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(Re)designing and Implementing the Professional Doctorate in Education: Comparing Experiences of a Small Independent University and a Large Public University

Module by: Rosemarye Taylor, Valerie Anne Storey. E-mail the authors

Summary: Two diverse universities—one large public metropolitan and one small independent-- participate in the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED) the purpose of which is to clearly distinguish between the Ph. D. and the Ed. D. and their unique intended outcomes. These universities (re)designed and implemented the professional doctorate (Ed. D.) in educational leadership aligned with the CPED concepts. Development processes, experiences in (re)design and implementation, as well as the resulting degree requirements are compared. Significant changes in student learning experiences, student outcomes, and the capstone experience are commonalities of each university’s newly (re)designed Ed. D.



This manuscript has been peer-reviewed, accepted, and endorsed by the National Council of Professors of Educational Administration (NCPEA) as a significant contribution to the scholarship and practice of education administration. In addition to publication in the Connexions Content Commons, this module is published in the International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, Volume 6, Number 3 (July - September, 2011), ISSN 2155-9635. Formatted and edited in Connexions by Theodore Creighton and Brad Bizzell, Virginia Tech and Janet Tareilo, Stephen F. Austin State University.

Sumario en espanol

Dos universidades diversas—un grande público metropolitano y un pequeño independiente -- toma parte en el Proyecto de Carnegie en el Doctorado de la Educación (CPED) el propósito de que es de distinguirse claramente entre el pH. D. y la Educación. D. y sus resultados destinados extraordinarios. Estas universidades (acerca de) diseñó y aplicó el doctorado profesional (Educación. D.) en el liderazgo educativo alineado con los conceptos de CPED. Los procesos del desarrollo, experimentan en (acerca de) diseño e implementación, así como los requisitos resultantes de grado son comparados. Los cambios significativos en experiencias de aprender de estudiante, resultados de estudiante, y la experiencia de coronamiento son los comunes de cada universidad nuevamente (acerca de) diseñó Educación. D.


Esta es una traducción por computadora de la página web original. Se suministra como información general y no debe considerarse completa ni exacta.

Today, the Ed. D. is perceived as ‘Ph.D. lite’. More important than the public relations problem, however, is the real risk that schools of education are becoming impotent in carrying out their primary missions to prepare leading practitioners as well as leading scholars. (Shulman, 2009)


Colleges and schools of education have wrestled with the distinction between the Ph. D. and the Ed. D. for more than 30 years. Although the Ed. D. was developed to prepare the scholar practitioner for leadership in education organizations, in contrast the Ph. D. has as its purpose to provide development of the scholar researcher, but often the degree programs have not differed substantially (Storey & Hartwick, 2010; Perry & Imig, 2008; Storey, & Asadoorian, 2008; Townsend, 2002). Shulman (2009), outgoing president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, noted this observation in the quote at the beginning of this paper. Some years ago he predicted a progressive decline in the quality of intellectual institutions of higher education, and an ever continuing growth of virtual credit mills. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching partnered with The Atlantic Philanthropies to undertake a five-year project called the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate, or the CID. The initiative, which ran from 2001 through 2005, was designed to be both an action project and a research project. Its objective was to support selected academic departments’ efforts to improve the effectiveness of their doctoral programs. The project invited participating departments to create local solutions suited to what they themselves identified as their needs and problems. Eighty-four Ph. D.-granting departments in six fields—chemistry, education, English, history, mathematics and neuroscience--were involved with the idea that an in-depth look at a limited number of fields could provide a set of generalizations for other disciplines (Walker, Golde, Jones, Bueschel, & Hutchings, 2007).

Furthermore, Shulman initiated a project to examine the current state of doctoral education and its response (or otherwise) to 21st century challenges (Storey & Asadoorian, 2008). Departmental goals, performance, course review, evaluation, and revisions were all analyzed and the projects’ findings were made public in the book entitled The Formation of Scholars: Rethinking Doctoral Education for the Twenty-first Century (Walker, Golde, Jones, Bueschel & Hutchings, 2007). The book’s authors examined the processes by which universities and doctoral programs prepare students to be scholars, and questioned many accepted conventions (e.g., comprehensive exams and dissertations). Also highlighted by the authors were that doctoral programs have re-examined or re-invented these accepted doctoral conventions. They concluded with a “call to action” focused on pedagogies of research, tensions between disciplinary and interdisciplinary scholarship, the culture of doctoral education, the changing backgrounds and identities of doctoral students, and methods of assessment. In the April 2006 issue of AERA's Educational Researcher, Lee Shulman, Chris Golde, Andrea Bueschel, and Kristen Garabedian wrote that the time has come to rethink and reclaim the research doctorate (the Ph. D.), with its strong links to research, and to develop a distinct practice doctorate (the P. P. D.), with a distinctive scholarly base (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching).

The Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED) begun in 2007 was a response to this action call. The purpose of CPED is to clearly distinguish the Ed. D. from the Ph. D. while providing a professional learning community (Dufour, 2004) for substantive conversation around concepts that define the Ed. D. (Perry & Imig, 2008). Teams from 22 member institutions from the Council for Academic Deans of Research Education Institutions (CADREI) participate in CPED, with one exception, Lynn University. While differing from other CPED institutions, Lynn University was invited to join CPED due to their innovative work in the field of educational leadership and their articulated commitment to designing an innovative scholar practitioner doctorate program in the field of educational leadership.

Teams representing a broad cross-section of the faculty are invited to convene twice a year to deliberate about the form and function of the professional-practice doctorate (Perry & Imig, 2008). At CPED convening’s participants share progress, raise issues, discuss potential solutions, and support each other as in a professional learning community (Dufour, 2004). Each is at various stages in the (re)design and implementation of the Ed. D. aligned with the precepts of laboratories of practice, capstone experiences, and signature pedagogies. Participation in the CPED initiative is based on:

  • Current college or school reform efforts,
  • A demonstrated commitment to the agenda,
  • A connection of the pilot or experimental program to other on-going effort of the school or college,
  • A potential for “show-casing” to relevant parties,
  • The administrative support and other resources for documentation, engagement and cooperation,
  • Each CPED school assembling a team that includes academics, administrators and graduate students.

