanced degree and develop topics for independent research.


Formal coursework is an important part of graduate study in POME, during the first two to three years. Courses introduce students to the key concepts and theories of historians, sociologists, and economists who investigate problems of policy and politics, school improvement, and equity. Courses acquaint students with the state of empirical research on important problems and topics: How sound is the research? How much guidance does it offer for policy and practice? Where are the frontiers where important new research could be done? Courses also provide critical training in designing and conducting high-quality research. POME students develop competence and confidence in both quantitative and qualitative research methods.

In addition to the courses offered by POME faculty, students can select courses appropriate to their interests in other areas of the Graduate School of Education and from other UC Berkeley departments, such as Public Policy, City and Regional Planning, Sociology, Political Science, Ethnic Studies, and Anthropology.

Faculty Advising

Individual faculty advising is another important aspect of graduate study and a complement to formal coursework. When students are admitted to POME, they are assigned two faculty advisors who are working in their areas of interest. Advisors ensure that students get off to a strong start in the program. Students can make the most of their graduate study by initiating conversations with faculty about ideas and interests, work they are developing, issues they may be confronting, and requirements to move forward. In the Fall semester of the second and third year, POME students are required to submit an Annual Review for advisors to assess their progress, track completion of requirements and milestones, and provide constructive feedback.

Over time, students establish relationships with faculty beyond POME and eventually form committees of faculty to guide them through the advanced stages of graduate study and dissertation writing.

Research Groups

POME faculty encourage students to begin honing their own research interests early in their studies. Research Groups led by faculty provide a forum for students at all stages of graduate study to develop and receive feedback on their work. These groups are an important source of peer support and intellectual community within and across cohorts. Students may enroll in a given research group for credit as often as they wish. (See the POME Handbook for a detailed list of research groups.)

Research Apprenticeships

Mentored research projects with faculty can also prepare POME students to pursue independent research. Students gain valuable experience by serving as Graduate Research Assistants (GSRs) in our affiliated research institutes: Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), the Institute of Human Development (IHD), the Berkeley Evaluation and Assessment Research (BEAR) Center, as well as working for individual faculty research projects.

Teaching Opportunities

Many POME students will go on to careers in higher education, accepting faculty positions in areas such as policy research, organizational studies, professional education, educational leadership, and research methodology. There is ample opportunity for gaining resume-building teaching experience in the GSE’s undergraduate minor program, graduate programs, professional education and leadership programs, as well as in other UC Berkeley departments and Summer Sessions.

Supporting Progress: Milestones toward the Degree

All UC doctoral programs have an established length of time for completion of the degree, known as “normative time.” Students are required to complete a series of academic milestones in particular semesters, which mark progress toward the degree. Completion of each of the milestones leads students to develop, refine, expand, and communicate their own specialized areas of study. The POME milestones are as follows:

First-Year Oral Exam (end of 2nd semester). This exam establishes a student’s foundational knowledge gained in the first-year of studies. It is an opportunity for students to demonstrate, synthesize, and apply what they have learned in their coursework. Students are examined individually by two or three faculty members, and are expected to be prepared in all areas. Students have ample time to practice for the exam during the POME Seminar and in informal study groups. The examiners assess how well students can organize their conceptual and/or methodological knowledge and express it verbally. Adequate performance on the exam, as well as in the first year of coursework, is required for continuation in the doctoral program. It also satisfies one of the requirements for the MA degree in Policy & Organizations Research.

Outline of Program (4th semester). After their first year of coursework, students are beginning to identify their individual interests and design a program of study in consultation with their faculty advisors. Completing the Outline of Program form helps students to identify their proposed areas of specialization and to list the courses that prepare them for work in those areas. The initial design of the student’s individualized course of study can be altered in subsequent semesters with advisor approval.

Prequalifying Papers (4th and 5th semesters). Students develop two “position papers” to be reviewed and approved by faculty readers. Position papers usually include at least one example of empirical research and may also include a literature review, a conceptual essay, or a paper focused on methodological issues. Writing should meet professional standards and be of publishable quality, in the format and style used by professional journals in the field. Completion of these papers demonstrates that students are prepared to undertake the independent work of the dissertation.

Prequalifying Review and Prospectus (6th semester). In addition to the two position papers, students develop a dissertation prospectus as part of the prequalifying review. The prospectus is a preliminary, shorter version of the dissertation proposal. Including the prospectus in the prequalifying review gives students the opportunity to discuss their dissertation plans with faculty committee members before the Oral Qualifying Exam.

Oral Qualifying Examination (7th semester). Students transition into the work of the dissertation by participating in an oral examination. This is an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge of the three areas of specialization listed in their Outline of Program and to indicate the kind of contribution they are prepared to make. The oral examination is also an opportunity to discuss plans for dissertation research and to seek the advice and support of committee members. Soon after passing the qualifying exam, the student applies for advancement to candidacy and proceeds to the dissertation.

Dissertation Proposal and Dissertation (7th – 12th semesters). Students develop a complete proposal (about 20 pages) in consultation with their dissertation committee. This document identifies the purpose of the dissertation research and develops a plan for completion. A meeting takes place to discuss the proposal with the dissertation committee and hone the research questions and design. When the proposal is approved, students proceed to the ultimate project of graduate study: carrying out the research and writing the dissertation.