Educational Leadership Course of Study

Educational Leadership Doctorate

Course of Study

The EdD program contains three major phases: coursework, comprehensive exam (paper), and dissertation research.

Our education doctorate program requires completion of the following:

  • a minimum of 72 hours of approved core and specialization courses including 18 dissertation credits
  • successful completion of a core comprehensive exam paper
  • an approved dissertation proposal (including submission of research plan to PSU Institutional Review Board)
  • an approved completion of dissertation research in a written document.

After admission to the doctoral program, a minimum of 72 credits must be completed at PSU. Grades for all course work must be at the level of B- or better. Grades at the C level or below do not count toward the doctoral program. No 800-level courses are allowed (including courses numbered 808). In consultation with their advisors, students may choose to take additional coursework to enhance their program. This additional coursework is not required to complete the program.

Required Coursework: Core (27 credits)

The leadership core (27 credits) is a common curriculum completed by all students as a cohort during their first two years in the doctoral program. Class scheduling is designed to accommodate the working professional. The first year core courses engage students in developing personal perspectives on, and skills in, leadership for change. The second year focuses on understanding and developing research skills that inform personal perspectives and influence change.

Year 1 (15 credits) Core

  • ED 620 Doctoral Studies Proseminar (fall, winter, spring)
  • ED 630 Principles and Practices of Learning (fall)
  • ED 640 Organizational Leadership Theory and Research in Education (winter)
  • ED 650 Educational Policy and Politics (spring)

Year 2 (12 credits) Core

  • ED 660 Foundations of Research Paradigms & Methods (fall)
  • ED 661 Qualitative Research in Education (winter)
  • ED 662 Quantitative Research in Education (spring)

For course descriptions, please consult the Bulletin or Class Schedule.

Required Coursework: Specialization (27 credits)

All specializations offer 27 credits of seminar coursework (Year 1 and Year 2) over two years. Each specialization distributes these credits according to their program plan. Specialization courses may include traditional coursework, independent study, and field work.

Required Dissertation Credits (18 credits)

Dissertation (18 credits minimum) is the capstone experience of the program, in which the student examines a problem that is significant to the field. The student is required to register for a minimum of 18 credits for their dissertation work.

Required Milestone: Comprehensive Exam

During the doctoral core coursework, the student prepares a Core Comprehensive Examination Paper. The paper builds on the core curriculum and addresses an issue of importance to the field and to the student as a scholarly practitioner. More details are available in the Doctoral Core Exam Policy. The defense of the core paper is determined by each specialization. Students must successfully defend their core paper by January 1st in Year 2 of their program or they will be exited from the program.

Required Milestone: Dissertation

The dissertation represents original independent research that contributes to knowledge or is a constructive result of significance and value for educational practice. Traditional research methods, ethnographic and descriptive case studies, policy analyses, product development and field-testing, and program evaluation are among the inquiry strategies permitted. A minimum of 18 credits is directed toward the dissertation project.

The five phases of the dissertation are:

  1. Dissertation proposal (including Human Subjects' Approval)
  2. Research and data collection
  3. Analysis and writing
  4. Oral presentation of dissertation
  5. Manuscript completion

Doctoral Program Requirements

To maintain accreditation and to assist students in completing the doctoral programs in a timely manner, both the College of Education and the Portland State University Office of Graduate Studies have five major requirements for completion of a doctorate (beyond passing coursework with a B- or better):

  1. Residency
  2. Core comprehensive exam (which takes the form of a paper in the EdD program)
  3. Advancement to candidacy (includes dissertation proposal and human subjects approval)
  4. Dissertation completion and defense
  5. Continuous enrollment

1. Residency. The University residency requirement can be fulfilled in one of the following ways:
Three terms of full-time enrollment (minimum 9 graduate credits applicable to the degree program each term) during the first two years after admission to the program. This may include one or more summer terms or six terms of part-time enrollment (minimum 1 graduate credit applicable to the degree program each term) during the first two years after admission to the program. This may include one or more summer terms.