Commitment to the initiative is based on:

  • Envisioning new ways of preparing professional practitioners for schools and colleges,
  • (re)designing new programs that will enable professional practitioners to function effectively, and
  • Examining recent advances in the learning sciences and human cognition, statistics and technology, leadership and discipline-based knowledge, and alternative pedagogies.

The rationale for (re)designing the scholar practitioner programs, the processes used to achieve the (re)designs and outcomes to date are addressed in this article. Research questions asked by the authors are:

  1. What conditions and processes facilitate the (re)design of a professional doctorate program?
  2. What are the differences in the conditions, processes, and outcomes of a small, independent university and a large, public metropolitan university in the (re)design?

The authors compare the journey of two diverse universities (Lynn University and the University of Central Florida) as their faculties considered the precepts of CPED, studied data on their doctoral programs, (re)designed new programs, and began implementation.

Lynn University: Background and Context

Founded in 1962, Lynn University is an independent, nonprofit, coeducational, university which provides professional education grounded in the liberal arts. The university is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award baccalaureate, masters', and doctoral degrees. Located in Boca Raton, Florida, the university sits geographically in the middle of two of the largest school districts in the state1. The mission of Lynn University is the same mission that has defined the institution through its 49 years which is:

to provide the education, support, and environment that enable individual students to realize their full potential and to prepare for success in the world. Lynn’s vision is to be recognized as one of the most innovative, international, and individualized small universities in America. The intention is to capitalize on the university’s youth, location, and close student and faculty bonds to become a forerunner institution, a different kind of learning center, an independent, innovative 21st Century university that is unusually devoted to preparing young person’s for America’s and the world’s future. To do so, Lynn will: 1. Remain relatively small, with approximately 2,400 undergraduate and 600 graduate students, and 500 or more adults enrolled annually in continuing education courses and institutes. A multi‐faceted, coeducational, primarily residential university with a small‐college atmosphere. 2. Admit a wide array of diverse students, from those with learning differences to the gifted, and those from many countries of the world and states across the nation. 3. Be grounded in the liberal arts but contain a collection of colleges oriented toward emerging professional opportunities, each of which feature superior teaching, applied learning, international focus and experiences. 4. Contain a hallmark student development program that discerns each student’s strengths, shortcomings, and special needs and works to develop his or her full capabilities.

(Board of Trustees, October 12, 2005).

In 2008 over 2,410 students (undergraduate: 2,032, graduate: 378) from 44 states and 81 nations attended classes in one of the following seven academic units; Burton D. Morgan School of Aeronautics, College of Liberal Arts, College of Business and Management, Eugene M. and Christine E. Lynn College of International Communication, Conservatory of Music, Management, and the Donald E. and Helen L. Ross College of Education. Although the university has been in existence for almost fifty years endowment is small. Therefore, Lynn has limited funds for faculty salaries and student scholarships, and is reliant on fees and tuition to cover institutional needs. In contrast to UCF’s faculty who are tenured, tenure earning, or multi-year visiting instructors, Lynn faculty are on annual contracts and are required to teach eight courses per academic year (Lynn Strategic Plan 2020).

The university’s Ph. D. program in Global Leadership had been in existence since 1997, jointly offered by the College of Business and Management, and the School of Education, Health and Human Services (now known as Ross College of Education). As an interdisciplinary degree it introduced students to the studies of global leadership, research methodology, and to a student determined area of specialization i.e. corporate or educational leadership.

The Ph.D. program’s mission and goals were consistent with the university’s vision and mission:

  • The degree program will produce graduates who are able to apply leadership skills, knowledge and ethical values in organizations in a diverse, complex, and interconnected society,
  • The faculty of the degree program will develop and offer courses that reflect the importance of global transformation, multicultural awareness, and international exchange,
  • The students in this degree program will be provided with a wide variety of research and leadership related information and will develop a concentrated set of skills in leadership.
  • Graduates leave with knowledge and skill levels that will enable them to assume positions of trust and leadership in their professional responsibilities.

Students in the program were required to complete a minimum of 60 doctoral credit hours of coursework, consisting of 9 credit hours of required research core coursework research, 24 credit hours of required leadership core coursework, 21 credit hours of specialization coursework, and a minimum of six credits of dissertation coursework. Dissertation topic choices were required to reflect the application of the core curriculum and the area of specialization and followed the traditional five chapter dissertation model. The program was delivered using the format of six 8-week terms per year with students taking two courses per term. The program required a minimum of 10 terms, with the average student completing the degree in 12-13 terms (approximately two years and two months).

University of Central Florida: Background and Context

Founded in 1963, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is a public, multi-campus, metropolitan research university, dedicated to serving its surrounding communities with their diverse and expanding populations. The mission of the university is to offer high-quality undergraduate and graduate education, student development, and continuing education; to conduct research and creative activities; and to provide services that enhance the intellectual, cultural, environmental, and economic development of the metropolitan region, address national and international issues in key areas, establish UCF as a major presence, and contribute to the global community.

As the third largest university in the United States UCF offers 225 degree programs on the main campus and 11 regional campuses. In 2010 over 50,000 students attended classes on UCF’s various campuses. UCF has granted more than 186,000 degrees in its 40 years of offering classes. In 2007-2008, UCF professors received $122.8 million in research funding, with research contracts and grants coming from federal, state, and industry partners.

