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Rethinking the EdD in Educational Leadership

Over the last few years much discussion and activity has focused on the types of degrees that are granted by educational leadership programs. An important influence on this work has been the Carnegie Foundation’s Lee Shulman. In a symposium that focused on findings of Carnegie’s Initiative on the Doctorate, Shulman (2004) suggested that programs clarify and reframe the purposes of the Ed.D. and Ph.D. He argued that, “We need Ph.D. preparation for scholarship and Ed.D. preparation for practice.”

Scholars within the UCEA community have engaged with the Carnegie Foundations work as well as other issues and questions concerning the various degrees that leadership programs offer, as evidenced by articles within the UCEA Review, symposia and papers presented at the UCEA Convention, and the changes being made in many UCEA programs.  The key issue within this debate is purpose—what is the purpose of each graduate degree?  From this question, many others emerge.  What should an individual expect to gain from attaining graduate education in educational leadership?  What should we expect to find in such degree programs? Who should be teaching in these programs?  What knowledge base should they draw upon?  What kinds of research methods should be emphasized? What practical experiences should be built in to these programs, and what should the capstone experience involve?  These and other questions are driving discussions, research and program change. 

It would be misleading to say that there is consensus in our field around these questions.  Indeed, there still exists much disagreement around whether district level leaders should earn an EdD or a PhD in their doctoral studies and whether these scholar practitioners should be required to carry out traditional dissertation research (see for example the point counter point between Andrews and Grogan and Prestine and Malen, 2005).  However, it is accurate to say that within conversations and program conceptualizations a number of commonalities are emerging. 

UCEA began tracking these conversations and program change initiatives several years ago, and one common idea is that the three degrees (i.e., MEd, EdD, PhD), particularly when offered within a single institution, should be clearly distinguishable along a number of key issues, such as degree objective, primary career intention, knowledge base, research methods, internship, and the capstone experience. The following table highlights one way of thinking about the key differences among the three degrees in educational leadership.

 

M. Ed.

Ed. D

Ph.D.

Primary Career Intention

Primary Career Intention

Primary Career Intention

School level leadership positions (e.g., principal, assistant principal, facilitator, teacher leader).

Administrative leadership in educational institutions or related organizations (e.g., superintendent, assistant superintendent, staff developer, curriculum director).

 

Scholarly practice, research, and/or teaching at university, college, institute or educational agency.

Degree Objective

Degree Objective

Degree Objective

Preparation of professional leaders competent in providing leadership for schools that supports the learning and development of all children.

Preparation of professional leaders competent in identifying and solving complex problems in education.  Emphasis is on developing thoughtful and reflective practitioners.

Preparation of professional researchers, scholars, or scholar practitioners.  Develops competence in conducting scholarship and research that focuses on acquiring new knowledge.

 

Knowledge Base

Knowledge Base

Knowledge Base

Develops and applies knowledge for practice.  Content themes are integrated with practice with emphasis on application of knowledge base. Coursework may be delivered in cooperation with Departments of C&I.

Develops and applies knowledge for practice.  Research-based content themes and theory are integrated with practice with emphasis on application of knowledge base.

Fosters theoretical and conceptual knowledge.  Content is investigative in nature with an emphasis on understanding the relationships to leadership practice and policy. 

Research Methods

Research Methods

Research Methods

Develops a basic understanding of research to interpret research, use descriptive data analysis skills, data-driven decision making skills, and basic program evaluation skills.  Prepares candidates to conduct school-based action research.

Develops an overview and understanding of research including data collection skills for action research, program measurement, and program evaluation. Could include work in management statistics and analysis.

 

Courses are comparable to doctoral courses in related disciplines. Courses develop an understanding of inquiry, and qualitative and quantitative research. Developing competencies in research design, analysis, synthesis and writing.

Internship

Internship

Internship

An appropriate internship or field experience is designed to provide candidates with an opportunity to apply new knowledge and develop administrative performance skills appropriate for intended professional career.

A field internship or experience appropriate for intended professional career.  Students demonstrate proficiency in program evaluation as part of the experience.

