University of Arkansas

Name of CPED-Influenced Program: Doctorate in Educational Leadership

Key Contact Person:
Ed Bengtson, PhD
Phone: 479-575-5092

Program Description: 

The Educational Leadership Educational Doctorate (EDLE EdD) at the University of Arkansas is an online program using a cohort model and is primarily geared towards future public school district administrators. Students are full-time practitioners that work in K-12 school systems or regional and state organizations that support local school systems. Most of our students are residents of the state of Arkansas, Southwest Missouri, and Southeast Kansas. We have had students from as far away as Pennsylvania and Illinois. Students are required to come to the main campus three times during their program of study for weekend intensive seminars. The cohort is generally setup to be completed in three years once the requirements for the Education Specialist Degree (EdS) in Educational Leadership are satisfied. If a student is admitted to the program with a Master's degree, they must first complete the EdS requirements and then continue on to the EdD at that time. In this sense, those students are accepted into a future cohort pending their satisfactory completion of their EdS. The EDLE EdD program faculty consists of four full-time tenure track faculty, one clinical faculty who is an active superintendent in the state, and an instructor.  

The University of Arkansas has been redesigning its EDLE EdD over the past four years. The 2014 Cohort will be the first to experience the redesign effort. Each cohort since 2010 has experienced some of the CPED principles and philosophy; however, the 2014 cohort will be the first to experience the EDLE EdD CPED-influenced program design from the very beginning of their experience.    

Stage in Redesign Process: Implementation
Signature Pedagogy: 

Problem of Practice Centered Instruction

  1. Students identify a problem of practice that is embedded in their work as an educational practitioner.
  2. All research courses are focused on the student’s particular problem of practice that the faculty has approved. While learning the theories and practices of research, students apply it to their problem of practice. The level of understanding of the research process is found in the quality of writing (see #2).
  3. The construction of a research proposal is a focus throughout the research course sequence. In this sense, the instruction serves as a scaffold with students starting with a basic purpose of their study and expanding section by section while receiving ongoing feedback at multiple times over the course of the two-years. This allows for students to be better prepared for the presentation of a proposal soon after all course work is completed, strengthens the quality of the study, and helps them get critically involved in their work as a practitioner while engaged in their graduate work.
Laboratories of Practice: 

We consider the student's work environment and that environment's extended community to be the laboratory of practice. 


Currently, the capstone to the EdD is the completion of a traditional research dissertation requiring a qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods approach to the study of a problem largely of the student’s choosing. Students enrolled since 2010 have been actively engaged in writing the second and third chapters of their proposal throughout their research courses. It is recognized that major revisions or shifts in their proposed study’s focus might occur once they start working toward the defense of the proposal with their dissertation chair. At this point in time, dissertation chairs are not identified until the student has completed a majority of their course work.

As a professional doctorate, the EdD should focus on a problem of practice. This is different than perhaps a PhD where typically the focus is on a research topic that may or may not be a problem of practice. The following statement reflects the definition of a problem of practice at the University of Arkansas:

The Educational Leadership EdD Program at the University of Arkansas expects students to complete a study of a problem of practice to fulfill their dissertation requirement. We have identified five core dimensions that define problems of practice that are embedded in K-12 schools and the communities they serve. As with any complexity, there are no definite lines of separation between the dimensions. As a matter of fact, we feel strongly that the dimensions should not be considered separately. We do require that a problem of practice contains all five dimensions. 

§  Focuses on instructional and/or systemic issues. Instructional or systemic issues are problems that involve the interactions of teachers, students, and content or the interactions of system leaders, schools, and communities that relate to school or system performance and/or community well-being.*

§  Is directly observable. A problem of practice must be empirical in nature not theoretical. While theory may be used to assist in the examination of the problem, the problem itself must be directly observable.

§  Is actionable. Actionable in the sense that the problem can be improved in real time. This dimension further defines the problem of practice as it extends the Directly Observable dimension; however, it is important to note all that not all problems that are directly observable are actionable from the standpoint of an educational leadership doctoral student.