UCF provides a unique context for the consideration of both the Ph. D. and the Ed. D. (the professional doctorate) in the College of Education (CED) and for clarifying the differences between the two. The CED offers the Ph. D. to full time students and has a clear focus on preparing students for the professoriate and to be researchers, rather than to be scholar practitioners engaged in the practice of leadership in education. On the other hand, the Ed. D. is intended to prepare students for the practice of education, to be a consumer of research, as well as to use research to guide decision making. The CED has a college-wide Ed. D. for all non-Ph.D. doctoral students other than those in educational leadership. This college-wide Ed. D. was revised in 2007 to reflect the scholar practitioner philosophy of CPED, but maintained the traditional five chapter dissertation as the capstone experience and continues program refinement. Students in the college-wide Ed. D. take a common core of curriculum and research courses followed by specialization in the curriculum area of their interest—such as early childhood, special education, reading, or mathematics.

In addition to the college-wide Ed. D. there is also a program specific Ed. D. in Educational Leadership which has 2 strands—Higher Education and Policy Study and Pk-12. The Pk-12 track in Educational Leadership is the focus of this article. The Pk-12 track has been (re)designed to align with the CPED philosophy and was implemented in the fall semester of 2010 as the Executive Ed. D. in Educational Leadership while the higher education track remained unchanged. Prior to August 2010 the Pk-12 track in Educational Leadership had been similar to a Ph. D. program of study and required 63 credit hours beyond the master’s degree with a maximum transfer of 9 credit hours. If students did not hold educational leadership certification, they were required to take another 39 credit hours for certification for a maximum total of 99 credit hours beyond the master’s degree. The program of study included 15 credit hours of core classes, 12 credit hours of specialization, 6 credit hours of cognates (outside the college of education), 9 credit hours of research, and 21 credit hours of dissertation. Non-cohort students were admitted each semester and periodically a cohort would be implemented to serve a geographic region or to meet a special purpose. Ninety-percent of the Pk-12 Ed. D. students were part time while being employed in local school districts often in demanding administrative positions in schools or at the district level. (Re)design of the Pk-12 Educational Leadership track to become the Executive Ed. D. in Educational Leadership is addressed in the sections that follow.

Need for Rethinking the Professional Doctorate

The two universities have different historical backgrounds, serve different populations, and have different program contexts within their institutions that brought the need to rethink the programs. Within this section the reader will see how each of the institutions identified the need for a program (re)design.

Lynn University

When the Ph. D. in Global Leadership was first implemented by the university in 1997 it was delivered by two colleges (Ross College of Education, Health and Human Services (now known as Ross College of Education and the College of Business and Management) but in 2007 management of the program was transferred solely to the College of Business and Management. No new students were accepted into the program after this date.

The university’s strategic decision to eliminate the Ph. D. program was based on the developing perception by university faculty and the President’s Office that the program currently implemented was flawed, with a high proportion of students unable to move onto the dissertation stage. There was a recurring problem with clarity of research methods, data analysis, interpretation, and identifying real problems plus the rigor required when formulating critical questions for the gathering of significant evidence.

Moreover, there was a new movement within the university to closely examine the authenticity, challenge, and rigor of all programs being delivered. Alumni survey data on graduating students from the Ph. D. program suggested that those in the area of educational leadership tended to stay as practitioners in the field at either the school district or school level. Though alumni expressed appreciation for the program it seemed to the educational leadership faculty as though the Ph. D. program was not the best for serving their needs and that an Ed. D. degree designed for students, who are or plan to become educational practitioners would be more appropriate. Such a program would ensure that students engage in research and development efforts aimed at directly improving education practice.

Finally, several regional universities had recently discontinued their Ed. D. in favor of the Ph.D. leaving many practitioners in the large school districts with limited choices for pursuing a terminal degree with a practitioner’s conceptual framework. The invitation to join CPED was fortuitous providing the catalyst that LynnUniversity required for recasting and restructuring the doctoral program in educational leadership.

UCF Pk-12 Educational Leadership

The Ed. D. in Educational Leadership had been in place for about 25 years and for the Pk-12 students substantially had remained the same with revisions within courses and changing a few courses along the way. Participation by faculty in CPED brought an awareness of issues regarding program content, students served, delivery of instruction, and the dissertation experience.

In addition to participation in CPED, recent short falls in state revenue resulted in greater scrutiny of expenses for faculty and programs bringing attention to the program’s data; programs not supported with adequate student credit hours would be at risk. These reduced resources impacted the Ed. D. students directly as the cognates that they needed to complete the program of study were no longer as readily available to them as students of the CED, as they were to students in the college where the cognate courses were sought. Further impacting students were more limited resources and reduced summer and evening courses in other colleges so that courses the students might take, were offered during the workday and therefore unavailable to them as education professionals.

According to the UCF Progress To Degree Study (Poole, 2009), annually from summer 1997 through fall 2006, about 60 educational leadership Ed. D. students (both higher education and Pk-12) were enrolled taking a mean of 6 credits per semester. This doctoral program data gathered across the university for a ten year period indicated that the graduation rate for educational leadership students at the end of the 4th year was 40%, which disappointed the educational leadership faculty. At that time the data on educational leadership students were combined for higher education and for Pk-12 students, so the Pk-12 doctoral coordinator reviewed the data student by student and found that it was indeed accurate for the Pk-12 students; even though the graduation rate at 7 years was as high as 74%. However, the university measures a program’s completion rate at the end of the 4th year of matriculation.

As a result of participation in CPED, encouragement from the dean, and review of university gathered data, in 2009 the faculty administered a survey on various components of the Ed. D. to 17 students who were completing coursework and moving into the dissertation phase. Only the survey items related to the perceived value of program content, such as politics or law, are reported here. All items had a Likert response of 1 being extremely important, 2 being very important, 3 being minimally important, and 4 being not important. Keeping in mind that the survey respondents had successfully taken these courses during the last academic year preceding the survey administration, their perceptions were particularly telling.