 

Practical experiences required in both college teaching and research.  Expectations that students will present at a professional conference.

Comprehensive Knowledge Assessment

Comprehensive Knowledge Assessment

Comprehensive Knowledge Assessment

Based on multiple sources, including a knowledge and practice portfolio.  Provides evidence of ability to improve practice based on knowledge and skills developed.

 

Written and oral assessments are used (e.g., comprehensive exams). Knowledge and practice portfolios provide evidence of ability to improve practice based on theory and research as well as demonstration of competencies.

Written and oral assessments are used to evaluate an understanding of the theoretical and conceptual knowledge in the field, as well as its relevance to practice and to evaluate competence in conducting research to acquire new knowledge.

 

Capstone/Thesis

Dissertation

Dissertation

Well-designed action research project on a substantive problem of educational practice.  Reflects theory or knowledge for addressing problems in applied settings.

 

Well-designed applied research of value for informing educational practice.  Reflects theory or knowledge for addressing decision-oriented problems in applied settings.

 

Original research illustrating a mastery of competing theories with the clear goal of informing disciplinary knowledge.

Capstone/Thesis Committee

Dissertation Committee

Dissertation Committee

Faculty advisor and field supervisor(s) confer regarding candidate’s action research project, portfolio, course performance and internship evaluation to determine readiness for practice.

 

Committee, including at least one practicing professional in an area of relevance to candidate’s program and possibly faculty from other institutions, evaluate candidate’s applied research.

 

Composed primarily of active researchers in areas relevant to students’ areas of interest.  Should include at least one faculty member from a related discipline or from another institution.

 

Note: The format for this framework is based on the work of faculty at the University of Missouri-Columbia (ELPA, 2005)

As you can see by scanning the three columns, each of the degree programs have been aligned to the purpose of the program, based on the probable intent of the individual seeking the degree.  Thus, an individual who is interested in a school level leadership position would be offered a degree program that is distinct in important ways from an individual seeking a district level leadership position or a position as a faculty member at a college or university.  For example, the curriculum of an EdD program might differ from that of a PhD program in several ways. The EdD curriculum would develop and apply knowledge for practice.  Here, research-based content themes and theory would be integrated with practice emphasizing the application of knowledge.  In the PhD program the curriculum would foster theoretical and conceptual knowledge.  Content would be investigative in nature with an emphasis on understanding the relationships to leadership practice and policy.  Likewise, the internship for an individual enrolled in a masters program, who is seeking a school level leadership position, would be designed to provide candidates with an opportunity to apply new knowledge and develop administrative performance skills appropriate for their intended professional career; whereas a doctoral student enrolled in a PhD Program would take part in teaching and research internships at the university level.  

The types of degree program distinctions captured in the above table are reflected in a number of recently redesigned educational leadership programs.  According to Everson (2006) “the intention has been to separate the Ph.D. program that is preparation for scholarship from the Ed.D. program that is preparation for practice” (p. 1). While recommendations regarding the structures and content of such programs continue to be debated, several universities have begun to redesign of their doctoral programs, including Saint Louis University, Vanderbilt University and the University of Southern California. These programs have mapped out curricula based on current research and, for the MEd and EdD, national standards and designed authentic applications of the curriculum content. Still, each of these programs, while redesigned for similar reasons, were described differently in program materials. 

I am frequently asked questions like: “What should masters programs look like in educational leadership programs? What is the best leadership program in the country? How can programs successfully bridge theory with practice? Why do we need both an EdD and a PhD in educational leadership?” Etc.  I have sought answers to such questions myself over the years.  In an effort to better understand what programs might look like if we redesigned them based on the degree program differentiations described above as well as current research on educational leadership, I began reviewing the curriculum and structure of a number of UCEA and non-UCEA programs that reflect the program differentiations outlined above.  During this comparison, I took into consideration UCEA program standards, the ISLLC standards (and critiques of the ISLLC standards), and recent research on leadership preparation. Based on my review, I developed three program descriptions—a MEd, EdD and PhD program description—and then shared these descriptions, along with the above table, with faculty from 15 UCEA institutions who have expertise in the area of program design as well as with the participants of a UCEA Convention session focused on the Ed.D. 

