Program Purpose

The McKay School of Education and the Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations are providing an EdD degree in Educational Leadership, comparable to programs now being offered at Vanderbilt, USC, Columbia, and other highly ranked institutions.

The program was initiated with a cohort of 12 doctoral students during summer term of 2011 and now follows the delivery timeline and outline below.  

Lee Shulman, President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, described a challenge in educational leadership:

Today, the EdD is perceived as “PhD-lite.” More important than the public relations problem, however, is the real risk that schools of education are becoming impotent in carrying out their primary missions to prepare leading practitioners as well as leading scholars. The Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate is working to ensure that the academy moves forward on two fronts: rethinking and reclaiming the research doctorate (the PhD) and developing a distinct professional practice doctorate.

The EdD program is designed to respond to this need for advanced degrees focused on professional practice. Its purpose is to prepare education leaders with scholarly dispositions and skill sets to lead, lift, inspire and educate their colleagues and followers. Graduates will develop the knowledge and dispositions to make schools powerful places for preparing all students, regardless of background or individual characteristics, to become contributing members of the worldwide human family.

The BYU EdD in Educational Leadership will prepare mid-career leaders for advanced leadership positions in educational institutions. The goal of the program is to equip moral leaders to use research and best practices to improve learning, social equity, and other important outcomes in educational settings and communities. Graduates will have the knowledge, skills, self-efficacy, and values and dispositions to reveal and remediate inequities in student achievement and to lead the industry in improving teaching, research, and learning in education institutions.

The program will focuses on preparing candidates for the following roles:

  1. Collaborative leaders and change agents for systemic reform, who facilitate best practices, utilize data, and manage the change processes in collaboration with fellow educators and other stakeholders, based on a shared vision of learning

  2. Data-driven decision makers, who develop and use appropriate data and technology systems to critically and effectively assess student achievement; evaluate colleagues, staff and programs; and plan and implement accountability and transparency in systems

  3. Critical consumers of research, who apply the lessons of research to student, school/district, or societal improvement

  4. Culturally proficient agents for educational equity, who promoteculturally sensitive policies and practices, recognizing and valuing differences that improve learning and achievement

  5. Proficient leaders in the educational context, who navigate, respond to, and influence the larger educational policy environment and the political, philosophical, social, economic, legal, and cultural contexts of education

Program Design

Degree Requirements

Degree requirements (outlined below) include no electives.  The program follows the cohort delivery method, which results in a very specific and concentrated field of inquiry. Requirements include satisfactory completion of coursework consisting of (a) 88 credit hours distributed as up to 36 hours of credit for completion of an appropriate master’s or comparable degree, (b) 39 hours of core disciplinary subject matter coursework, and (c) 13 hours of dissertation credit.   Students will be required to pass a screening after the first year in order to continue the program into the second and third years. To complete the program, they will also be required to pass a comprehensive exam (described below) and to successfully create a dissertation.

Requirements are intended to avoid competition with or duplication of existing PhD programs in the School of Education. They have been designed to utilize all the unique strengths of an EdD model, as studied and developed by nationally ranked peers in the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate. The prerequisites, proposed curricula, and schedules follow.


Coursework, as outlined in the following matrix and table, will be delivered six weekends per semester, Friday from 4:00 pm until 10:00 pm and Saturday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, for the completion of six credit hours each semester and during the summer term.  Summer terms will require full-time registration for six credits during the seven-week time period, which may be offered on six intensive weekends or two weeks of residency.  This schedule will result in at least as many hours of traditional course time as other doctoral  programs in the Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations.  This method of delivery allows students from across the region or nation to pursue doctoral studies at BYU.  In addition, this delivery method will, we believe, result in more intensive and powerful pedagogy and fuller utilization of students’ resources.  While at BYU, students will be focused completely and intensely on coursework, research, and library experiences. In intervening weeks they will be working to prepare for challenging work in the continuing curriculum.  

