EdD in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies

The Wheelock Doctorate of Education (EdD) in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, sub concentration in Educational Leadership: Early Childhood Education—Grade 12, is a three-year, 60-credit, cohort-based program consisting of 14 required courses and three Leadership Seminars (“Cultivating a Leadership Disposition”), credit-bearing dissertation support, job-embedded coaching, and cross-district student partnerships. The program is designed for current formal and informal school and school district leaders, including superintendents, principals, deans, assistant principals, program directors, curriculum, and teacher leaders. The coursework takes place at two-week Summer Institutes and on eight weekends during the academic year so that students can continue to work while progressing through the program.

A central feature of the program is its collaborative teams—Networked Improvement Communities (NICs). Within a cohort, three to five students working in similar socioeconomic communities—in public district, public charter, independent, or international schools—work on collaborative projects in classes that are embedded within districts and/or schools where they work. These projects, grounded in curriculum content and problems of practice, will lead to dissertation proposals. NICs will work in teams, supporting individual members. Each student will then write an individual dissertation—three scholarly articles or a more traditional five-chapter dissertation—based on research results in their own community. The school- and district-based partnerships will ensure that coursework is deeply connected and applied to practice. Practice-generated problems drive solutions and innovations that will be tested, refined, and monitored for impact on student, teacher, and leader growth in schools and in school districts.

The EdD program supports leadership development using field mentorship for students throughout the program. The program’s Field Director helps recruit and develop student teams from similar socioeconomic communities. Then, the Field Director supports the teams as they connect and apply coursework to the real world of their schools and school districts. Beginning in the second year of the program, the Field Director, working with program faculty, supports teams in the development and implementation of the collaborative projects, grounded in problems of practice. The Field Director, with program faculty, represents a collaborative leadership model and support system to analyze school and school district problems and generate practice-driven reforms. Teams will address fundamental questions in our schools, such as the following:

  • How do we develop and sustain inclusive and collaborative governance structures for our schools and school systems?
  • How do we develop and sustain school and school system cultures that reflect a “we/not I” ethos?
  • How do we develop progress-monitoring tools aligned to PARCC/MCAS 2.0 for early intervention?
  • How do we use technology to support learning in our classrooms?
  • How do we align school and school system core values and goals with our policies, practices, and budgets?
  • How do we prepare for and manage crises?
  • How can we provide alternatives to special education in math and literacy?
  • How do we integrate high-impact strategies for behavioral/social/emotional intervention?
  • How do we develop and implement effective communication strategies within our schools and school systems?
  • How do we have difficult conversations with educators in need of improvement?
  • How can we empower a district leadership team to develop its own professional learning?
  • How do we intentionally build and nurture antiracist cultures in schools and school districts?

Learning Outcomes

The following 10 measurable Learning Outcomes posit that educational leaders must demonstrate these capacities:

  1. Creative problem-solving around organizational issues. Graduates will be able to build strong collaborative and entrepreneurial cultures that feature formal, dynamic, and inclusive governance structures.
  2. Knowledge of strategies for recruiting, nurturing, supervising, and retaining high-quality colleagues. This is a precursor to their leadership role as Chief Talent Developer.
  3. Skills in performance-based instructional leadership. School leaders must be instructional leaders, not just managers.
  4. Deep commitment to the development of every student within an ethos of equity, building and nurturing a proactive antiracist culture in schools and school systems.
  5. The ability to work collaboratively, building strong relationships with all stakeholders, to effect systemic innovation and change.
  6. Effective communication skills—orally, in writing, and through technology—to keep the community informed.
  7. Knowledge and skills in effective crisis management.
  8. Knowledge and skills in school finance.
  9. Understanding of the relationship between school and community, particularly in relation to the child within this context, and of issues of race, gender, language, and socioeconomic status.
  10. Knowledge of theories and evidence-based practices regarding the education of students and school leadership.

1. Doctoral-Level Coursework

  • Eleven (11) two- and four-credit core courses (including two research courses), each focusing on one of the 2015 Standards for Educational Leaders:
    • SED AP 600 Diversity and Justice in Education (4 cr)
    • SED AP 631 Child and Family Policy (4 cr)
    • SED AP 664 Advanced Strategic Planning and Implementation (4 cr)
    • SED AP 751 School Law (2 cr)
    • SED AP 759 School Improvement Science and Implementation (4 cr)
    • SED AP 761 Organizational Analysis (4 cr)
    • SED AP 762 Advanced School Budgeting, Finance, and Labor Relations (4 cr)
    • SED AP 765 Educational Politics: Local, State, and National (4 cr)
    • SED CT 721 Analysis and Design of Curriculum (4 cr)
    • SED RS 615 Understanding and Applying Educational Research (4 cr)
    • SED RS 652 Qualitative Research Methods (4 cr)
  • Three (3) 2-credit seminars (“Cultivating a Leadership Disposition”) focused on the dispositions for effective leadership outlined in the 2015 Standards for Educational Leaders:
    • SED AP 705 Growth-Mindedness, Perseverance, and Cultural Awareness (2 cr)
    • SED AP 706 Authenticity, Ethics, and Reflectiveness (2 cr)
    • SED AP 707 Collaboration and Innovation (2 cr)
  • Three (3) 4-credit courses focused on the development and implementation of the collaborative project, emerging from a significant problem of practice, and resulting in the writing of individual dissertations:
    • SED AP 996 Dissertation Development I: Defining the Problem of Practice and Developing the Proposal (4 cr)
    • SED AP 997 Dissertation Development II: Research and Analysis of Data (4 cr)
    • SED AP 998 Dissertation Development III: Writing the Dissertation (4 cr)

2. Field-Based Coaching with the Field Director for Cross-District Partnerships

3. The Dissertation within the Collaborative Project

The culmination of doctoral study is a dissertation written as part of the student’s participation in a collaborative project grounded in a significant Problem of Practice (POP). Teams of three or five students, working in similar socioeconomic communities and supported by their professors and Field Director, will identify a common and robust POP. This problem will represent the collective thinking and analysis of the students and will be a problem that is common to all of the students’ schools and/or school districts. The scope of the POP falls between a classroom problem (too limited) and a state or federal policy (too broad and too far from the schoolhouse or district). An EdD dissertation grounded in a significant POP contributes new knowledge and/or new practices that respond to the Problem of Practice. Each student completes their own dissertation grounded in the data gathered in their own community.