Survey results provided insight for faculty. A survey item that was not related to content, but to program structure asked how important the opportunity to participate in the cohort was in deciding to apply to the program. Of the 14 students who completed the survey, the opportunity to participate in a cohort was extremely important or very important to 12. This finding confirmed what the faculty believed, that the cohort experience provided a level of support and assistance to students that rolling admissions did not and would be a consideration in planning the new Ed. D.

When students were asked the importance of specialization courses, 35% indicated they were not or were minimally important while 32% indicated they were very or extremely important. The range of the specialization courses for perception of very or extremely important was from 21% to 57%. Even more negative than the perception of importance of the specialization courses were the responses related to cognate courses. Seven percent indicated that the courses were very important, none indicated that cognates were extremely important. In fact, 14 % indicated that cognate courses were not important and 50% indicated that they were minimally important.

Individual ratings of perceptions of core content classes ranged from 86% to 43% extremely important or very important. Organizational Theory, Planning, Research, and Evaluation Systems in Education, and Leadership courses had the highest percent of respondents indicating a perception of extreme importance of the content.

To gain further information, during July 2009 school district superintendents and other executive leaders were surveyed regarding the perceived value of program content and the dissertation experience. They were asked to rank 1 to 5 (with 1 being the least important and 5 being most important) statements related to the content of the 5 core courses in the Pk-12 Ed. D. program. Only 4 of the 7 superintendents receiving the survey completed the items. Although the response rate was low, the mean for each content was high ranging from 3.25 (leadership theory) to 4.5 (personnel issues and development), indicating that the core content continued to be important. The superintendents were also asked to respond to the following item: As a doctoral graduate, please share your thoughts related to the value of a dissertation or scholarly research on a timely educational issue. Responses supported scholarly research, but indicated that an authentic context and focus would improve the process. Superintendent 1, indicated that the research “Needs to be directed to relevancy to changing and improving schools in a realistic manner.” Similarly, Superintendent 2 wrote, “I think the focus of the dissertation or scholarly research is sometimes lost in the formatting… If the student is engaged in action research project that could lead to positive action for a group of students, or for a school, etc., the student is much more likely to give it the best effort.”

Because of the low number of responses, a follow up question was sent via email to executive leaders in the same seven school districts which asked, What knowledge and skills will executive leaders of the future need to know and be able to do? This question elicited a response from each of the seven deputy superintendents or chiefs of staff. Consistently, they responded that understanding diverse communities and being able to work effectively with these communities would be essential. Disaggregating data, understanding, and explaining it in a way that decisions could be made by using the data would be critical. The need to be proficient in leading the successful learning of students of poverty and English Language Learners was consistent also.

By gathering data from executive leaders in districts and from current and former students, the faculty learned that the dissertation or scholarly research was valued, but that if the focus could be on practical and contemporary issues in schools and districts it would be a more worthwhile experience. Further, the input from districts reflected that executive leaders of the future in central Florida will need expertise in working with families of poverty, diverse learners, instructional leadership, data-based decision making, developing personnel, and accountability for student achievement. These findings resulted in the development of new courses: Research in Educational Leadership (vs. general research), Community Outreach, Human Resource Development, Instructional Leadership, Learning and Accountability, and Dynamics of Children, Families, and Organizations.

As the faculty studied the data and used it to guide the decision making process, objectivity was more easily maintained than it might have been and the emotional aspect of considering such changes that related to faculty ownership of the original program and its success was reduced (Reeves, 2006). Reflection on these factors caused the faculty to consider if aligning the Ed. D. in Educational Leadership with CPED would increase and maintain enrollment and enhance graduation rate at the end of the 4th year of matriculation. The data, participation in CPED, and a greater awareness of accountability for results together created a sense of urgency and motivation for some faculty to (re)design the Ed. D. in Educational Leadership, while others denied the potential importance of renewing the program and at some points threatened non-participation.

Two (Re)design Processes

Lynn University

Immediately after attending the first CPED convening Lynn participants expanded the framework of the needs-assessment to identify specific challenges to local schools. In addition, data from interviews, focus groups, and surveys were synthesized to develop broad themes to enhance, expand and shape research agenda, coursework, problem framework, and signature pedagogies (Storey & Hartwick, 2010). In contrast to the UCF experience, consultation tended to be with local school-based leaders rather than with senior management at the district level.

Upon returning from the Vanderbilt CPED convening (October, 2007), Lynn University developed a goal statement for the Ed. D. program, synthesized their learning’s from CPED, and organized an action plan identifying necessary steps needed to implement an innovative scholar-practitioner doctorate in educational leadership with the aim of admitting the first cohort in the Fall, 2009 semester. The final goal statement reads:

The goal of Lynn University’s Ed. D. program is

  • To produce scholar practitioners who possess the cognitive, affective and performance skills which will enable them to obtain and perform in a variety of educational  leadership roles;
  • To work with school districts, state departments of education, other educational agencies, and business and industry to address educational issues and problems;
  • To produce knowledge about the specialization of educational leadership, policy, and administration.

We continued to speak to as many local educational leaders as possible regarding their perceptions of the challenges currently facing educational leaders in our metropolitan area. Then, backward mapping on how to prepare doctoral students on our new Ed. D. program to meet identified challenges began. As a consequence signature pedagogy, laboratories of practice and program specializations are specifically designed to meet local need.

The development of an across campus, academic collegiality model contributed significantly to the willingness of faculty from other colleges to serve on the Ed. D. Planning Committee (EDPC), and greatly enhanced the ability of interdisciplinary faculty to make significant contributions to the program’s design (Storey & Hartwick, 2010). The EDPC consisting of RCOE faculty, College of Arts and Sciences (Liberal Education) faculty, and the College of Business & Management faculty began discussing the design of the Ed. D. program at the start of the fall semester, 2007. The future Director of the program was selected to serve as the Chair.

