EdD in Higher Education and Social Change
PAGE SUMMARY: This page provides an in-depth description of this program including its purpose, goals, learning outcomes, requirements, course descriptions, and more. For ease of use, most of the content is found beneath the drop-down headings/toggles below.
EdD Program Overview
- Units of Study: 60 Semester Units
- Length of Study (self paced): 3-4 years full time, 6 years part time
- Tuition: $8,400 per year (See Tuition and Fees webpage for a list of all fees)
- Program Tuition: 6 years: $50,400; 4 years: $33,600
- Admission Requirement: Master’s Degree or 30 units graduate study at an accredited institution
- Enrollment Start Date: First day of any month
EdD Program Introduction
WISR’s EdD in Higher Education and Social Change is an exceptionally innovative and extremely distinctive program of advanced, interdisciplinary and personalized studies.
This doctoral program provides advanced, individualized learning and professional training for educators, community service professionals, community and intellectual activists, and other adults who are concerned with the relations among
- social change,
- psychology, and
- community service or
- community leadership and development
–in everyday practice.
Foci One: Adult Higher Education
It aims to prepare students for positions, careers, and/or significant volunteer work in leadership and creative change through adult and higher education—for example, in the advanced education of professionals, adult continuing education, parent education, lay and community education, life coaching and relationship coaching, adult literacy, foreign language instruction, and global and international education; as instructors and faculty in colleges and universities, in working on curriculum development and reform in adult and higher education, the education of special populations with special needs, and the use of the internet, multimedia and mass media for education.
Foci Two: Action Research for Social Change
It is especially aimed toward people who are concerned with serious inquiry, and inquiry-based action in order to educate fellow professionals and/or the general public in specific ways that will also lead to constructive, broad and long-term social change.
For Whom Is the EdD Program Best Suited?
This program is especially suited to
students who are interested in the role of education in working toward social changes for justice, sustainability and multiculturalism, both inside and outside of established institutions of higher and adult learning.
Who Tends to Enroll?
It enrolls students who hold positions of leadership in public and community agencies, who are or who eventually become college instructors and professors, and who are self-employed consultants, workshop leaders, and published writers on topics of professional concern.
How Doctoral Graduates Use the Program
Graduates of this program may aim to seek employment in non-profits, schools, businesses, colleges, professional associations and educational groups, nongovernmental organizations, or to start their own organizations or become self-employed.
This program requires 45 semester units of doctoral level, predissertation study, with a combination of required coursework and personalized studies, followed by a dissertation (15 semester units).
An Interdisciplinary and Individualized Doctoral Program
This innovative, emerging field of professional study is individualized and interdisciplinary in nature, with each student carving out one or more specializations related to education, psychology, social sciences, community services and development, social and intellectual activism, or related fields of study.
The student’s pursuit of these specializations is mindful of the ways in which student learning and accomplishments can contribute to the education of others (professionals, scholars, and/or lay people) and to broader social change, as well.
Specific Examples of Student Post-graduate Objectives
Following are examples of post-graduate objectives most often chosen by students:
- Writing books and articles to educate professionals, scholars, and/or lay people about issues, ideas and practical strategies in the fields of psychology, community development and human services, education, ethnic studies, society and media, social sciences, intellectual activism and/or strategies and ideas about social change;
- Designing and/or conducting training sessions, continuing education courses, consulting programs, and other educational offerings including the use of the internet and technology (e.g., through blogs, wikis, social and community online networks)—for the range of groups noted above;
- Preparing to teach in innovative college and university programs;
- Promoting one’s personal and intellectual growth as an intellectual activist, as a leader of a community organization, or as a creative professional;
- Engaging in action-oriented inquiry to advance knowledge in such areas as–ways to meet the needs of low-income and ethnic-minority communities, strategies of social policy formation or larger scale social change, formulation of cutting-edge improvements in professional practices in therapy, education or social services, among others; and,
- Pursuing a variety of other creative endeavors using action-oriented inquiry and adult education to bring about constructive social change.
Students in the Doctoral program critically examine, and strive to bring about change through action-oriented inquiry into:
- existing programs and institutions;
- innovative models and practices;
- the social/cultural/political conditions that influence institutions and programs, local communities, and professional practices; and,
- the creative potential of new kinds of learning and teaching processes.
These educational processes may directly or indirectly influence students; educators; professionals in community services, public policy or counseling; clients of community organizations and professionals; and the general population.
Areas of Concern to WISR EdD Students
Examples of areas of concern to WISR Doctoral students are:
- multicultural education,
- community-based adult literacy programs,
- health education in the face of health disparities,
- the educational effectiveness and social impact of grassroots organizations as well as self-help groups,
- the professional, continuing education of counselors concerned with personal and global trauma, sometimes using somatic as well as verbal approaches to therapy,
- confronting the challenges and social inequities facing people in impoverished countries and disenfranchised communities,
- creative and effective strategies of intellectual activism, and
- the educational practices in formal school and college settings.
Distinguished WISR EdD Graduates
The Doctoral program in Higher Education and Social Change has graduated dozens of students, who have since distinguished themselves as authors of books, college professors, intellectual and social activists, and community and professional leaders since the first person enrolled in 1976.
After successfully finishing 45 semester units of course work, with extensive opportunities throughout to pursue personalized interests and studies during the course work, the student completes their program by conducting action-oriented research and writing a dissertation that is a creative, inquiring project of strong personal significance, of some importance to others, and a springboard for the next steps in the student’s work and life.
EdD Program Mission, Goals, Outcomes
Mission of the EdD Program
This is an exceptionally innovative and extremely distinctive program of advanced, interdisciplinary and personalized studies, and it aims to prepare students for positions, careers, and/or community involvement in leadership and creative change through the use of innovative strategies of adult and higher learning.