§  Connects to a broader strategy of improvement and the school's or system’s action plan. We see problems of practice having a reciprocal relationship with broader improvement plans. Improvement plans might very well assist in defining problems of practice, while the in-depth study of a particular problem may enable a school or system realize its stated goals.

§  Is high-leverage. Solving a problem of practice would make a significant difference for student learning and/or community health. Being high-leverage is related to being actionable. Ideally, we want students to make a difference in the field as a result of their obtaining a degree.

It is our hope that through coursework, research, and ongoing practice in the field, students will develop the necessary skills, attributes, and dispositions that support strong educational leadership at either the building or system level. We feel strongly that the experience of working on a problem of practice with the above listed dimensions will play a integral role in our students’ development. 

*While problems of practice for educational leaders are often defined solely in terms related to student achievement, we feel that schools have a much broader purpose than what is defined by the current educational reform policies that measure school success by student achievement on standardized tests. We agree that students’ mastery of certain cognitive skills is an important goal for schools; however, we also feel that schools have critical responsibility in the development of a host of other skills and attributes in addition to those cognitive skills measured by standardized tests.  

How do students use their dissertation work in practice following graduation?: 

It is planned that with an identification of a problem of practice, the skills learned to successfully examine and potentially inform the problem with solutions and action steps will lead to an impact on future practice. While it might be that the original problem of practice that was the focus of the dissertation will continue to be informed by the dissertation, the skills and abilities that were developed through the dissertation of practice process will inform other problems of practice and augment the impact of the leader on school/system improvement. 

Does your dissertation process take into account impact or potential impact on the field? If so, can you measure the impact?: 

As part of the findings of the dissertation in practice we require a section that describes the impact of practice. This is not necessarily always going to be empirical, and in some cases will be very much theoretical at the time of the completed dissertation. Evidence of impact might not emerge until some time after the completed dissertation.

To attempt to measure impact, we will systematically follow-up with alumni to determine the perceived impact of their doctoral work on both their personal professional practice and the effect on the school, system, or community.

Description of each year of the Program: 

The EdD in Educational Leadership provides professional preparation for students pursuing careers as leaders of school systems and higher-education faculty.

The Doctorate is offered online using a cohort model. Admission decisions are made twice a year, in mid-March and early summer. Once a semester the online cohort will meet face-to-face for a campus experience. The meaningful campus experience will be an intensive weekend cohort seminar on the University of Arkansas campus. Each cohort weekend will be focused on a theme that connects theory/policy with practice and includes mini-lectures by scholars and practitioners in the field, facilitated discussion groups, and lively debate of critical issues facing school leaders. The intent of the cohort weekend is to build relationships, introduce students to leaders in the field, and expose them to interactive, hands-on learning experiences that lend themselves more easily to the face-to-face environment. During the final cohort weekend of year 3, students will work through a series of structured exercises to present their dissertation research for peer and faculty critique in preparation for final revisions and submission.

Requirements for the Educational Specialist Degree: The specialist degree program in Educational Leadership is designed primarily to provide professional preparation for students involved in school-site administration and those individuals who have district-wide administrative responsibilities.

The specialist degree program requires completion of a minimum of 27 graduate semester hours with the number of actual credit hours a function of the previous educational background of each student and his or her goals.

1. Completion of the following required common courses in Educational Leadership

  • EDLE 6023 School Facilities Planning/Management ( 3 hours)
  • EDLE 6053 School-Community Relations (3 hours)
  • EDLE 6093 School Governance (3 hours)
  • EDLE 6103 School Finance (3 hours)
  • EDLE 6173 School Business Management (3 hours)
  • EDLE 6333 Advanced Fiscal and Legal Issues (3 hours)
  • EDLE 674V Internship (3 hours)

 2. The following  research courses:

  • EDLE 6503 Topics in Educational Research (3 hours)
  • EDLE 6513 Program Evaluation in Education (3 hours)

3. Elective course (3 hours)

Requirements for the EDLE EdD:

The doctor of education degree in educational leadership requires the completion of a minimum of 72 graduate semester-hour credits including 18 dissertation hours and 42 graduate-only semester hours beyond the master's degree. If students enter the EdD program without a specialist degree in Educational Leadership, they are required to complete the courses in the specialist program (minimum of 27 graduate-only semester hours).  Requirements for the Ed.D. degree in Educational Leadership include:

Year I:


  • EDLE 699V - Problems of Practice (3 hours)

Fall -

  • EDLE 6533 Educational Policy & Change (3 hours)
  • EDLE 699V - Introduction to Qualitative Research (3 hours)
  • EDLE 699V - On-Campus Seminar (1 hour)

Spring -

  • EDLE 699V - Statistical Literacy for School Leaders
  • EDLE 6553 - Advanced Qualitative Research (3 hours)
  • EDLE 699V - On-campus Seminar ( 1 hour)

Year II:

Summer -

  • EDLE 6513 - Program Evaluation
  • Schedule and Defensd Exams

Fall -

  • EDLE 6503 - Topics in Eductaional Research/Prospectus Development (3 hours)

Spring -

  • Schedule / Defend Proposal

Year III:

  • Dissertation Hours (18 hours)
  • Dissertation Defense
18 semester hours of dissertation credit

A minimum grade point average of at least 3.25 on all coursework presented as part of the degree program.  No graduate degree credit will be granted for a course grade below “C.”
Satisfactory completion of all requirements governing the written and oral examinations for the candidacy examination, the dissertation, and the final oral dissertation defense.
The EdD degree must be completed within seven years from the date the Declaration of Intent is signed.
The program of study must comply with university residency requirements for graduate students.

Program Milestones: 

Acceptance into Program

Approval of Program of Study

Year 2:

  • Successful completion of coursework
  • Successful defense of exams/poposal

Year 3:

  • Successful defense of dissertation of practice
Graduate Competencies:

We believe that our graduates first and foremost must be policy literate and research literate before they can be stewards of the profession and their community, be ethical, be visionary, be a creative problem solver through mindful inquiry, and be an insurer of social justice.

Admission Requirements: 

Formal admission to the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree requires (1) prior admission to the University of Arkansas Graduate School; (2) a master's degree or approved equivalent; (3) at least two years of successful, relevant professional experience; (4) submission of proof of a currently valid teaching certificate; (5) a completed Educational Leadership Program Application for Admission Form; (6) at least three supporting letters of recommendation, plus a writing sample; (7) an autobiographical sketch; (8) a personal interview may be requested; (9) compatibility of Educational Leadership Program offerings with the applicant’s goals, interests, and background; and (10) approval by the Committee on Graduate Study in Education of the College of Education and Health Professions

Are there any distinct admission requirements? How do they inform the admissions process / program?: 

We require an interview as part of the screening process. Prior to the interview, each candidate receives a copy of the dimensions of problems of practice ad are asked to come to the interview prepared to talk about their ideas and reflections about a problem of practice in their work environment. The problem of practice they come to the interview with may or may not be the one they focus on during their experience in the program if they are admitted. This exercise is to determine the level and depth of their thinking about real problems of practice and  we feel this gives us valuable insight when selecting the best candidates.

General Information:
  • Program Delivery: Online
  • Average number of students admitted into the EdD program each year: 9 (in 2015, twelve were admitted with a 57% acceptance rate)
  • Types of employment students hold upon entering the program:
    Classroom Teachers (K-12)

Building Level Leaders (K-12)

  • Assistant Principals
  • Principals

System Level Leaders (K-12)