Fall, 2007 was busy with a research and fact finding process to build support across the university and to ensure that we had the necessary knowledge and skills to design and implement an innovative Ed. D. program. This model of campus discussion– engaging intellectual communities of stakeholders to define themes, directions and processes for the new program was advocated by Shulman et al., 2006 as an effective way of engaging all stakeholders in program design, and in the gathering of information and institutional data.

The EDPC met on a weekly basis and all members were encouraged to participate in open discussion. Although periodically the task of the EDPC seemed to be overwhelming, there was a clear sense of purpose. The inclusion of faculty from the College of Business & Management and the College of Arts and Sciences (now known as the College of Liberal Education) was especially helpful because many of the faculty had previously taught in the Ph. D. program and could help anticipate problems and challenges the EDPC would face before they became major stumbling blocks hindering program design, development, and implementation. There was also a clear understanding that revising or modifying previous Ph. D. courses was not an option as the pedagogy underpinning the proposed Ed. D. program and the existing Ph. D. program were not compatible.

From the start there was a commitment from the President’s Office that the program would be delivered face to face. While we knew that this would limit recruitment it would also send a clear message to local school districts that the complex problems of practice critically analyzed by students on the program would relate to the metropolitan area that the university serves. The program would be delivered face to face on a Saturday for the fall and spring semesters with a full time three week Summer Academy. Again, this decision was based on the experience with the Ph. D. program which grew excessively, eventually undermining the program’s rigor. EDPC’s intention was to run an annual cohort of 12 students recruited from the two local school districts. Further, in order to avoid course ownership each class would be co-taught thereby continuing the collegiality approach.

In developing the components of Lynn’s Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, the EDPC’s discussions were grounded in the work completed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (CFAT). To ensure a common vision for the program all faculty involved in planning the program were initially required to read several articles by Shulman who describes teaching as a “community property” which is documented, shared and built upon in a central theme of scholarship of teaching and learning (1993, p.7).

The first identified component of Lynn’s Scholarship of Teaching and Learning was that Problem Based Inquiry (PBI) would be a major part of the signature pedagogy due to the routines, habits and accountability that a problem based learning model would offer throughout the course of study for doctoral students. Secondly, Problem Based Learning (PBL) field study courses and the capstone would emphasize application of knowledge in the context it would be used and therefore would allow students to determine if the potential solutions implemented from the PBL process have impacted the change process.

The EDPC also identified four program themes -Leadership, Accountability, Equity and Diversity (E & Q), and Learning and Instruction (L& I), reflecting the focus of the program in terms of local needs and desires. However, educational leadership faculty struggled with how the program would be designed to meet these themes. The economics professor on the committee proposed that the themes be used as lenses throughout the program instead of the more traditional tracks or areas of specialization. This unique solution demonstrates the value of including interdisciplinary scholars on the EDPC in addition to education faculty.

The EDPC devoted approximately six months to discussion on what the Ed. D. program’s capstone would look like. Being able to evaluate models being used by critical friends was invaluable. Vanderbilt University’s consultancy model, USC’s capstone versus established dissertation route, and the University of Virginia’s capstone model were all reviewed and discussed (Storey & Hartwick, 2010). EDPC knew that the model developed would require completion during the third year of course work and would also be an independent research and analytic activity embedded in an individual or group project. The decision of the EDPC was to make available to doctoral students two Ed. D. capstone paths: Consultancy or an Action Research.

Although this was not a consensus choice, EDPC agreed to include both models in the program as it became evident to the committee chair that in order to reduce dissonance on the committee, and to move program planning forward there was the need to have a degree of flexibility in some areas. In addition if the EDPC had failed to agree on including the two capstone models, all other program planning would have been derailed. This decision was revisited by the EDPC a year later (2010) and the decision was taken that the Consultancy Model (CM) would be the basis for the program’s capstone. This program revision reflects the change in mindset as professors’ allegiance to the Ed. D. program grew, and also as they began to understand at a greater depth the underlying concepts of the program.

In the Consultancy Model (CM) problems of practice articulated by field organizations would be topics for study. Students will work in groups on these problems of practice in a collaborative endeavor that requires them to understand the problem as posed, analyze the issue from a number of perspectives, and respond with policy and practice. Clients request for assistance description of a project will include: (1) A context statement; (2) the problem to be addressed; (3) the expectations of the client; (4) the data sources that will be made available (5) the agreed timeline for data to be collected; (6) the expectations regarding communication and reports; and (7) the expectations for the final report. Students will “bid” on the project on which they wish to work. Mentoring faculty will be assigned a team in accordance with his or her area of expertise and current research agenda. Once a student team has selected a project, the team will present a scope of work memo to the client and the mentoring educational leadership faculty that defines the project, including key questions; specifies the analytical focus and data collection strategies; develops a timeline and task completion schedule; and assigns team members. The final project will be a report of the analysis undertaken, including a description of the literature which informed the topic, a description of the data used, and the policy and practice recommendations. The project will be presented to both faculty reviewers and client reviewers using procedures outlined by critical friends in CPED institutions. The capstone is begun the first semester of the third year and completed at the end of the third year. Lynn’s professional doctorate Ed. D. has a total of 51 credit hours with a new cohort beginning each fall semester.


The Dean of the College of Education assisted the educational leadership faculty in the (re)design process of the Ed. D. in Pk-12 Educational Leadership to become the Pk-12 Executive Ed. D. in Educational Leadership, not only by supporting participation in CPED, but also in funding a 2-day planning retreat. From June-July, 2009 the faculty studied the program data and reviewed various educational leadership programs of CPED members, like the University of Southern California, University of Maryland, and Vanderbilt University. One of the strategies employed for a successful planning retreat was engaging a facilitator in the role of a critical friend (Swaffield, 2005) who had the appropriate background, understood the content of both CPED concepts and the proposed national standards for advanced certification of educational leaders, and had the interpersonal skills to challenge and support the educational leadership faculty in decision making. Faculty came to consensus on the agenda for two days in August with the expectation that the basic (re)design would be drafted to be implemented in August of 2010. The agenda included developing answers to these questions:

  • What is our purpose?
  • Who will our students be?
  • What will executive leaders of the future need to know and be able to do?
  • What will be the core learning principles?
  • What will the milestones be?
  • What are the assumptions of our program?