WISR students are strongly motivated people, who find WISR’s learner-centered methods well-suited to their needs and purposes, and who are confident that WISR can help them to achieve a high level of expertise in action-research and in their chosen field(s)—in community leadership and education, and their particular areas of professional practice.
This program, like all of WISR’s educational programs, is suited for learners with many different types of future goals, including but not limited to: changing careers, pursuing advancement in one’s existing career, becoming more capable and more meaningfully engaged in one’s existing job or career niche, or making contributions to others and to the larger community as an unpaid expert drawing on one’ professional knowledge, skill and talents.
WISR encourages people to apply whose purposes and interests re within the scope of our EdD program’s offerings, and who are aiming to develop distinctive career niches for themselves.
Program Goals: Mission and Context
Program goals are guided by several important considerations:
- WISR’s EdD in Higher Education and Social Change program goals, outcomes and curriculum is guided by WISR’s institutional vision to be a “hub for community-based, social-action organizations and leaders that use higher learning and adult education to bring innovative theory into action for positive social change.”
- In addition, WISR’s EdD in Higher Education and Social Change program goals, outcomes and curriculum is guided by WISR’s mission and the learning “meta-competencies” that are derived from WISR’s missions and values, that is, self-directed learning, action-oriented inquiry, multiculturalism, social justice, effective communication and collaboration, and the value of using one’s studies to build bridges to the future.
- Finally, in implementing the program goals through program outcomes, course outcomes, module outcomes, and measures, indicators, and evaluation rubrics, we draw on the first two areas of consideration, and also on the knowledge gained through WISR’s history of offering academic degree programs for innovative educators wishing to innovate in colleges and universities, professional education endeavors, and/or in popular, community-based adult education, while also aiming to contribute to larger social change. This knowledge is augmented by the collective academic and professional experience and knowledge of WISR’s faculty.
EdD Program Goals
- Based on the perspective that theories and strategies of education have an important role to play in making improvements in professions, community-based programs, local communities, and the larger society, this program aims to develop people who can make creative contributions in theory and practice toward these efforts.
Learners in this program will:
- Become critically informed and knowledgeable about a variety of theories, key concepts, evidence-based findings, and practices pertaining to “Higher/Adult Education” leadership and innovations, as indicated by an understanding of the strengths, limitations and ways in which they can be applied in one or more of the following settings: colleges and universities, programs of professional education, and/or community-based adult education.
- Learn about the possible roles of adult learning in contributing to larger societal changes toward greater justice and the promotion of diversity and inclusiveness.
- Become creative in skillfully promoting adult learning, for the benefit of both the learners and the larger society, by developing the qualities of “proficient” expertise as defined by the Dreyfus Model of Knowledge and Skill Development** [see below].
- Develop creativity toward effective practice in at least one area of specialization within the interdisciplinary domain of “higher/adult education and social change.”
- Develop an awareness of how educational innovations can work toward societal improvements that are mindful of a) multicultural concerns and perspective, and b) possible contributions to larger-scale changes for social justice, equality and/or environmental sustainability.
- Develop skills of “learning how to learn”—by using methods of action-research, abilities in self-directed learning, and capacities for critical thinking and improvisational problem-solving–to advance their specialized knowledge and skills for effective practice as an educational leader.
A: EdD Program-Specific Learning Outcomes
The student will demonstrate that they:
- Understand applications of research, theories, key concepts, and professional practices in adult/higher education, and the possible roles of education in societal change. Key areas in which the student must demonstrate an understanding include, quite notably:
a. Education to promote diversity and inclusiveness.
b. Theories and philosophies of education.
c. The possible roles of education in contributing to social justice, human dignity, equality, and/or environmental sustainability.
d. Theories and practices in one or more of the following areas: higher education, professional education, and community-based popular adult learning.
- Evaluate key theories and methods of educational innovation and social change, as indicated by
a. Evaluating the strengths and limitations of a variety of educational theories and practices,
b. Evaluating the circumstances in which specific educational theories and methods are likely to be usefully applied.
- Apply skills of conscious and deliberate planning in pursuing goals as an innovative educator or leader, as indicated by making critical comparisons of alternative courses of action, for example in course-based action-research projects. In doing so, they will:
a. Evaluate the relevance and efficacy of their recommended plan(s) of action.
b. Evaluate uncertainties and dilemmas faced by others in the field, and
c. Evaluate directions for inquiry to investigate alternative courses of action growing out of these dilemmas, uncertainties, and complexities.
- Create new theoretical applications and strategic practices in at least one area of specialization, and within one specific setting, aiming to promote educational improvements that might contribute to greater societal or community well-being, as indicated especially by an in-depth inquiry during the Doctoral Dissertation. [Note: This outcome builds on the understanding achieved in outcome #1.]
- Apply skills of doing a creative, critically minded and comprehensive review of the literature in an area of special interest to the student, as indicated by:
a. applying a variety of strategies for searching for relevant sources
b. evaluating quality and credibility of sources
c. effectiveness in discussing and presenting findings, gaps in knowledge, limitations in existing research, and directions for future research
d. formulating some original concepts or questions for further action and inquiry.
Evaluation of these outcomes.
These outcomes will be evidenced in the written assignments for each course–and guided and evaluated by course learning outcomes and module learning outcomes within each course.
They will also be evaluated and evidenced through their course-based action-research projects, their written assignments in courses, their ongoing dialogue with faculty and the oral exams in each course, in the dissertation, and in their collaborations with others, such as in seminars and the online forum.
WISR General Program Learning Areas and Outcomes for EdD Students
In addition to the above-mentioned EdD program-specific PLOs, EdD students must demonstrate the following general PLOs:
The student will:
B: Self-Directed Learning.
Demonstrate skills as a self-directed learner, as indicated by critically minded, intentional, and improvisational learning in doing their course assignments and dissertation.
Engage in creative and critically informed uses of methods of participatory and action-research in the pursuit of new, specialized knowledge and proficient practices, especially as indicated through their action-research projects and dissertation.
