Innovative EdD Cohort Model: is Creating New Leaders
While the EdD has traditionally been a practitioner-based course of study, the College of Education has struggled over the years with how to distinguish the PhD in Education and the EdD programs.
The situation was not unique to UMSL’s COE. Schools of education in the U.S. have long been grappling with the challenge of providing quality research-intensive PhD programs and distinguished EdD programs for practicing professionals that help students meet different goals. EdD candidates typically are professionals who want and need doctoral credentials for career advancement and have a strong desire to deepen their professional practice. While researchers and college professors with PhDs are vital to the field of education, EdD candidates need a credential that tells people that they know how to apply that research in the field and have the leadership skills to solve high leverage problems of practice.
So with those challenges in mind, the college set out in 2011 to fundamentally change the EdD program. Our college leaders turned to a prominent consortium of colleges doing cutting edge work to transform these programs across the country, the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED). The CPED is a consortium of over 80 colleges and schools of education working together with a goal of redesigning all aspects of their EdD programs.
“Our membership in CPED has provided the connections, feedback and dialog with other universities who were also initiating change and experimenting with new approaches to their programs,” said Kathleen Haywood, associate dean for academic programs. “The access to such a wide perspective on what others were doing around the country allowed us to develop a unique program, that reflects CPED principles and integrates our college’s commitment to the local and regional communities we serve.”
After a great deal of planning, research and work, the college rolled out its new EdD in 2013. The new design is a three-year, cohort-based program that is centered on specific themes, or areas of practice. EdD candidates form learning communities of practice numbering around 10-15 individuals, and move through the process together. Faculty mentors for the group stay with them all the way. The program culminates in a coordinated Dissertation in Practice designed by the cohort members with individual contributions by the candidates. Because the EdD dissertation in practice projects are larger than an individual research project, they can provide sizeable bonus to the educational communities they affect.
The learning themes rotate from year to year. Themes for 2016 graduates are:
- Higher Education Student Services (HESS)
- Character Education and Democratic School Governance
- Language Literacy and Culture
- Educational Policy
New Leader on UMSL Campus
UMSL’s new Registrar Theresa Keuss believes the new EdD program has already been a factor in helping her achieve her goal. Keuss has been moving through the program with her cohorts in the Higher Education Student Services learning community. She was promoted from assistant registrar to her new position last month and believes that her work in the program contributed to her advancement.
“The program stresses both the significance of challenging the status quo and the importance of assessing outcomes,” Keuss said. “Keeping those objectives in mind allows for a broader range of approaches to best practices. Also the class projects really can apply to real life practitioner scenarios, which are valuable for expanding professional experience.”
Keuss is looking forward to her group’s Dissertation in Practice project coming up this year. Her Higher Education Student Services cohort group wrote a request for proposals to several colleges and universities inviting them to pose a problem they would like help in addressing.
“Our group chose a proposal from a rural community college in Missouri that was concerned about their dropout rate,” Keuss said. “We are planning to conduct policy analysis and ultimately create strategies that can assist them with some of the challenges they are facing with college preparedness and retention of their students.”
She thinks the project has potential in identifying a multitude of contributing relationships as opposed to a single dissertation research approach that may only be able to focus on one aspect of a problem.
“These dissertation projects focus on complex, high-leverage problem of practice and provide a large bonus to the educational communities they affect,” Haywood explained. “They are designed to have a high impact– that is how these programs are graded nationally.”
Haywood said that the cohort model itself has huge benefits but comes with its own set of challenges. It requires a serious commitment on the part of each student since they are not working in isolation and must work within their group on their part of a project or advancement to the next level. The model builds real life learning as a team, and individuals in each learning community spend a lot of time talking about their working styles and how they like to give and receive information.
“We put a lot of effort into forming a cohesive working unit to get the work done,” Haywood explained. “There’s a tradeoff that students make in this program. The big bonus is that they will earn their doctoral degree in three years. But for that, they must give up any choice of coming and going in the program – they can’t take off a semester and come back to it the following semester. It’s really pretty intense, especially the first year and a half of coursework.”
For Keuss, the cohort model is what she loves most about being in the new EdD program. “As part of a cohort you find support and an increased opportunity to learn from each other,” she said. “Being part of a cohort gives you the opportunity to bounce ideas off of each other and analyze objectives from various perspectives. Problems in the real world are rarely one-dimensional and the education profession is not a solo experience, so being part of a team in class sharpens skills needed on the job as well.”
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