Michigan State University

Name of CPED-Influenced EdD Program: Doctor of Educational Leadership
Key Contact Person:
Dr. Susan Printy
Director, Doctor of Educational Leadership


Program Description:
The Doctor of Educational Leadership (DEL) in the College of Education at Michigan State University is an innovative, three-year terminal doctoral program. In line with a national trend supporting practice-based doctoral degree options for advanced educational leaders, the Department of Educational Administration offers the Ed.D., a rigorous and relevant program conceptualized around the knowledge and skill demands for effective professional practice. Faculty and students will, together, address critical challenges to the education field.

The DEL program seeks to develop a strong network of senior leaders for Michigan schools, districts, community organizations and other education-related agencies. Graduates will be prepared to enact Michigan Central Office Administrator (COA) standards at high levels.

Students in the program will find their advanced leadership studies connected to critical education and social issues facing the state. After many years of economic decline, public discourses in Michigan are focused on how to redevelop core social and economic infrastructures, public schools chief among them. Excellent and equitable schools are critical to resilient communities and to a thriving state; the DEL perspective is that schools are integral to efforts to redevelop and re-spirit local communities. Toward that end, the program seeks an active role in key state level deliberations about the future of our schools.

Values and Objectives of the Doctor of Educational Leadership

K-12 Educational Administration adopts Michigan State University’s core institutional values as central to the Doctor of Educational Leadership: quality, inclusiveness, and connectivity. We apply these values to the design and implementation of the program itself, seeking to be recognized as the program of choice for advanced educational leadership preparation (quality), seeking to enroll diverse students, particularly those representing under-served communities, with a passion for improving the life chances of young people and bringing new spirit to communities (inclusiveness), and seeking to convene and facilitate deliberative democratic conversations among Michigan citizenry (connectivity) about matters of common interest. Additionally, the program will prepare students to embed these values in their own organizations – that is, specific policies and processes for insuring that quality, inclusivity, and connectivity become lived rather than espoused values.

We aim to cultivate in our students the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that help educators navigate the practical demands of leading effective schools and education systems. Key objectives have guided development of the Doctor of Educational Leadership program. These are:

  1. to prepare educational leaders to lead excellent, equitable, and responsive    educational systems;
  2. to qualify graduates for the Michigan Central Office Administrator certification;
  3. to provide intellectual leadership around educational issues for school leaders, policy makers, politicians, community leaders, and other interested stakeholders;
  4. to convene forums for democratic deliberation of educational, social, and economic issues so as to play an active role in redevelopment efforts in Michigan while also preparing students to be agents for change within their own districts or areas;
  5. to support high caliber collaborative action research that puts innovative solutions to work while advancing outreach, engagement, and economic development and strengthening linkages to other MSU units and to external partners

Stage in Redesign Process:  Experienced with Graduates

Laboratories of Practice: 

Within courses, cohort members complete many active projects, including:

  • a two semester inquiry into a professional problem of practice
  • an equity audit
  • an investigation of alternative strategies for organizing schools
  • an adequacy study
  • a negotiations simulation
Signature Pedagogy: 

Unique to Our DEL Program

Beyond compelling and challenging coursework, two defining characteristics of the program set the MSU Doctor of Educational Leadership apart from other state and national programs.

Firstannual Summer Forums create arenas for public deliberation of leading issues and ideas, thus providing opportunities for multiple stakeholders to develop and disseminate strategies for improving schools and policies affecting schools.

Secondgroup Capstone Projects, carried out over the third year, engage students in action research or consultation projects targeting a substantive educational or community problem or challenge.


Group Capstone Projects in Year 3

At Michigan State, the K-12 faculty have a long history with practitioner students completing solo dissertations, some more applicable to their practice than others.  Given the state of the economy and of education in Michigan, the faculty elected to have students work in groups to complete their final doctoral work, which we termed the Group Capstone Project. For the first group, this project was discussed in many ways during their initial two years due to the fact that 1) this was a totally new endeavor for us and 2) we wanted to support creative responses. Our motivating interest was to draw on the talents and energies of our cohort to make an investment in our state.  We provided minimal specifications for the project, including:  1) it must be grounded in theory and research; 2) it requires disciplined inquiry; 3) it creates new knowledge; and 4) it benefits educational stakeholders or Michigan communities. 