Coursework Schedule Matrix Overview  

Semester or Term

Dissertation Hours  

Core Subject Matter


Notes, Steps and Delivered Work Product

Year 1





Selection of thematic research group and chair










Group literature review completed

Draft of Appendix A of hybrid dissertation on literature review

1st year review for continued candidacy (includes all faculty who have supervised or taught a student in a vote of the faculty committee of the whole [COW])






Year 2





Individual student’s extension of literature review towards his or her own dissertation piece of research. This includes beginning to define a problem and formulate a research question. Methodology is designed to answer the focused question. Draft of IRB application and methodology should be completed.










Dissertation prospectus defended 






Year 3










Comprehensive examination completed. (Proposed conference presentation defended after Year 1 and before winter of Year 3. Proposal and paper have to be presented prior to submission deadline of the conference.)





Intensive meetings with dissertation group and chair

Oral defense of dissertation. (Last two weekends of the semester will include all defenses and require all students to be present as a cohort for these defenses as a learning laboratory. Probably complete about six per long weekend).











Total Coursework and Dissertation Hours










Total Hours EdD

13 dissertation

39 (core)



Course of Study 


Year 1

Year 2

Year 3


791 Pro-seminar: Critical Issues in Education (Dissertation topic development/ research group formation) (3 hrs)

701 Collaborative Leaders for Change  (3 hrs)

(714)614  Education of Diverse Populations (3 hrs)

700 Organizational Leadership in Educational Settings (3 hrs)




799R Dissertation Credit (3 hrs)

(Residency fulfilled--intensive library and committee work and prospectus defense prep.)

759 Contemporary Issues in Educational Leadership (3 hrs)


775 Inquiry I (3hrs)

795 Research and Reporting Techniques for Doctoral Dissertation (1 hr.)

729 Advanced Leadership of Learning Communities  (3 hrs)


722 Normative/Legal Contexts for Educational Equity and Leadership (3 hrs)

731 Curriculum Theory (3 hrs)

799R Dissertation Credit (2 hrs)

750 Educational Policy  (3 hrs)



776 Inquiry II (3 hrs)

768 Philosophical Foundations of Western Education (3 hrs)

721 Economic Issues in Education (3 hrs) 

799R Dissertation Credit (3 hrs.)

799R Dissertation Credit (3 hrs) 

Comprehensive Exam

To be admitted to final doctoral candidacy, students must complete a comprehensive examination as well as all coursework with satisfactory ratings. The comprehensive examination will consist of a paper presentation at a national or international academic conference and an examination process as described below:

  1. Proposal of a topic on a problem of practice approved by the dissertation committee (not necessarily the student’s dissertation topic), targeting the specific conference

  2. A proposal for the conference submitted in its requested format

  3. A completed paper, including appropriate literature review and methodology as required

  4. A separate 5- to 10-page integration and synthesis, situating the paper in the larger context of educational leadership

  5. Oral defense of the conference and the integration paper to the full dissertation committee, along with the department faculty and graduate students

  6. Faculty determination of successful passing or completion of required remediation, voted by the dissertation committee

  7. Presentation at conference


Candidates will also complete a dissertation focused on active research confronting current issues and problems in education in ways that will improve educational practice. The dissertation is the product of systematic effort applied to themes within the foci of current and future faculty scholarship. Students will join small research teams of other graduate students and a committee of faculty, all focused on a similar research field or theme. Students will select their research group and focus from a limited number of research areas that faculty and/or other students are pursuing. Members of research teams will enhance each other’s methodology and literature base, but students will utilize these resources to direct research towards their own inquiry into an individual problem of practice.

Dissertations produced by EdD candidates will be submitted to national peer-reviewed journals. Faculty chairs or doctoral committee members may be co-authors on such articles. The program has adopted the McKay School of Education’s hybrid dissertation, as approved by the university and described below.

  1. The hybrid dissertation will require the defense of a prospectus and a final oral defense.

  2.  The prospectus document will be comprised of

    • an in-depth literature review, and

    • a thorough description of the methods to be employed in the study.

  3. The prospectus defense should lead to refinements in logic and methods.

  4. The student will also submit an IRB request if necessary.

  5. Following data collection and analysis, a final oral defense will be scheduled in compliance with university guidelines.

The document presented for final oral defense will be a journal-ready manuscript that has been written for a specific journal (agreed on by the department, committee, and student) and formatted and structured according to the requirements of that journal.