I had anticipated receiving a wide variety of responses and criticisms--not because I thought the models were poor, but because they were models.  However, while there were some suggestions for revision (e.g., adding content areas) and a few mild disagreements (primarily around research and the EdD) within the responses, they were overwhelming positive and supportive.  Moreover, the majority included the suggestion that the models be shared with the UCEA community for reflection and discussion.

With those intentions in mind, the following three program descriptions are offered as examples.

Working Model One: The M.Ed. in Educational Leadership

 

Master's programs in educational leadership are designed to develop the qualities and techniques requisite to school leadership in professional service. Those who are interested in becoming school level leaders should find M.Ed. coursework useful, timely fresh, and applicable to the challenges and rewards associated with school level leadership positions. Although programs differ, depending upon their focus (e.g., urban leadership), M.Ed. programs require around 36 hours of required coursework. The coursework is often aligned with national standards and divided into three curricular blocks: a Leadership Core, an Action Research, and an Internship Block.

 

Leadership Core

The purpose of the M.Ed. leadership core is to develop an overview and understanding of leadership at the school level. Content are aligned to national standards and themes (e.g., diversity, accountability) are and integrated with practice with an emphasis on application of the knowledge base. The courses in the leadership block are focused on key issues of leadership and student learning as well as the skills and knowledge needed to lead successfully at the school level.

Human Learning & Development

Developing Learning Cultures

Leading Curriculum and Assessment

Instructional Strategies and Instructional Leadership

Leading Professional Development for Learning

Using Technology to Enhance Learning

Introduction to Educational Statistics and Data Driven Decision Making

Administrative and Fiscal Management

Leading School Improvement

Community Engagement and Outreach

Ethical and Legal Implications of Leadership 

 

Action Research

Through Action Research, students develop a basic understanding of action research skills and how those skills can be put to use within a school setting for the purpose of program evaluation and school improvement.

              Action Research for School Leaders

 

Internship

The Internship is designed to provide candidates with an opportunity to apply new knowledge and develop skills appropriate for their intended professional career. Through collaborative partnerships and by building on the strengths and assets of local school communities, students examine and participate in processes related to leading, learning and teaching within one or more PK-12 school settings.

 

 

Working Model Two: The Ed.D in Educational Leadership

 

Those who are interested in becoming school district leaders should find Ed.D. coursework useful, timely and fresh, and applicable to the challenges and rewards associated with district and state level leadership positions. Although programs differ, depending upon their focus (e.g., urban leadership), Ed.D. programs typically require a minimum of 50 hours of required coursework. The coursework is often divided into four curricular blocks: a Concentration, Internship, Research, and Dissertation Block.

 

Leadership Core

The concentration is designed for K-12 teachers and administrators who aspire to key leadership positions in districts, departments of education, and other educational organizations.  The courses in the leadership core are delivered in a sequential manner, focusing on issues of leadership, accountability, diversity and student learning as well as the skills and knowledge needed to lead successfully at a district and state level.

Educational Leadership

Issues in Educational Leadership: Accountability

Issues in Educational Leadership: Diversity and Culture

Issues in Educational Leadership: Learning and Curriculum

The Laws and Politics of Education

Public School Finance and Business

Management of Human Resources

School Leadership and Instructional Improvement

Organizational Behavior and Change in Education

 

Internship

Through collaborative partnerships and by building on the strengths and assets of local school communities, students examine and participate in processes related to leading, learning and teaching across a broad spectrum of K-12 settings. The internship extends across two semesters, though practical experiences are tied to coursework throughout the program.

 

Research Core

The purpose of the Ed.D. research core is to develop an overview and understanding of research including data collection skills for action and qualitative research, program measurement, and program evaluation. For some students it may include work in management statistics.

Inquiry Methods I

Inquiry Methods II

Critique of Research

 

Dissertation

The Dissertation is designed to prepare students for their dissertation research and continues through the writing and defense of the dissertation. The Ed.D. dissertation typically consists of a well-designed applied research of value for informing educational practice. It reflects theory or knowledge for addressing problems of practice.