With the facilitation of these questions and lively discussion, along with dissention, consensus was reached on the purpose, the students, and the outcome objectives. These outcomes were organized into strands: learning and accountability, professional leadership in organizations, serving student social, emotional, and educational needs, political and governance influences, and research in educational leadership. These strands reflect the input of both students and school district leaders. Learning principles include regular feedback, respect to individuals, networking, communication, and build upon prior learning, knowledge, and experience.

No assumption was made of retaining previous courses in the program (re)design; however, courses or 12 credit hours remained the same based on the data from students and district leaders, with the balance of the 54 credit hour program being new reflecting the emphasis of district leaders on instructional decision making, data analysis, working with diverse students, families, and community, and personnel development. Nine credit hours of practitioner focused research courses were designed and 15 credit hours of a client-based research on a complex problem of practice were designed in lieu of the dissertation.

Such a difference represents second order change, change that requires rethinking of curriculum and instruction, and is deep, not incremental (Marzano, Waters, & McNulty, 2005; Taylor, 2010). This type of thinking and arriving at consensus on the professional doctorate was not easy, reflecting emotional disagreement, concern for perception of the program, sideline discussions, and even attempts to derail the new program development. The value of the advocacy for the new Executive Ed. D. by the previous doctoral coordinator, the professor emeritus who created the original Ed. D. in Educational Leadership, cannot be overstated. His advocacy for the Executive Ed. D. acknowledged the issues for students that had developed and that the doctoral students and their needs had changed over the last 25 years. Two years later, the discussion continues, but in the tone of ensuring success of each step of the implementation process.

For this unique context what may be most important is that the new Pk-12 Executive Ed. D. track in Educational Leadership represents an interconnected set of learning experiences, one building on another, with greater structure for students, and transparency of outcomes among all faculty. In reality, there were faculty who left the 2009 retreat thinking it was an interesting exercise, but were not committed to the implementation and thought it would go away with the facilitator. After all, where does academic freedom fit into this more structured and transparent program? Inherent in the new PK-12 Executive Ed. D. is commitment to students’ success and to the learning outcomes, rather than commitment to an individual faculty member’s research interest which some might believe is in conflict with the role of faculty in research universities. It was valuable to engage in discussion related to transparency in the coursework and learning experiences and it could prove valuable to the program to continue this process and extend the conversations to the other degree programs.

Following the 2009 retreat the faculty agreed to think about the work accomplished, literature on (re)designed programs, and read the documents generated. They met several times in September to revisit the decisions and to review the syllabus developed for each of the new courses and revised courses. In the interim, conversations constantly took place regarding the content, the processes, the details, the perception of level of rigor, the client-based doctoral field research, and the meaning of the revised Pk-12 Educational Leadership program track so that clarity would be achieved. Together, all faculty reviewed the program change document, along with every syllabus, and gave approval before the proposal was finalized to begin the department, college, and university approval processes. The new Pk-12 Educational Leadership track was given the name, Pk-12 Executive Ed. D. in Educational Leadership to clearly distinguish it from the former Pk-12 track (which no longer accepted students, but had a few completing coursework and dissertations), the Educational Leadership Higher Education and Policy track, and the college-wide Ed. D. for non-educational leadership students.

The level of transparency and accountability among faculty built into this (re)design process represented a significant second order change. Until this time, course content or program content was rarely discussed and although not stated, was assumed to be the purview of the faculty teaching the course and protected by academic freedom. As time passed and more discussions took place—both formally and informally—it is now clear that all faculty believe that the Executive Ed. D. in Educational Leadership will be better for students; it is contemporary in content, responds to district needs, is more highly structured and supported, and therefore is expected to have a higher graduation rate in less time. Through collaborative decision making the faculty committed to the Executive Ed. D. because it was their creation and not a program present when they joined the faculty.

Professional Doctorate (re)design Summary

Table 1 shows a comparison of the (re)designed professional doctorate programs at Lynn University and UCF. Since alignment with CPED with regard to laboratories of practice, signature pedagogy, and the capstone experience was one of the considerations the reader can see from Table 1 that both professional doctorate programs focus on the scholar practitioner with case studies and application of coursework to the practice. Lynn and UCF faculties decided to replace the traditional dissertation with client-based doctoral field research on a complex problem of practice or issue that a school district or educational organization identifies.

This client-based research implemented by both universities in their new Ed. D. programs eliminates the challenge that students often face of identifying and narrowing an appropriate research topic. It also eliminates the growing problem of securing school district approval for research to be conducted. Since 2009 a number of schools in Florida have been in some stage of corrective action by the Florida Department of Education; therefore school districts began to limit outside interactions (such as research) with school leaders and teachers in an effort to assist the schools in focusing on improving student achievement. By the fifth semester in both programs, students will be assigned to a problem of practice or issue identified by the client and faculty will facilitate specific research based on expertise and interest as they did with the dissertation. The research will continue during the fifth through ninth semesters. Students will be held individually accountable for the research, oral defense, and written product. Although the program is designed for graduation at the end of the ninth semester, faculty are aware that there are intervening variables that happen during a three –year period which may cause a few students to discontinue for a short while. Students who do not register for a semester will be asked to rejoin the next cohort one calendar year hence—this is not a drop-out and drop-in program. Even if some students pause their doctoral study for one year or take longer to complete the client-based research, the faculties believe that students will graduate at a maximum within the 4-year timeframe used to measure doctoral program percent of graduates.

