University of Southern California

Name of CPED-Influenced Program: Rossier School of Education Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership
Program Description: 

The Doctor of Education (EdD) is a 3-year degree program that equips practitioner-scholars with the skills needed to lead high-performing organizations, connect research with practice, and help all students to learn. The program is geared toward working professionals with a Master's degree and at least 3 to 5 years of work experience in a related field who aspire to be leaders in urban education. The new program has four core courses, each reflecting a program theme—leadership, accountability, diversity, and learning—and employs various problem-solving models to help students learn to diagnose and solve education problems.

Other key features:

  • To differ from the PhD program, the EdD program involves students in activities that strengthen their leadership skills throughout the program.
  • Clinical faculty members have equal status with tenured/tenure-track faculty members in implementing and monitoring the program.
  • Instructional processes focus on problem solving, discussions, and small-group work rather than the traditional lecture format.
  • A core curriculum is collaboratively maintained for the first four core courses.
  • Students complete the program in three years.
  • Students stay with their entering cohort as they move through the program. Over 80% -90% of students in the program participate in thematic, rather than traditional, dissertations.
Signature Pedagogy:

Since our program focuses on helping educational leaders to develop problem-solving skills they can use in their jobs, we use a problem-solving model called gap analysis (see Clark and Estes, 2008*). The model was adopted in two of the four core courses (i.e., accountability and learning) and is the focus of the education psychology concentration. The key approach to gap analysis is that it asks leaders to answer the following questions as they attempt to solve performance problems:

  1. What is our performance goal?
  2. Where are we now (related to goal)?
  3. What is the size of the gap?
  4. What is causing the gap (focus on knowledge/skill, motivation, and organizational factors as assumed causes to be validated)?
  5. What solutions will close the gap?
  6. How do we implement the solutions?
  7. How do we measure our progress?

The rationale for gap analysis stems from the evidence that many leaders fail to analyze the causes of performance gaps in that they a) often fail to have clear goals before they embark on finding solutions to problems, c) often select and implement the wrong solutions, and/or c) when solutions do not work, they often blame the people who have the problem.

* Clark, R. E. & Estes, F. (2008) Turning Research into Results: A Guide to Selecting the Right Performance Solutions. Atlanta GA: CEP Press.

Laboratories of Practice: 

We currently do not have a field-based component of the program. We will shortly be instituting a 1-unit international study tour focused on global education for all students in the program.


For the culminating portion of the program, approximately 80%-90% of students participate in thematic dissertations. Each student works with several others in a group, either on related topics or with the same database, to produce his or her own, unique dissertation. Themes for the dissertations are generally organized around field-based issues or problems, and students are required to collaborate in developing their proposals and to critique each other's work. In short, a unifying feature ties several EdD students together such that they can be mentored as a group. Students begin with a problem and then analyze the literature to find guidance on how to research it. This dissertation approach differs from the traditional PhD dissertation process, in which students typically work alone and begin by reviewing the literature to identify gaps and constructs, then deciding on the setting in which to conduct their research.

In addition, there are experimental groups underway that are using a “gap analysis” approach to work with districts on targeted problems along the lines of a consultant model. A very small number of students work on an individual dissertation in consultation with a faculty member and committee.

Program Milestones: 

Three-Year Sequence for EdD, by Year and Semester

Year 1

Challenges in Urban Education: Leadership (EDUC 524)
Challenges in Urban Education: Accountability (EDUC 522)

Challenges in Urban Education: Diversity (EDUC 523) 
Challenges in Urban Education: Learning (EDUC 525)

Summer Conference 
Inquiry Methods I (EDUC 532) 
Concentration Course 1

Year 2

Concentration Course 2 
Concentration Course 3

Inquiry Methods II (EDUC 536) 
Critique of Research (EDUC 792)

Concentration Course 4 
Concentration Course 5 
Dissertation Research Seminar (EDUC 790) 
Qualifying Exams

Year 3


Dissertation Graduation

Each student begins the program in the fall semester, entering as one member of a cohort. All stu- dents in a cohort take the same four core courses in the first academic year. The following summer, they take the first of two inquiry methods courses and begin work in their choice of one of four concentrations: (1) Educational Psychology (applying teaching and learning in schooling/business and non-traditional educational settings), (2) Higher Education Administration/Community College Leadership, (3) K-12 Leadership in Urban School Settings, and (4) Teacher Education in Multicultural Societies (TEMS). Work connected with the thematic dissertations begins in the students' first summer and continues to the end of the program.

Admission Requirements: 

Note that in the next academic year, we will be using the GRE as an optional admission requirement. We will instead use an on-demand sit down writing assessment which will require students to analyze and synthesize short conceptual articles on key urban education topics (ideally written by program faculty). The assessment, currently being piloted, is designed to mimic key writing skills that will be targeted in the program.

Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED)
Headquartered @ The University of Pittsburgh School of Education
5522 Posvar Hall - 230 S. Bouquet Street - Pittsburgh, PA 15260   +1 (412) 648-7428