  • Superintendents
  • Assistant Superintendents
  • Curriculum Coordinators

State-Level Educational Leaders

  • Arkansas Leadership Academy
  • Various K-12 Support Cooperatives in Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri University Faculty
  • Student : Faculty Ratio (Courses): 20 : 5 (as of July 2013- Cohorts 2010 - 2013)
  • Student : Faculty Ratio (Advising): 20 : 3 (as of July 2013- Cohorts 2010 - 2013)
  • Typical bachelors degrees held by students upon entering the program: Education, Psychology,
    Typical masters degrees held by students upon entering the program: Educational Leadership, Curriclum and Instruction, Psychology
  • Number of credits in the program (beyond the Masters): 72
  • Professional qualifications required of prospective students: Prospective students are required to be involved in a professional occupation that is related to or directly involved with K-12 education. Students must present evidence of successful graduate work in the past, in education or related field. For example, students who have a strong academic background in psychology and are working in a capacity that connects with K-12 education (e.g., a psychologist employed by school district; counselor, etc.) might be considered for acceptance into the program. Part of the decision to accept an individual is based on a combination of prior achievements/experiences and career aspirations.
  • Length of Program: Less than 4 years
  • Percentage of students that graduate on time: Since 2010 - 50% met three-year target
  • Are most students part time or full time?: part time
  • Admissions Cycle: 

August - March:

  • Applications accepted

March - April:

  • All completed applications are reviewed for consideration for acceptance
  • Interviews scheduled

April - June:

  • Admissions announced


  • Cohort starts with first course
  • Average number of students enrolled in each cohort: 9
  • Total number of faculty: 6
  • Graduation Rate: Not known at this time
  • Attrition Rate: 18% (Since 2010)
  • Current PK-20 Practitioner: 1
  • Former PK-20 Practitioner, Current University Faculty: 3
  • Current University Faculty:4
  • Former University Faculty, Current PK-20 Practitioner: 1
  • University faculty from discipline outside of education: 0
  • Other (please explain): We have one (1) visiting professor position that is filled by one of our outstanding graduates. This person is teaching in our research course sequence.
Core Courses:

Our core leadership courses are mainly found in the Ed.S. curriculum:

  • EDLE 6023 School Facilities Planning/Management ( 3 hours)
  • EDLE 6053 School-Community Relations (3 hours)
  • EDLE 6093 School Governance (3 hours)
  • EDLE 6103 School Finance (3 hours)
  • EDLE 6173 School Business Management (3 hours)
  • EDLE 6333 Advanced Fiscal and Legal Issues (3 hours)
Research Courses:

EDLE 699V - Problems of Practice

EDLE 699V- Intro to Qualitative Research

EDLE 6553 - Advanced Qualitative Research

EDLE 6513 - Program Evaluation in Education

EDLE 699V - Statistical Literacy for School Leaders

EDLE 6503 - Topics in Educational Research / Propsectus Development

What other content courses are included in the program?: 

EDLE 6533 - Educational Policy and Change

Design Process:
Did practitioners advise on the program design process? How so?: 

Not directly. There were informal conversations with various leaders throughout the state of Arkansas. The Executive Director of the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators was consulted as were several of the state superintendents. These conversations occurred as the program design was being adjusted to meet the needs of the students and the systems that they serve.

We are looking at the possibility of developing an Advisory Board that would include practitioners throughout the state.

What strategies were used to develop your program design?: 

We used a backward design as a strategy. Identifying the attributes and competencies that we want our graduates to have, identifying the deliverable (dissertation of practice) that would be supporting evidence of these competencies and attributes, and design a curriculum that supports these two things. We are also constantly monitoring and tweaking the curriculum to accommodate this process. 

How long was the design process?: 3 years

Was there anything unique about your program design process?: 

We drew from various other models offered by the CPED consortium; however, being an online program, we found that we had to really work on contextualizing the CPED principles to meet our students' needs. Frankly, we are still working through the design process as we look at our current course offerings and thinking about what needs to change to produce a more impactful and meaning experience for our students and for the field of practice. We are trying to make the shift from a research-based doctorate to an online doctorate of practice. Interestingly, anecdotal reports from alumni suggest that the program has improved from where it was prior to going to an online format.

Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED)
Headquartered @ The University of Pittsburgh School of Education
4318 Posvar Hall - 230 S. Bouquet Street - Pittsburgh, PA 15260   +1 (412) 648-7428