The document delivered to the Dean’s Office for review and ETD submission will include the following:

  1. The signature and cover pages required by The Office of Graduate Studies

  2. A one-page introduction/abstract that positions the study

  3. The journal-ready manuscript

  4. The review of literature as Appendix A

  5. A description of the methods employed in the study at the level required for an IRB submission as Appendix B.

Beginning Class

The first summer class in the program, titled Pro-Seminar: Critical Issues in Education, is designed to have faculty members present on significant core educational issues, problems, or questions. They will present on their own relevant research and discuss the course of research and inquiry they anticipate pursuing for the next three to five  years, including potential questions for further inquiry. The presentations will help them develop a context for the rest of their studies that should enrich their own learning and the learning of their colleagues in the cohort.

Research/thematic Teams

Students will select and join thematic research teams at the end of the first summer term. The doctoral committee will post the thematic groups planned for the coming three to five years and ask students to indicate their choices ranked 1 through 3.  The doctoral committee and department chair will then recommend students to research teams/thematic groups. The faculty committee for discussion and approval will assess recommendations. Students will be encouraged to remain with their assigned research team, but they may petition the doctoral committee and the department chair if they feel it necessary to change teams. 

After joining research teams or thematic groups, students will begin to prepare for eventually writing and defending a prospectus and dissertation. This preparation consists of two steps: (a) writing and orally defending a prospectus and (b) completing the dissertation, utilizing the MSE hybrid dissertation format. 

All EdD candidates will take 13 credit hours of dissertation preparation coursework, beginning in the summer of the second year. As noted above, such hours are spread throughout the curriculum so that doctoral students can complete their dissertation by the end of their third year. Some students may require more time due to individual circumstances. The final defense of the dissertation is administered under the direction of The Office of Graduate Studies and the Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations. The examining committee consists of the five graduate faculty members who comprise the student’s dissertation advisory committee, with the chair of the dissertation advisory committee chairing the oral exam. A successful examination leads to the department’s recommendation to the university that the candidate be awarded the EdD degree.

Attendance and Adequate Performance

Students will be required to be present at all cohort coursework. This type of  program and its course delivery model are intended to develop intensive study with group interaction and research skills by meeting Friday afternoon and evening and all day Saturday on selected weekends, with intensive class preparation when students are at their worksites between course meetings.  Students must be present at course meetings because missing a weekend may mean missing a large percentage of coursework.  Students will be evaluated at the end of the first year to determine whether they may continue in doctoral candidacy. Attendance, performance in coursework, and progress through the first year will be assessed at that time.  Failure to meet minimum performance levels may result in program discontinuance after the first year.  Students will be assessed for adequate progress in the following years also and may be discontinued for lack of progress if this seems necessary. 


The EDLF Department has chosen to approach the study of educational leadership as a multi-disciplinary endeavor—blending theory and practice. Faculty members include a balance between experienced administrators (former principals, leaders in district offices, and district superintendents) and academic specialists from various relevant disciplines (including philosophy, history of education, psychology, cultural foundations of education, organizational leadership and strategy, education policy studies, research methods, statistics, education law, and economics of education).

EDLF faculty have quality research agendas. In the last 10 years, the department has more than doubled its performance in both activity and productivity. Faculty have also made great strides in tying research agendas into instruction. Each class is taught by an instructor whose practical experience, academic preparation, and research focus are in the course content area, which was not always the case in the past.

Following is a brief overview of faculty experience and expertise:

Dr. Pamela Hallam has been a public school principal and district administrator; thus she brings the perspectives and practices of public education to the classroom, offering the pragmatic “grounding” that students desire and need in studying educational leadership. She publishes widely in top-tier educational journals regarding instructional leadership and trust.

Dr. Shannon Dulaney has similar experience and disciplinary focus. Her doctoral dissertation research focused on professional learning communities.

Dr. Scott Ferrin, an expert on the legal and political aspects of education, is arguably one of the top education law scholars in the United States today. He offers students deep insights into the major legal cases and issues in this field. He has also developed considerable expertise in language policies in U.S. public schools.