In the first cohort, we had four capstone groups, each with a faculty advisor.  Membership ranged from 2 students to 5 students. The process by which these projects took shape was "messy" with multiple iterations, a great deal of conversation with advisors, and some trial and error.  Initial ideas came from students, in all cases, based on experiences within courses or during the Forums, as described above.  We aspired to have each group working with a community or education partner, but fell short of that with this first cohort, in some part because faculty did not know how to engage in partner-building effectively.  One limitation we faced was not recognizing the amount of time establishing partnerships requires.

Faculty involved as advisors or as members of committees were extremely pleased with the projects completed by the first cohort.  As with other aspects of the program, we have made some changes to scaffold the development of the projects more systematically.  Members of cohort II are currently preparing literature papers that serve to ground their work in the research and to inform the design of their ultimate projects.  At the same time, they are completing a course in Collaborative Inquiry and Project design.  After an intense summer, each group will defend their proposals to a faculty committee in early fall, after which they will begin their work.

In the following section, I summarize students' comments made at the Capstone defense meeting this past April.

On the group design of the project:

Almost unanimously, students remarked that the group configuration enabled them to complete a significant project in a relatively short period of time.  They could capitalize on their strengths and divide the work effectively and efficiently.  Group membership was self-selected, which ensured a certain level of internal accountability.  As the project progresses, groups self-monitored equitable participation which, it turned out, was not a significant problem for this inaugural group.  They were committed to each other, to the project, and to the quality of the project.

The faculty frequently heard that students did not think they could have completed work at the scale or the quality of the final project by themselves.  They all attested to the effort they made and the diligence required to meet deadlines and that these were enhanced because of the accountability everyone felt toward others.

On the short timeline for the project:

The short timeline, aided by the sense of internal accountability, created a particular environment within which group members completed their work.  It seems that "crucible" is an apt analogy.  One group reports discussing the realities of the experience with their advisor, who compared his experience working with them to his past experiences with PhD students, who often spent years, in total, working on their dissertation.  He noted that they were "compressing a year's worth of angst into three months."  One student in the group created a poster with that message to help her stay on track and appreciate what their group was trying to accomplish. 

On the rigor of the Capstone project:

One of the topics of conversation in CPED is the "literature review" and the usefulness to the DIP, which we refer to here as the Group Capstone Project.  Again, students completed these in a very short timeline - really about 8 weeks in total.  For some, their work was "spot on" in terms of the relationship to their ultimate projects and the literature review contributed significantly to the background, design, and conduct of their work.  For others, the relationship ended up being more tangential.  Most groups found a way to include at least parts of everyone's literature review work in their final projects.

Almost unanimously, students reported positive reactions to having to conduct this work as preparation for their projects.  They found the work to be demanding yet practical.  They also appreciated the element of rigor that the literature paper contributed to the project.  More, they appreciated the general contribution of the literature review to their doctoral education.  Some, in fact, have reported the pleasure they had when reviewing the research and how much the process improved their understanding of research and their ability to apply research findings to different contexts.

Description of each year of the Program: 

Structure of the DEL program

The Doctor of Educational Leadership (DEL) is a three year, summer-intensive program, designed for working professionals.

The first year of the program focuses on core knowledge required by educational leaders, policy makers, and researchers. Classes in this first year follow a calendar that differs from the regular MSU academic calendar. Three of the Year I core classes (EAD 920 Political Economy of Schooling, EAD 922 Analyzing Educational Systems, and 923 Organizing for Learning) meet on Saturdays for 11 weeks, one after the other over the academic year. During this first academic year, DEL students also take EAD 921 Leadership for Transformation, their professional seminar. The seminar meets online, once every two weeks, throughout the first academic year.

During the Year I Summer session, students take EAD 929 Collaborative Inquiry to develop skills for qualitative inquiry needed for the Capstone. In the second summer session, students participate in a highly experiential course on topics of labor law, negotiation, and performance evaluation taught by faculty in the School of Human Resources and Labor Relations.  Students also take a Preliminary Examination based on content of their Year 1 courses.

The Year II schedule deepens students' core knowledge of leadership. EAD 924 Data and Decisions explores ways to capitalize on the data streams in educational environments and EAD 926 Finance and Operations focuses on administrative systems, both courses operating on the regular MSU semester course schedule. EAD 991A Social Justice Issues (like EAD 921 in Year 1) stretches across both semesters.

The Year II Summer session includes courses focused on writing a literature review and preparing proposals for Group Capstone Projects. In September, groups present their project proposals to a panel of faculty and partners for approval.