 

 

Working Model Three: The Ph.D. in Educational Leadership

 

Although programs differ depending upon their focus, Ph.D. Programs typically require a minimum of 63 credit hours of required coursework. PhD students are often supported through grants, fellowships, and research/graduate assistantships, allowing them to enroll full-time.  The coursework is often divided into five curricular blocks: a Core, Concentration, Research, Cognate, and Dissertation Block.

 

PhD Core

This set of core courses usually consists of five or six classes and serves as the foundation for the PhD program. The core often represents a program’s focus and incorporates different levels of analysis in the formulation and consideration of educational issues and problems. For example the following courses might be found in a Ph.D. program with a leadership and policy focus:

Theoretical and Ethical Foundations of Leadership

Leadership, Diversity, Accountability, and Student Learning:  Current Issues

Organization and Policy: Current Issues

Controversies in Learning and Instruction

The Research University in the 21st Century

Globalization and Education: Theories of Change

 

Concentration Course Block

The Concentration Course Block is linked to a students concentrated area of study, in this case leadership, and typically consists five or six courses. Some programs may schedule students from PhD and EdD programs to take these courses together:

 The Laws and Politics of Education

 Public School Finance and Business

 Management of Human Resources

 School Leadership and Instructional Improvement

 Organizational Behavior in Education

 School-Community Relations

 

Research Core

The Research Core typically consists of five or more courses and provides students with the tools to pursue systematic, programmatic and empirical investigation. It should include both qualitative and quantitative elements. The following list is typical of required courses:

 Prerequisite: Statistics Course

 Research Design

 Multiple Regression

 Qualitative Research

 Measurement Theory

 Advanced Qualitative Analysis

 

Cognate

The Cognate consists of four or more courses and reflects an interdisciplinary perspective on educational issues. The Cognate may include courses inside or outside of Colleges of Education. The specific courses are chosen in advisement with the faculty advisor.

 

Dissertation Core

The Dissertation Core involves a set of courses or experiences designed to prepare students for their dissertation research and continues through the writing and defense of the dissertation. This block consists of a preparatory course, dissertation work and advisement hours.

 

 

The above descriptions should not be considered UCEA program templates to which all institutions are expected to adhere.  Indeed, UCEA does not hold the expectation that all UCEA programs will look alike. Rather, the program descriptions are working models about which UCEA hopes to generate substantive dialogue focused on what the different degree programs in educational leadership should be designed to do and what we should expect to find (at a minimum) in educational leadership graduate programs for each of the three degree programs. There have been several high profile attempts to establish the future of educational leadership preparation with which many faculty within leadership programs have fiercely disagreed.  It would be helpful to have clear statements about leadership preparation, developed by those who participation in leadership preparation and based on evidence and professional consensus.

UCEA's mission is to advance the preparation and practice of educational leaders for the benefit of all children and schools. We hope that the conversations, ideas, and program changes that are generated as a result of UCEA efforts, such as the efforts captured in this brief article, do indeed move leadership preparation in a helpful direction. 

References

Andrews, R., & Grogan, M.  (2005).  Form should follow function:  Removing the EdD dissertation from the PhD Straight Jacket.  UCEA Review, 47 (2), 10-13.

ELPA Faculty. (2005). Policy Guidelines Concerning Doctoral Programs in Educational Leadership and Policy. Unpublished Document.

Everson, S. T.  (2006). The Role of Partnerships in the Professional Doctorate in Education:  A Program Application in Educational Leadership. Educational Considerations, 33 (2), 1-15.

Prestine, N. & Malen, B. (2005). The case for revitalizing the dissertation.  UCEA Review, 47 (2), 7-9.

Shulman, L. (2004).  A New Vision for the Doctorate in Education:  Creating Stewards of the Discipline through the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate.  Symposium at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association.  San Diego, California, April, 2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source:  Young, M.D. (2006).  The M.Ed., Ed. D., and Ph. D.  in Educational Leadership.  UCEA Review, 48(2), 6-9.