D: Multiculturalism and Inclusiveness.
Demonstrate an awareness of issues of diversity and inclusiveness, by showing a sensitivity to the issues involved in working as an adult educator with diverse populations, as indicated in their writing, dialogue, dissertation, and/or action-research projects.
E: Social Change and Justice.
Analyze the connections of educational practices that are both impacted by and aimed at addressing various community or societal problems and challenges–by showing in their writing, dialogue and/or action-research projects that they are inquiring into ways of creating change for social justice, greater equality and environmental sustainability, as part of the pursuit of specialized knowledge and effective leadership and innovation.
F: Communication and Collaboration.
- Demonstrate skills of clear and engaging written communication, by a) writing clearly and in a well-organized fashion, b) showing that they can intentionally identify and communicate to a chosen audience(s), and c) using their own voice on topics that matter to them.
- Demonstrate skills of effective oral communication and collaboration, as indicated in a) their action-research projects or dissertation with people from more than one background, and b) in seminars and informal dialogue with other students and with faculty, and
- Produce a dissertation that can be used by others to work for valuable improvements and change, and also that is of sufficient quality to be considered seriously for professional publication
G: Build Bridges to the Future.
- Demonstrate an awareness of employment opportunities, of if they prefer, meaningful volunteer opportunities, as a leader and innovative adult educator in an institutional or community setting, appropriate to their specialized capabilities, experience, and interests.
- Begin building bridges, i.e., specific action steps, to their post-graduate involvements, especially as indicated in their action-research projects and Doctoral Dissertation.
Evaluation of these Outcomes.
These outcomes will be evidenced in the written assignments for each course–and guided and evaluated by course learning outcomes and module learning outcomes within each course. They will also be evaluated and evidenced through the student’s practicum, their course-based action-research projects, their ongoing dialogue with faculty and the oral exams in each course, in the dissertation, and in their collaborations with others, such as in seminars and the online forum.
Outcome Evaluation Using the Dreyfus Model of Expert Knowledge
The Dreyfus Model is Used to Evaluate the Effectiveness of WISR’s Degree Programs, and to conceptualize the interconnections of degree program learning outcomes. The stages of the Dreyfus Model that are used at WISR are
- the stage of “competent” serving as an orienting learning goal to guide students and faculty in the Master’s programs at WISR, and
- the stage of “proficient” providing an orienting learning goal for students and faculty in the Doctoral program.
From time to time, we have seminars on this Model at WISR, to engage students and faculty in reflecting on and discussing how to make use of it to aid learning at WISR. Here are a few highlights to consider.
The Competent Expert
The “competent” expert comes to appreciate that simple recipes do not adequately address the nuances of, variations in, and complexity of real-life situations. As Master’s students progress in their studies, and are engaged in many levels of learning—for example, the levels articulated in Bloom’s taxonomy: understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating—their behavior and learning are increasingly characterized by the following indicators of the “competent” stage of expert knowledge and skills. They:
- Engage in deliberate planning
- Understand the importance of each specific context/situation
- Use guidelines, not rules, to determine their actions
- Are emotionally-involved in the outcomes of their actions (a strong sense of Responsibility) (commitment)
- Use what they see to be the most valuable and “relevant perspectives” for each situation, rather than relying on rules. They may not have the creativity of a proficient expert to develop a new theory or strategy, but they will strategically analyze and evaluate what they have learned to make an educated choice about what they see to be the situationally most appropriate action or plan, from among their knowledge of the “available alternatives.” So, they:
- Analyze and evaluate what they have learned, and then also make judgements based on their experiences
Doctoral Student Achieve “Proficient” Stage
Doctoral students achieve the stage of the “proficient” expert, including the capacity to develop new theories and new approaches to practice as a result of the further development of several, key skills and qualities of learning, all of which are aided, especially, by the strong, and continual, emphasis at WISR on a transformative approach to action-research in every doctoral course. This includes:
- a focus on involved understanding and inquiry—emotional engagement in not only the outcome of one’s efforts (“responsibility) but also in the process of inquiry itself (where the learner develops a stronger sense of their own voice, commitments to their purposes and values, an almost ever-present curiosity to learn more, and to improvise (revise and re-formulate) the next steps in both action and inquiry.
- a creative search to look for patterns, to use holistic analysis in addition to analysis by dissection, or in addition to breaking ideas and information into separate parts. This, in turn, leads to:
- an awareness of the “bigger picture”—specific concrete situations are evaluated with a conscious consideration of their connections with the larger context.
- a search for a variety of sources of data and experience—this is the opposite of tunnel vision, and WISR’s approach to action-research requires that students learn how to “sample for diversity”—that is, look for data, for observations, applications and experiences, that reflect a wide range of possibilities.
Competence as Foundation for Proficiency
It is important to note that these sophisticated and complex learning processes must grow out of a solid foundation and knowledge of a variety of theories and practices, and the ability to evaluate those theories and practices. The qualities of the competent expert are very important as a foundation for the development and learning toward being a proficient expert. So, even in WISR’s doctoral program, significant attention is given to further developing solid foundational knowledge of theories and applications in the field of higher education and social change.
Characteristics of the Proficient Expert
So, along with the key skills and qualities of learning noted above, the achievement of the “proficient” level of expert knowledge and skills is indicated by the learner doing the list below. And, it should be noted that these actions are critical if one is to make creative contributions to one’s field of specialization and major area of expertise! The proficient learner:
- Prioritizes aspects of situations
- Seeks out, and is exposed to, an increasing variety of situations
- Critiques, re-evaluates, and often changes goals [not just changing their method to achieve a fixed goal]
- Is emotionally-involved in the effectiveness of their process of inquiring and understanding (not just involved in the result or outcome)
- Evaluates past successes and failures, as part of their engaged action-and-inquiry.