Year III is dedicated to completion of Capstone Projects. Students register for two courses each semester, giving them two kinds of support for their work. Capstone projects are team projects, and each team has the support of a clinical coach through EAD 981A and 981B Capstone Project. Teams also benefit from guidance of a faculty member through EAD 982A and 982B Capstone Seminar.  At the end of the final spring semester, teams present and defend their Capstone Project to a faculty / stakeholder panel, submitting an extensive account of their work.

Program Milestones: 

Fall 2012     Inaugural cohort enters
Fall 2013     Cohort II enters
Fall 2014     Cohort III enters
Summer 2013    First Annual Forum    Education, Community, and Democracy
Summer 2014    Second Annual Forum    Brown vs. Board of Education at 50

Core Courses:

All courses are required.  There are no electives or specializations in the DEL.
The research sequence involves 3 courses:

1.  Data and Decisions.  Students learn fundamental data literacy and principles of valid data use.  Descriptive statistics and spreadsheet skills.

2.  Collaborative Inquiry.  Students learn basic skills for qualitative inquiry, with particular emphasis on working in teams and with partners.

3.  Proposal design and engaged research.  Students focus on preparation of their Capstone proposals and lay the groundwork for partnerships.

Admission Requirements: 

The admission requirements are the same for other graduate programs in the College of Education.  These include:

  • online application
  • GRE scores
  • Goal statement
  • CV or Resume
  • Writing sample
  • Three letters of recommendation

Additional materials might be required for applicants with substandard scores or other concerns.International students need to provide evidence of English language proficiency and financial stability.

In addition to reviewing the above information, review committees also consider the following criteria:

  • Professional experience
  • Rigor of prior degree programs
  • Significant leadership experience
  • Connections to broader networks and community
  • Change agent experience
  • Fit to the DEL

Who should consider a DEL program?

K-12 Educational Administration faculty welcome applicants from a wide variety of educational and professional backgrounds. We seek experienced leaders who aim to improve critical leadership capacities and who recognize the value of close collaboration with diverse community partners and stakeholders. Competitive applicants will hold a post-baccalaureate academic or professional degree.

The Doctor of Educational Leadership is designed for educators and other practitioners who have aspirations for improving their own leadership practice, for developing leadership capacity within their organizations and communities, and for making significant contributions to their local communities and to the future of Michigan. Graduates with this degree will be prepared to take up system level leadership in various education agencies, including local and regional school districts, state education agencies, and professional education associations. Graduates will also qualify for a range of teaching positions: in community colleges and regional universities or as adjunct or clinical professors in research universities. Leaders of other community-based or educationally-related organizations might also find the program appealing.

Admissions Cycle: Cohorts enter each fall semester.Applications are due by February 15 of each year.Admissions decisions are made by April 1.


Financial aid: No institutional aid is available at the present time.Some school districts support student tuition.Some students utilize financial aid.


General Information:
  • Program Delivery: Hybrid
  • Average number of students admitted into the EdD program each year: Average 13
  • Types of employoment students hold upon entering the program:
    Student employment, in order of frequency: Principal or Assistant principal, Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Curriculum Director, Teacher Leader or Instructional Specialist, Regional school district supervisor, Counselor or Special Education teacher, Educational consultants
  • Student : Faculty Ratio (Courses): 17:1 (some classes have PhD students enrolled)
  • Student : Faculty Ratio (Advising): One faculty member advises entire cohort for two years since there are no decisions to be made; each Capstone group has an advisor.
  • Typical bachelors degrees held by students upon entering the program: Elementary education, Secondary education, Special education, Social studies education, Math education, Social science, Psychology
  • Typical masters degrees held by students upon entering the program: Master of Arts, Educational Leadership, Master of Arts, Curriculum and Instruction, Master of Arts, Special Education, Master of Arts, Teaching, Law, MBA
  • Number of credits in the program (beyond the Masters): 45
  • Length of Program: Less than 4 years
  • Percentage of students that graduate on time: 100
  • Are most students part time or full time?: part time
  • Average number of students enrolled in each cohort: 1
  • Total number of faculty: 1
  • Graduation Rate: 100%
  • Attrition Rate: 10%
  • Current PK-20 Practitioner: 0
  • Former PK-20 Practitioner, Current University Faculty: 2
  • Current University Faculty: 11
  • Former University Faculty, Current PK-20 Practitioner: 0
  • University faculty from discipline outside of education: 3
  • How do students use their dissertation work in practice following graduation?: No data yet. First graduating cohort May 2015.
  • Does your dissertation process take into account impact or potential impact on the field? If so, can you measure the impact?: No data yet.  First graduating cohort May 2015.
How long was the design process?: 2 years

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
info@cpedinitiative.org   +1 (412) 648-7428