2. Core comprehensive exam. For the College of Education, this is the core paper that is reviewed by a committee of three faculty. In the EdD program, the deadline for completion of this paper is January 1st of year 2.

  Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5

FIVE years MAXIMUM to complete core comprehensive exam.
If not completed, cancellation of admission by Portland State University Office of Graduate Studies.

3. Advancement to candidacy.

  Year 1 Year 2 Year 3
After passing comprehensive exam

THREE years MAXIMUM to advance to candidacy after core comprehensive paper has been successfully defended.

  • Successful defense of dissertation proposal with committee of 3 plus one graduate office representative.
  • Approval of proposal by PSU Institutional Review Board (IRB). Plan for a minimum of two months for IRB approval before gathering data and starting your project.
  • Completion of all program course requirements (not including dissertation credits) with a grade of B- or better.

If not completed, cancellation of admission by Portland State University Office of Graduate Studies.

4. Dissertation defense and completion of graduation requirements including dissertation, defense of dissertation and its final approval by the PSU Office of Graduate Studies.

  From 4 months in year 1 Year 2 year 3 Year 4 Year 5
After receiving notification of Advancement to Candidacy From four MONTHS to FIVE years MAXIMUM to complete all requirements after advancement to candidacy.
  • Successful defense of dissertation research and approval of final dissertation by Graduate Office.
If not completed, cancellation of admission by Portland State University Office of Graduate Studies.

5. Continuous enrollment.

Before advancement to candidacy After advancement to candidacy

Students must be continuously enrolled every term for a minimum of one credit (except summer unless working with advisor, then, you need to be enrolled for a minimum of one credit).

When completing a program milestone (#2, #3, #4 above), student must be registered that term, including summer.

​After Advancement to Candidacy, students must be continuously enrolled for a minimum of one graduate credit every term, including summer, through graduation. These credits are generally the required 18 dissertation credits.


Core courses

ED 620 (3 credits)
Doctoral Studies Proseminar

This three-course one-credit sequence is required for all doctoral students and is taken during the first year of doctoral study, one credit each term. The course is designed to extend and deepen thinking about education, “educational leadership” and inquiry through shared readings, interaction with faculty and local educational leaders, and critical reflective writing and conversation. Students are expected to initiate and maintain a learning and a professional portfolio and by the end of spring term to develop and present a formal paper that examines an educational issue using frameworks and concepts from ED 630, 640, and 650, which are also taken during their first year.

ED 630 (4 credits)
Principles and Practices of Learning

The study of theories of learning in a variety of educational contexts: classrooms, counseling, and non-school settings. Study of the narratives of teaching and learning to analyze the enactment of theory and to examine the variety of ways to research learning.

ED 640 (4 credits)
Organizational Leadership Theory & Research in Education

Organizational and leadership theory and research in education informing the study, practice, and improvement of educational policy and practice in school and non-school contexts; emphasis on emergent perspectives and their significance for theory, research, and practice.

ED 650 (4 credits)
Politics & Policy Processes in Education

The study of how policy is proposed, adopted, implemented, and changed in educational organizations. Special emphasis on the political process and how it influences the policy cycle.

ED 660 (4 credits)
Foundations of Research Paradigms & Methods

An introduction to research paradigms and research methodologies that are useful to better understand and/or address problems of educational practice. Provides doctoral students with knowledge of basic processes of inquiry so they are able to begin designing individual research projects.

ED 661 (4 credits)
Qualitative Research Methods in Education

Introduces qualitative research methods of data collection and analysis in education. Reviews theoretical foundations, field research problems, and qualitative data collection and analysis methods including participant observation, depth interviewing, and development of grounded theory.

ED 662 (4 credits)
Quantitative Research Methods in Education

Introduces quantitative research methods of data collection and analysis in education. Reviews theoretical foundations, applications and design issues of methods such as survey, correlational and experimental research. Also, introduces how to conduct a statistical data analysis and use such methods as correlation, t -test, analysis of variance and chi-square.