Table 1: Comparison of Professional Doctorate at Lynn University and the University of Central Florida
Component Lynn University University of Central Florida
Admission Each fall semester; Traditional application process plus presentation of identified complex problem of practice; Interview Each Fall semester
Cohort Model Yes Yes
Cohort maximum 12 25
Program credit hours 51 54
Content organization 4 themes plus inquiry and capstone 4 strands plus research and capstone
Signature pedagogy Authentic problem-based inquiry; Seminars; Field Research; Methods of Inquiry Application of theory/research to complex problems of practice; Face to face/ seminars; Field Research
Capstone Client-based Field Research Client-based Field Research
Faculty Annual contract; 1 faculty/course; Some co-taught with practitioners Tenure Track, multi-year instructor contract; 1 faculty/course or co-taught with practitioners
Students Broward, Palm Beach, and Port St. Lucie School Districts Central Florida, 100 mile radius
Degree Ed.D. in Educational Leadership PK 12 Executive Ed.D. in Educational Leadership
Previous degree Ph.D. in Global Leadership Ed.D. in Educational Leadership
Client participation School district partners; Advisory Committee Advisory Committee; Clients for research

Introducing the (Re)designed Professional Doctorate

In the initial data gathering stage communication with school district clients and students was formalized by both universities. At the conclusion of the development of the Executive Ed. D. in Educational Leadership the UCF faculty invited school district superintendents and executive leaders to an Advisory and Advocacy Breakfast. The purpose was to share the design of the new program, to get their reflection of how the content aligned with the districts’ needs. Faculty wanted to ensure that the (re)design achieved the goal of responding to identified doctoral students’ needs related to graduation and district future executive leader needs. As an example of the interest exhibited by the school districts and the faculties’ commitment to partner, Orange County Public Schools’ (OCPS) executive leaders had a conflict on the Advocacy Breakfast morning so the doctoral coordinator and coordinator of the (re)design met with the OCPS Executive Cabinet on an alternate date to secure their input. Another school district, Seminole County Public Schools’ (SCPS) executive leaders were out of town so a conference call was held with the Executive Leadership Team. Each school district leader affirmed that the content was aligned with district needs and they particularly like the client-based field research. As one Chief of Staff indicated, “This is a win-win situation—the students conduct research that is needed and is important and, decision makers see the quality of students’ research, writing, and speaking.” An executive leader in SCPS indicated that if his doctoral program had been similarly structured he would not be ABD.

In addition to the positive feedback concerns were raised. One related to the possible perception of less rigor of the field research compared to the traditional dissertation. This was an important issue to be examined and after thoughtful deliberation the faculty came to the conclusion that the client-based field research would have the same research components as the dissertation across four semesters. The difference is that it would have a deliverable (proposal, literature review, data analysis, interim report) due each of the four semesters, which would be graded like any class work, with an executive summary and final report due the fourth semester. Students would have greater support, structure, and accountability since they will be accountable to a faculty committee and to executive leadership in the school district or organization.

A related question raised to UCF faculty had to do with the time requirements of the district personnel involved with the field research. School district leaders were supportive, but indicated that they did not have time to become the advisors, although they did have time to identify issues and problems of practice for research, to facilitate district approval, and provide access to data or data sources. A different response was received at Lynn when members of the professional development team from one school district came onto campus for the day to tour the university, meet the Vice President for Academic Affairs, view a presentation about the Ed. D. program and ultimately agreed to become an advisor if asked. Faculty in both universities believe that communication was essential to this support, to be sure that the client relationship will be honored, and that the research reflects the client’s research questions. However, the responsibility for supervision and support of the research will be with the UCF and Lynn faculties as it was with a dissertation.

After listening to executive district leaders’ reflections and answering their questions the UCF educational leadership faculty asked for district leader advocacy to support the Executive Ed. D. and assist in communicating this program to district teachers and administrators. Overwhelmingly, the response was positive and supportive. In general the district leaders expressed belief that the professional doctorate would be meaningful and would serve school districts well in the future.

With this advocacy the UCF applicant pool was larger than in the past—55 for the first cohort. Although the plan was to admit a maximum of 25 students, admission was offered to 30 and 7 other qualified and acceptable applicants constituted a waiting list to be used in the event a student offered admission declined. Two who were offered admission declined for personal reasons and therefore two from the waiting list were offered admission. After the deadline for admission two other admits indicated that they would not register for fall classes bringing the fall cohort to 28. The 30 admitted to the fall 2010 cohort were employed in school districts in a variety of positions: four district administrators, six principals, eight assistant principals, three teacher leaders (curriculum, reading coach, staffing specialist), and nine classroom teachers. Thirteen of the first cohort are female and 15 are male.

At Lynn influencing the success of the new Ed. D. recruitment was the effort over the previous five years that the Educational Leadership faculty had made to reach out to the local school districts and to (re)design classes to meet local needs. This occurred at the master’s level as an increasing number of students graduated from the state accredited program and took up positions in the school district and at central office. In addition, the required internship in the master’s program increased the Educational Leadership Department’s relationship with principals and instructional leader mentors in local schools. The local school districts’ growing confidence in the master’s program positively impacted recruitment for the new Ed. D. program.

The university has no tradition or history of offering an Ed. D. program. Consequently there is little financial support available to prospective doctoral student other than graduate assistantship. Despite this lack of financial support prospective students are attracted to the supportive learning community, and the opportunity to develop a close professional relationship with educational leadership faculty. For the 2009 cohort there were more applications for the program than there were places. Once applicants completed their admission file they were required to identify one of the four themes, Leadership, Accountability, Equity and Diversity (E & D), Learning and Instruction (L &I), and apply it to an outstanding issue of concern in their school or school district. They then made a 12 minute presentation clearly describing the issue. Members of the Ed. D. Admission Committee viewing the presentation used a rubric to assess the doctoral applicant’s ability to:

  • Function as a scholar and reflective practitioner.
  • Use evidence of research, and statistical data at a school district, state or federal level.
  • Provide a sound rationale for the problem identification and the application of future scholarship to addressing the issue.
  • Prepare materials to be used during the presentation professionally.