- Uses maxims, or broad principles, and also adapts the maxims to situations (which is the first step in creating new theories and new practices).
Dreyfus Model Learning Resources
To learn more about the Dreyfus model go to: https://www.nateliason.com/blog/become-expert-dreyfus and http://www2.psych.utoronto.ca/users/reingold/courses/ai/cache/Socrates.html
And also: Chapter 5, Cases and Stories of Transformative Action Research. Bilorusky, J. Routledge Press, 2021.
Orientation to the EdD Program
Learning the WISR Way
All entering EdD students must enroll in a three-semester unit course on “Learning the WISR Way.” In this course, students read articles about WISR’s approach to learning, including self-directed, learner-centered education; discuss these articles with WISR faculty; interview alumni and currently enrolled students to learn more about WISR’s approach to learning.
Description and Goals: This is an introductory course, required of WISR students in all degree programs, which is designed to enable students to progress more effectively toward the successful completion of the degree program at WISR, so that students can get the most from their WISR education—in pursuing their learning passions and career interests, in developing the core meta-competencies valued at WISR, and in building bridges for themselves to the next significant things they wish to do in their lives. Students read and study the methods of “Learning the WISR way”–studying the theories and strategies of WISR’s approach to transformative learning for professional and community leadership, as well as learning from stories and specific examples drawn from the experiences of other WISR students.
Also, students are introduced to methods of notetaking and writing in their own voice, as well as the use of professional conventions in formal writing and strategies of effective online research. In this course, students reflect on, discuss and write about what they are learning in the course, and the culminating papers are a reflective autobiographical essay, a preliminary educational plan and a self-assessment inventory of strengths, challenges, needs, and opportunities in the pursuit of their future goals and learning.
In writing these papers, students must include a statement of how and why WISR’s self-paced, learner-centered methods are appropriate for them—with fewer hours in traditional, large classrooms, and more time spent for 6 or more hours per week in one-on-one mentoring sessions and small group seminar discussions.
Distance learners must include in their autobiographical statement, learning plan, and self-assessment, an analysis of how and why distance learning at WISR is feasible for them, and will result in their being able to meet their needs and accomplish their goals.
These statements are to be discussed, reviewed and approved by at least one member of the WISR EdD faculty.
Finally, this course is also used to introduce and orient new students to
1) WISR’s career center and resources, and
2) WISR’s library resources, the library resources of other libraries and online databases which WISR will enable or help students to access.
EdD Program Regulations
The vast majority of WISR students are mature adults with significant work and family responsibilities, time demands and commitments. Most students will progress at a rate approximately equivalent to half-time enrollment.
WISR’s tuition is very affordable, even in comparison to other private institution’s rates for half-time enrollment. All WISR students pay the same tuition, and those students who are able to pursue their studies with an intensity and at a pace comparable to students who are seriously engaged full-time students will very likely be able to graduate in 40 to 50 percent of the estimated time for studies in WISR degree programs.
For many students pursuing a Doctoral degree at WISR, the length of study at WISR may be as much as 6 years, unless they are able to study at the intensity of a seriously engaged full-time student. Some students complete the doctoral program in about three to four years. Faculty review student progress semi-annually to facilitate each student’s efforts to complete their degree within this maximum amount of time. Students who are consistently engaged in their studies, but who are slowed down due to disabilities or other extenuating factors may petition WISR faculty for permission to take somewhat longer than 6 years to complete their studies.
In addition, doctoral students enrolling after March 1, 2018 must complete their studies within 10 years, including any time off for leaves of absence.
In all cases, faculty will strive to support students in their efforts to complete their degree in a timely manner, while also benefiting from their studies at WISR in ways that will help them build bridges to the next important life goals.
The maximum period to be enrolled in the doctoral program is 9 years,* and in any case, doctoral students enrolling after March 1, 2018 must complete their studies within 10 years, including any time off for leaves of absence. In all cases, faculty will strive to support students in their efforts to complete their degree in a timely manner, while also benefiting from their studies at WISR in ways that will help them build bridges to the next important life goals.
*These program length expectations do not include any time off for leaves of absence due to matters resulting from health issues, family responsibilities or periods of financial hardship. Each leave of absence must be for a minimum of six months, during which time the student does not pay tuition, and during which time the student may not receive credit for any efforts related to their studies at WISR. The student pays $250–$50 for a re-application fee, and $200 for them to re-register in the degree program they are pursuing or for the degree program in which they are taking courses–when resuming their studies.
The Role of the Graduation Review Board in Evaluating Student Progress
Each student’s Graduation Review Board plays an important role in the evaluation of student progress toward the achievement of Program Learning Outcomes and their readiness to begin the final, Dissertation phase of their EdD program.
The Qualifying Exam.
First, three WISR faculty members review the doctoral student’s completed projects and coursework, after all of the courses required for the degree program have been completed (except for the dissertation and the exam/dissertation readiness “course”). The purpose of the review is to determine if the student has either completely achieved degree program outcomes, or sufficiently to be able to finish achieving those outcomes while doing their dissertation. In this way the faculty are evaluating if the student is prepared to undertake the rigorous study required for a doctoral dissertation, and to focus their attention on the dissertation, and on achieving any modest added progress toward degree program outcomes required and identified by faculty.
Based on their review of the student’s completed coursework, the faculty conduct an oral exam to see if the student is ready to proceed to the Comprehensive Exam Phase, outlined in the two-unit course, EDD 693: Comprehensive Assessment of Student Learning and Plans for Dissertation and Beyond. To evaluate the student’s coursework and the student’s oral exam, they use the Rubric, below for the Qualifying Exam.
If the student fails the Qualifying Exam, faculty will prepare a list of steps for further study and writing that the student needs to take, which must be completed within two months. If the student fails a second time, they will be placed on a tuition-free leave of absence, during which time they will still have faculty support. The student may request a third exam at any time, and if they pass the exam, they will be re-enrolled, without having to pay the re-enrollment fee, and will proceed to exam step #2, the Written Comprehensive Exam.