Dr. Steven Hite has strong methodological expertise in designing and carrying out macro-level educational research projects in Europe, South Asia, and particularly Africa.  His service to and publications for UNESCO are widely recognized. He has published frequently in top-level journals and contributed chapters to many books in his field. His students are instructed in theory and given opportunities to practice various educational research modalities. Additionally, Dr. Hite grounds students in core issues in the history and philosophy of science.

Dr. Vance Randall has written and contributed to several nationally recognized books on educational policy, an area of expertise he has experienced personally while serving  as a legislative fellow to the U.S. Senate in the office of Senator Orrin G. Hatch. He has researched and written on issues regarding private education in the U.S., with expanded research into the development of private education in China.  He thus offers students opportunities to analyze both the history and the current state of educational policy, the philosophical underpinnings of those policies, and the pragmatics of how those policies are operationalized in various legislative contexts.  

Dr. Sterling Hilton, a biomedical statistician before shifting his emphasis and joining the McKay School of Education, offers research expertise in both qualitative and quantitative research theory and practice. He is instrumental in leading and developing the Utah Math Initiative, which is currently being implemented in public schools.

Dr. Julie Hite, whose doctorate is in organizational behavior, brings this perspective to her classes, offering students opportunities to approach educational leadership issues from that viewpoint, not typically available in colleges of education. Her research in networking theory and her expertise in qualitative research theory and practice provide students with a multifaceted approach to educational leadership.

Dr. Macleans GeoJaja, recognized and honored as one of the leading economists of education in Africa, brings to his students the latest economic issues and theories on education with an international perspective.

Dr. A. Legrand Richards is an educational philosopher. His classes offer students theoretical perspectives that are deeply rooted in practice. Much of Dr. Richards’ research is concerned with socioeconomic inequalities in public schools, particularly the schools in Utah Valley.

Dr. Clifford Mayes is an education scholar and also a psychologist. He has published widely on issues in educational psychology, having written four textbooks--among other items. His two textbooks on multicultural education are nationally recognized and used at institutions across the U.S. His doctorate in education is in the history of American education, so he teaches classes in that area as well. He also has written two textbooks in curriculum theory, a topic on which he provides particularly strong contributions to the doctoral program.

Cohort Size

Approximately 12 students will be admitted annually.  By the third year the program will have 36 to 40 students and will sustain that level thereafter. 

Criteria and Procedures for Admission

To be competitive for admission, applicants need the following qualifications:

  • A master’s degree or equivalent, and a GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) during the last 60 hours of coursework

  • Three years of leadership experience in an educational setting

  •  A GRE composite score of 1200 or higher, with a GRE analytical writing score of 4 or higher

  •  An LSAT test score at or above the 60th percentile

  •  A GMAT total score of 550 or higher

The deadline for admissions is March 1, 2013. It is anticipated that admission decisions should be made by late March. Students may be asked to participate in interviews with faculty by telephone or in person as part of the admission process.

Students will be required to submit a memo of understanding from their employing institution or direct supervisor detailing the time commitment and travel requirements of the program and agreeing to support the student’s admission into the program.

Other Prerequisites

Students in the EdD program in educational leadership will be expected to own a laptop, have an Internet connection at home, and possess a web camera. The nature of instruction will require that students be experienced with the basic software for word-processing, spreadsheets, e-mail, and Internet information access. Software requirements will be listed at the beginning of each year of study; these may include programs such as Endnote, Vivo, and statistical packages.

Students must be available in person or by telephone for several interviews.

Demand for graduates of this program

Educational institutions, including public school systems and some colleges, seek to hire and promote individuals with a relevant EdD. This program is designed to serve the needs of individuals who are already leaders in an educational institution at a relatively experienced level. The program is designed for promising leaders and professionals who wish to remain in educational leadership within their present institution or a similar situation, but wish to proceed over time to more advanced levels of responsibility with increased  influence and attendant professional growth. As a result, faculty anticipate near 100% placement of our graduates as leaders in educational systems at various levels. Since the selection committee is capable of selecting leaders with outstanding personal characteristics who are already embedded in a community of professional practice and service, the EdD program will help remove ceilings from graduates’ further advancement.  The program intends to deepen the theoretical and practical basis for these professionals to continue to develop as lifelong learners. The natural concomitant will be enhanced career platforms and outcomes over the long term.