The remainder of the doctoral applicant’s admission process was the interview, and the written response to an “in tray issue.” Approximately 80% of doctoral applicants were accepted into the program.

On-going Relationships with Clients

Both universities have established advisory committees that meet regularly for input on the progress of the implementations. The Advisory Board at Lynn University includes faculty from other CPED institutions. This has greatly enhanced the expertise of the Advisory Board and also enabled the educational leadership faculty to develop for their Ed. D. students a program that reflects the richness, rigor, and challenges of a scholar practitioner degree as delivered by other CPED institutions. With a client-based field research the UCF and Lynn University faculties will be in communication regularly with constituencies to ensure effectiveness and to make appropriate revisions to the field research experience.

Conclusions and Next Steps

Through the (re)design and implementation process there has been much to learn in working with faculty when most were satisfied without thought of (re)design. The process might be easier if someone with authority led the (re)design, rather than a peer faculty member. Certainly, bringing in a facilitator who was knowledgeable was helpful in moving the decision making forward. Creating a sense of urgency and garnering support from influential faculty was essential to a timely (re)design and implementation. For UCF, partnering with the school district decision makers to develop the content and to follow up was a key to advocacy for developing the first cohort whilst for Lynn University the critical factor for innovative program design was across campus interdisciplinary faculty input.

Marketing of the newly (re)designed professional doctorate programs will take time to be sure the purpose and content are understood. Assisting those not directly involved with the client-based research to see the rigor involved and that it is valuable will be important.

Evaluation of the Ed. D. program (re)design has begun at both Lynn University and UCF with a survey to the initial cohorts related to the reasons for applying to this program, rather than to another one. At the end of the first year of coursework, a follow- up survey on perceptions of relevancy, alignment with CPED principles, and alignment with expectations at the time of application was also administered. Relevancy of course content and application of the content in schools, districts, and education organizations will continually be scrutinized and evaluated to inform further revisions by gathering data from students and the advisory groups.

The excitement of receiving a large pool of qualified applicants at UCF was diminished by the reality of turning quality applicants away, followed by the problem of providing a high level of service to such a large cohort since one of the goals is higher graduation rates at the end of the 4th year. While both universities were encouraged by the quality of their applicants, for Lynn University (as a private institution) successful marketing remains at the forefront of program sustainability. Lynn University remains committed to a small cohort of 12 students. Nevertheless, despite a small cohort there remains a commonality of concern across the two universities as to whether existing faculty have the time, knowledge, skills, and experience required to lead client-based research. However, these are challenges worth addressing—how to serve doctoral students at a higher level and how to facilitate a large number through the client-based research. Will the large cohort support more full time faculty positions or will the faculty remain the same with greater responsibility? The collaborative culture that was created will continue to support finding solutions to these and other issues as they arise.

The process has been a challenge, and has caused deeper thinking about the program’s purpose and the role of each faculty member in students’ success. As with any second order change this one will need research on the results. Research on the time to graduation, retention rate, and perceived value of the learning experiences will take place as the cohort students progress through the 3-year Ed. D. Monitoring the success of individuals and of the overall (re)design will be critical to ensure implementation with fidelity.

Although there are obvious differences between public and private universities, not only with Lynn University and UCF, but across CPED participating institutions—all are more alike than different. Both Lynn University and UCF have striking similarities in the (re)designed program components, which most probably relate to participation in CPED and listening to the needs of school district leaders. By being a member of CPED’s professional learning community and collaborating with other universities to learn of their challenges and how they arrived at solutions was invaluable to faculty at each university who lead the professional doctorate (re)design.


  • Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
  • Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate. (2008).
  • Dufour, R. (2004). What is a professional learning community? Educational Leadership,61(8), 6-11.
  • Lynn University (2005). Lynn 2020 Strategic Plan: Focusing on Our Future. Retrieved on February 24, 2011, from:
  • Marzano, Waters, & McNulty (2005).School leadership that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
  • Perry, J. A. & Imig, D. (2008). A stewardship of practice in education. The Magazine of Higher Learning. November-December.
  • Poole, M. (2009). UCF progress to degree study. Unpublished report. Orlando, FL: UCF.
  • Reeves, D. B. (2006). The learning leader: How to focus school improvement for better results. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
  • Shulman, L. S. (2009).
  • Storey, V. A. & Hartwick, P. (2010 . Critical friends: Supporting a small, private university face the challenges of crafting an innovative scholar-practitioner doctorate. In G. Jean-Marie & A. Normore (Eds.) Educational Leadership Preparation Programs: Innovative and Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Ed.D. Palgrave MacMillan.
  • Storey, V, A., & Asadoorian, M. (2008). Quantitative analysisof current issues in education: Re-thinking doctoral education programs for the 21st century: Consumers versus producers and the choice between the Ed. D. and the Ph. D. Paper presented at the UCEA Convention October 30 - November 2, 2008, Orlando, Florida.
  • Swaffield, S. (2005). No sleeping partners: Relationships between head teachers and critical friends. School Leadership and Management. 25(1).43-57.
  • Taylor, R. T. (2010). Leading learning: Improve student achievement today! Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
  • Townsend, B. K. (November 21-22, 2002). Rethinking the Ed. D., or what’s in a name? Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education. Sacramento: CA.
  • Walker, G. E., Golde, C., Jones, L., Bueschel, A.C., & Hutchings, P. (2007). The formation of scholars: Rethinking doctoral education for the twenty-first century. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

1The Palm Beach County School District has a student population of 171,700 and is the 5th largest school district in the state of Florida. Broward County School District has 263,000 students and 272 schools, and is the sixth largest school district in the nation. Broward School District has 21,500 full time instructional staff and has a diverse student population that reflects the general population of the south Florida region with a minority majority student body.


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