The Written Comprehensive Exam.
The student also engages in a thoroughgoing review, critical reflection, and written analysis of what they have learned thus far—on how the WISR learning process has helped them to learn in areas of the doctoral program degree learning outcomes. The specific directions to guide the student in the written exam are as follows:
The student will:
Write a comprehensive self-assessment paper that evaluates, organizes and synthesizes their learning thus far during their doctoral studies. In that paper, the student will:
- Articulate and write a critical and well-informed statement about their field(s) of specialization that includes details and nuances beyond broad generalizations.
- Articulate and explore several insights and questions about this emerging, interdisciplinary field of “higher education and social change” and about their area(s) of specialization in particular that their review committee considers to be at the level of proficiency and to be promising of leading toward new knowledge and/or practices;
- Demonstrate the depth and breadth of their perspectives on what they’ve learned, and how they plan to build on this knowledge as they move forward toward their goals; and
- Articulate and discuss the evidence of the extent to which they have addressed each degree program learning outcome.
Oral Comprehensive Exam.
The student then discusses their reflections and written analyses with three WISR faculty members—assessing their breadth and depth of knowledge in the area(s) of primary interest, and in the interdisciplinary field of higher education and social change, as well as their skills in action-oriented inquiry and knowledge-building, in preparation for undertaking the dissertation.
Evaluation for steps #2 and #3, the three WISR faculty members, all of whom must have accredited doctoral degrees, conduct a formal evaluation of the student’s written comprehensive exam (the written analyses submitted by the student, noted above), and follow this with an oral comprehensive exam. The Rubrics used in evaluating the student for can be found below.
The oral exam will proceed as follows:
Using the comprehensive self-assessment as evidence and as a starting point for discussion in the oral exam, the student will show the review committee that they have demonstrated proficiency and promise of creative work in the field. Specifically, the student will:
- identify and discuss convincingly those degree program learning outcomes which they already have met, and
- identify and a realistic plan for completing the remaining degree program learning outcomes during the dissertation process.
If the student’s review committee determine that the student’s progress and plans are sufficient, the student will be approved to submit their dissertation proposal. Otherwise, the committee will articulate for the student what further learning must be demonstrated before the student begins work on the dissertation. (See section below on “What happens when the student fails an exam”
When the student passes the Oral Comprehensive Exam, they will proceed to work on and then submit the Dissertation Proposal for review by the same three faculty.
The faculty will evaluate the dissertation proposal with the following criteria in mind. If the proposal does not meet all criteria, faculty will work to help the student to make the necessary improvements within a two-month period of time.
The student will:
- develop a coherent, well thought out plan for their dissertation to these six members of what will become their Graduation Review Board, and
- will present a plan that meets standards for original, ethically-informed action-oriented inquiry, including
- an appropriately thorough and targeted literature review,
- a well-designed plan for collecting original data, and
- well-formulated questions that reflect the student’s interests and the potential to contribute to new knowledge and/or practices in the student’s proposed area of study.
Use of Rubrics for Outcome Assessment
The three faculty serving on the Review Board and who are conducting the oral and written exams use a set of rubrics to evaluate the student in each of the following stages of this process:
1) qualifying exam and the review of the student’s previous coursework, and an oral exam of the student regarding what the learned and accomplished in that coursework;
2) the student’s written self-assessment which includes articulation of evidence and critical analysis of their learning in each Program Outcome area and their plans for future learning,
3) an oral exam, using the student’s written exam as a point of departure for dialogue, where faculty assess student achievement of program learning outcomes based on this comprehensive oral exam, and
4) faculty evaluation of the dissertation proposal.
What Happens when the Student Fails an Exam
If the student fails to pass at any of these four levels, faculty will provide the student with a statement of the areas in which they must still demonstrate sufficient competence and knowledge in any content area or competency area related to program outcomes. One or two of the faculty will be designated to mentor and support the student in doing the necessary study and learning to pass the exam. The student may take the exam again as soon as they and the faculty feel they are ready.
Similarly, students who fail at any stage, will receive support from faculty to help them months (except for the qualifying exam which must be within two months) before progressing to the next stage. It should be noted that because of the rigorous requirements of each WISR course, the intensity and extent of personal mentoring of each student by faculty, the enormous body of writing required in each course, and the oral exam at the end of each course, it is very unlikely that a student will fail at any level.
However, if the student fails at one or more exams, they should be able to do the necessary added study and learning, with faculty help, in no more than two months to proceed to the next phase or exam, although there is no time limit.
If the student fails any exam a second time, they will be placed on a tuition-free leave of absence, during which time they will still have faculty support. The student may request a third exam at any time, and if they pass the exam, they will be re-enrolled, without having to pay the re-enrollment fee, and will proceed to the next phase of exams.
As always, as per WISR’s policies, students have the right to appeal the decision of their Review Board.
Faculty Qualifications for Graduate Review Board
The three WISR faculty, all of whom must have an accredited doctoral degree, evaluate the student’s dissertation proposal to determine if the topic design and procedures meet the Institute’s academic standards for quality action-inquiry and promise in contributing to others and to the student’s future life plans. They also refer the proposal to WISR’s IRB for either an expedited review or a review by the full IRB.
Then, the three faculty members’ then sign and fill out the form, “Evaluation of EdD Student Performance—Written and Oral Comprehensive Exams, and Dissertation Proposal—EdD 693.”
The Role of the Graduation Review Board at the Dissertation Stage of the EdD Program
Once the proposal is approved, an outside expert in the area of the student’s dissertation topic joins the three faculty on the Review Board and makes their suggestions for revisions and improvements in the proposal. The rubric used in evaluating the student’s dissertation proposal is included in the document at: https://www.wisr.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Rubrics-for-qualifying-exam-comprehensive-exams-and-dissertation-proposal.docx
Composition of the Graduate Review Board
It is recommended that each student identify two or more current or former WISR students to serve as a peer support group and added source of feedback during the dissertation process.
Doctoral students must include on their Graduation Review Board, three WISR faculty members, all of whom must have earned accredited doctoral degrees, on their Graduation Review Board; however, one of the faculty may hold a WISR doctoral degree, as well as an outside expert in the area of their dissertation topic. Faculty serving on a Graduation Review Board shall have been active in their field of scholarship or profession during the five-year period preceding their participation on the Review Board.
Feedback and Support from the Board
The Doctoral student’s Graduation Review Board provides feedback and support throughout the process–from the dissertation proposal stage through the two or three drafts of the dissertation to the final approval of the dissertation.
Final Meeting of the Board
The final Graduation Review Board meeting is scheduled once all members are ready to approve the dissertation, and the meeting is used:
- to provide a celebration of the Doctoral student’s accomplishments,
- to validate that the student is responsible for having done their dissertation work,
- to substantively discuss the dissertation, including its methods and findings,
- to provide the student with a sense of closure, as well as an opportunity
- to look to the future and to examine the ways in which the dissertation experience and outcomes can be used to support the student’s future endeavors.
Doctoral students submit a self-evaluation of their experiences throughout the program, including an examination of their future plans and a critical examination of WISR’s strengths and limitations in contributing to their learning.
The EdD Curriculum
45 semester units of coursework, including “Advancement to Candidacy” [Assessment of Student Learning and Plans for the Dissertation and Beyond] (2 units), 28 semester units of required courses, and 15 semester units of electives, followed by 15 semester units for the dissertation [* Indicates required course]
*Orientation—Learning the WISR Way (3 semester units) [pursued as the first course upon enrollment, unless the student has previously been enrolled at WISR]
*Action-Research Methods for Scholarly, Professional and Societal Contributions (5 semester units)[must be the second course pursued after Learning the WISR Way]
*Advanced Theory and Practice of Education and Social Change: Theories, Issues and Practices (5 semester units)
*Advanced Studies in Multiculturalism (5 semester units)
*Review and Assessment of Knowledge in One’s Particular Field(s) of Specialization (5 semester units)
*Comprehensive Assessment–of Student Learning and Plans for Thesis and Beyond Graduation (2 semester units)[must be completed prior to beginning the dissertation]
- Assessment of Learning and of Achievement of Program Learning Objectives During Pre-Dissertation Courses, and
- Building Bridges to the Future and Dissertation Proposal
*Dissertation (15 semester units)
4 courses (5 semester units each), distributed as follows:
*At least one of the following three courses (5 semester units each):
- Advanced Studies in Higher Learning, or
- Advanced Studies in Professional Education, or
- Advanced Studies in Adult Learning: Popular and Community Education
*At least one of the following (5 semester units each):
- Advanced Studies in Theories, Strategies and Issues in Social Change and Community Leadership, or
- Advanced Studies in Critical Environmental Sustainability, or
- Advanced Inquiry into Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies
Possible 5 semester unit Elective:
Advanced Independent Study
EDD 601: Learning the WISR Way: Introduction to Transformative Learning for Professional and Community Leadership—This is the first course to be pursued (unless previously enrolled at WISR, in which case this course may be replaced by an elective).
This is an introductory course, required of WISR students in all degree programs, except for the MS in Psychology (leading to the MFT and/or LPCC license), which is designed to enable students to progress more effectively toward the successful completion of the degree program at WISR, so that students can get the most from their WISR education—in pursuing their learning passions and career interests, in developing the core meta-competencies valued at WISR, in fulfilling the learning objectives for their chosen WISR degree program, and in building bridges for themselves to the next significant things they wish to do in their lives. For Doctoral students, there is also critical analysis of how WISR’s mission and learning methods apply to adult education in general.
EDD 611: Action-Research for Scholarly, Professional and Societal Contributions—This must be the second course pursued.
This course will involve the student in developing the capability of independently designing and conducting substantial action-research projects, either on their own or with a lead role in collaborating with others. The course engages the student to do in-depth study, and critical analysis of a significant range of methods of action-research, including various methods of qualitative research and participatory research. This course will explore a variety of ways in which research can be combined with action—for example, in reflecting on the effectiveness of one’s professional practices and community improvement efforts, doing program evaluations and community needs assessments, and using research in formulating new programs and policies. The course involves an in depth and critical analysis of key ideas in the logic of research design and scientific inquiry, including the concepts of validity and reliability—drawing on and critically examining parallels between the criteria for rigorous research in the natural sciences and for effective action-research used in professional practice and leadership in areas related to human services, education, community improvement and social change. The course addresses the value of participatory action-research, which actively involves as colleagues in the entire research process, people whose lives are, or could be, impacted by the research and its uses. The courses guides students in studying issues and assumptions pertaining to the philosophy and sociology of knowledge, as well as an intensive examination of methods of data gathering and analysis from participant observation, interviewing, and storytelling. This should be one of the first three courses that the student studies during their degree program, because it provides a methodological foundation for studies throughout the degree program. Also, it is strongly recommended that the student pursue this course concurrently with another course that requires a full-scale, action-research lab–so that the student can apply in greater depth some of the action-research methods that they are being introduced to in this course.
EDD 642: Advanced Studies in Multiculturalism
This course involves a study of societal dynamics, professional practices, and formal educational and informal learning processes in the society—to inquire about the ways in which they promote or impede multiculturalism. The course engages students in asking questions, such as “what is multiculturalism” and what does this have to do with social justice and optimal human development. The course examines the role of the cultural context in what transpires in professional practices, social institutions, and also in everyday life—and how this impacts learning, social justice, and human development. It includes the study of the impact of such societal forces as colonialism, imperialism, racism, prejudice, sexism and population diversity. Also, the study of the role of education, and particularly liberating learning methods, in addressing such forces. Specifically, critical analysis of such ideologies as “tolerance” and the “meritocracy.” The course aims to promote a greater understanding of the dynamics of learning and unlearning racism, and the relevance of the psychological dynamics involved in “internalizing oppressor consciousness.” Finally, the course provides the opportunity to learn multicultural perspectives and experiences about current issues and historical events, and to inquire into the larger challenges, issues and possibilities in promoting multiculturalism.
EDD 646: Advanced Studies in Theories, Strategies and Issues of Social Change and Community Leadership
EDD 651: Advanced Theory and Practice of Education and Social Change–Theories, Issues, and Practices
This course is in an in-depth examination of theories and methods of education, in general, and adult education, in particular. Quite importantly, “education” is studied in the context of history, current social issues, and the prospects and challenges for social change. For the purposes of this course, education is considered broadly, and includes the study of institutional higher education, professional education, popular/grassroots education, and the role of mass media. It also includes the study of American history, and themes of democracy, social injustices, and multiculturalism, and the relevance of education to these trends and concerns. More specifically, it involves the study of such important topics as globalization, climate change, societal conflicts, and specifically, racism and other forms of marginalizing and oppressing groups of people. This course draws on a critical examination of enlightenment philosophy, progressive era ideas such as those of John Dewey, the writings of Paulo Freire and bell hooks, as well as Giroux and Vygotsky, and the ideologies and philosophies in action of those who have promoted varied competing visions of the role of education in society and for social change. In this context, the course examines the role of education—as it has been, and as it might be, and students are encouraged to develop their own perspectives on the role of education in creating a better tomorrow.
EDD 661: Advanced Studies in Professional Education
This course is an in-depth examination of methods, practices and ideas about professional education. It includes sociological and historical analyses of what professions are about—their goals, qualities and roles in society. It includes the study of different approaches to professional education, in various fields, and the role of methods of adult learning in contributing to professional education. Finally, this course provides a context in which the learner can explore and examine different career options for him/herself and for others, including a critical analysis of the roles and limitations of professions in contributing to the larger society and to constructive social change.
EDD 662: Advanced Studies in Higher Education
This course focuses on the theory and practice of higher education, including the history of US higher education, as well as current trends and issues and prospects for the future. Special topics to be addressed include: the differing criteria people use in assessing the quality of higher education and universities; the impact of current societal trends on role of universities in today’s society; the connections between higher education and ideas about meritocracy. The development of knowledge, as well as the institutionalization and legitimization of knowledge through academic departments and professions; the role of higher education in a democratic society; and the role of higher education in perpetuating and challenging the status quo.
EDD 663: Advanced Studies in Adult Learning: Popular and Learner-Centered Education
This course focuses on the theory and practice of learner-centered education, especially as applied to working with a varied range of adults. Learner-centered education is increasingly used in different cultures and societies, and outside of formal educational institutions, such as schools and colleges. This course includes the study of the theories, and recommended practices, of such educators as John Dewey, Paulo Freire, bell hooks and Vygotsky, among others. Other topics include the dynamics of cognition and perception, collaborative learning, the role of storytelling and the importance of the social context in learning. The focus on “popular education” emphasizes the broad applicability of learner-centered approaches to adults from all walks of life.
EDD 671: Advanced Inquiry into Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies
Understanding the dynamics of dignity—and its violation through individual and systemic forms of humiliation—is crucial in today’s highly interconnected world. Growing awareness of these dynamics brings to the forefront the realization that past social, political, and economic practices, once accepted and considered helpful, may now be perceived as deeply humiliating. This course will explore how today’s rapidly changing social, political, and environmental conditions require us to dramatically alter how we participate in relationships. It proposes that escalating social instability, political unrest, violent conflict, economic injustice, and climate change can be the impetus to design innovative, sustainable, and mutually dignifying solutions to these problems. In particular, this course will examine how cultivating systemic dignity—at home and around the globe—creates space for mutually beneficial arrangements of relationships to emerge, relationships that provide for the full participation, growth, and development of all people while we seek sustainable solutions to global crises. Students will be expected to inquiry into ways in which their own area(s) of specialization may contribute to human dignity and/or to the study of human dignity and humiliation.
EDD 681: Advanced Studies in Critical Environmental Literacy
This course will focus on current critical environmental issues (both local and global), and explore several of the themes essential for citizens today that can be integrated into community and professional leadership roles, as well as personal contexts. Can we call ourselves an educated citizenry if we fail to address the challenges of environmental sustainability and planetary survival? Because the current model of “global economic growth” holds little regard for environmental sustainability and social justice, preparing people for the choices they face as citizens must be strongly linked to making the Earth a better place for all. This course provides an understanding of the interdependence of people and ecosystems around the globe. We will look at how environmental issues negatively affect indigenous people and people of color disproportionately. In this course we will read and study documentary videos that present issues or dilemmas to inspire deep, and critical, reflection. These will include a variety of current and ongoing issues, not always covered by mainstream media. The course will ask students to reflect on and analyze the contributions to environmental sustainability that might be made by those concerned with higher education and social change, generally. Further, more specifically, students will be expected to formulate some creative ideas, questions, and/or strategies by which endeavors in their own area(s) of specialization may creatively contribute to environmental sustainability.
EDD 689: Faculty Supervised and Guided Independent Study
This elective course provides the student with the option to pursue independent study and/or an internship in professional or community leadership–in an area within the scope of this degree program, and of strong interest to the student. In particular, it is to provide the student with an opportunity to do further study in their area(s) of interest. The content and methods of the independent study must be of comparable rigor to other EdD program courses, and the student must: 1) obtain approval from a faculty member willing, and qualified, to supervise their proposed studies, and 2) obtain approval from WISR’s Chief Academic Officer. The criteria for approval and the options are as follows:
- A supervised internship, practicum and/or action-research lab, for 1 to 5 semester units of elective credit.
- A course designed to cover content, not fully addressed, in the existing courses—either a substantially different area of emphasis (but within the scope of the EdD in Higher Education and Social Change), or a course that builds on an existing course, and goes into much greater depth. Two options (for elective credit):
- Reading, critical reflection and analysis, and writing for 3 semester units, or
- Reading, critical reflection and analysis, and writing, as well as a substantial action-research lab culminating in a term paper, for 5 semester units
The independent study, however designed, must demonstrate an advanced level of creativity, innovation, inquiry or expert practice expected of doctoral level study.
EDD 690: Review and Assessment of Knowledge in One’s Field of Specialization
This course builds on the student’s previous coursework, and specialized projects done as part of that coursework. The student engages in additional, in depth study of a topic that is central to their doctoral studies and future plans to use and create expert knowledge as a professional and/or community leader. Students will review and evaluate the literature in their field of specialization, and/or survey and study existing practices. These in-depth studies should include, among other methods of learning, library and online research, as well as critically reflective analysis and writing about what they’ve previously learned. In many cases, students may conduct interviews and make observations in the community and in professional practice settings. The student evaluates, organizes and synthesizes the highlights of their knowledge in their area of specialization.
EDD 693: Comprehensive Assessment–of Student Learning and Plans for Dissertation and Beyond—This course must be completed prior to beginning the dissertation.
This course is the transition between the student’s pre-dissertation coursework and the dissertation. This course builds on the student’s previous coursework, and specialized projects done as part of that coursework. The student engages in a critically reflective analysis of their previous doctoral studies at WISR, in light of their future plans to use their expert knowledge as a professional and/or community leader. The student writes a paper that evaluates, organizes and synthesizes the highlights of what they have learned during their doctoral studies. As part of this, the student is expected to present evidence of how they have addressed the learning objectives of this doctoral program. This paper is written, and discussed with faculty, in light of the student’s future plans and aspirations beyond the doctorate. In order to build a bridge toward their future goals, the student develops and proposes the plan for their dissertation. This proposal is discussed with their Graduation Review Board, and the student makes the needed changes to gain approval of their plan.
EDD 699: Doctoral Dissertation
The Doctoral Dissertation is an original and creative investigation into a topic that is both meaningful to the student, and which also shows potential to contribute to others, either by improved practices and/or new knowledge. It is an extremely in-depth study of a topic of strong interest to the student, and one that generally helps the student build bridges to the next important things they wish to do with their life—as a professional, and a leader. The student makes use of what they have learned at WISR about action-research methods to do a serious and substantial inquiry that involves a critical and thoughtful review of the literature, and substantial original data collected by the student. The dissertation should result in the formulation of questions and/or insights that show promise for leading to more innovative and valuable professional or community practices, and for adding to knowledge. In other words, it is a very serious and extensive inquiry that is based on action and/or that has action implications of some significance to the student and/or others. The dissertation should aim to make a worthwhile contribution to the professional field or to some community or group of lay people.
The following are the specific goals and outcomes for the doctoral dissertation:
The scope and depth of the Doctoral Dissertation will demonstrate the student’s expert knowledge of the topic studied, based on the student’s experiences, a literature review, and the collection and analysis of some original data.
The student will demonstrate their ability to use action-research methods in the conduct of an original, creative and extensive project that is important to them and to others in the field.
More specifically, the student will articulate and discuss:
- What they have learned from their inquiry.
- How they came to those insights and how they came to the questions they are now asking themselves, and the possible directions or plans for further learning, research, and/or action.
- The strengths and limitations of their uses of action-research.
- The insights gained from their research, not in abstract terms, but also coupled with a rich variety of examples that the student uses to understand and to illustrate the complexity, situational variability and nuances of their conceptual or thematic insights.
- How what they have learned may create potentially valuable knowledge, and/or effective and valuable action and practice—and, identify the groups (professional and/or community) who are likely to be interested in learning about what they have found during the dissertation inquiry.
- How their Doctoral Dissertation—the process and/or outcomes—will build a bridge(s) to the next significant things they plan to do in their life and/or professional work.
Since the dissertation is the culmination of doctoral studies, students will demonstrate their competencies in many of the Doctoral program’s overall learning outcomes (see below)–especially in the areas of: developing skills and knowledge as a self-directed learner, expertise in methods of participatory and action-research, ability to communicate clearly and meaningfully to one’s audience(s), ability to pursue successfully employment and/or leadership roles in the community, and expertise in the interdisciplinary field of higher education and social change as well as in one or more areas of specialization.
The Five Steps to Admission
Reach Out to Us and Connect
Call to meet us at 1-510-655-2830.
We will want to have two to three conversations with you including an interview. During our conversation we will arrange for you the following opportunities:
- Speak with current students or alumni
- Speak with one or more faculty members
- Attend one or more WISR seminars
Call to meet us at 1-510-655-2830.
Important Documents to Read Before Applying
Read these webpages and formulate further questions:
- WISR’s mission statement
- Your program of special interest
- Admissions webpage
- WISR Consumer Disclosures webpage
- Tuition and Fees webpage
Your Alignment with WISR’s Mission
Important: In preparation for your interview, we ask that throughout your reading you consider whether WISR’s mission statement and the focus of your program of interest is:
- Aligned with your own values and therefore something you find inspiring
- Aligned with your intentions and sense of purpose in life
- Aligned with activities you have already pursued in your life
This is the link to the “Admissions Application and Interview Form.”
As part of the application process, all admissions to study at WISR are made on the basis of intensive conversations with applicants about their goals, interests, and backgrounds, and applicants are told about the kinds of learning and action that are involved in studying with us. Initial discussions may be informal.
Thereafter, each serious applicant is asked to file a formal application for admission, by filling out:
- The Admissions Application and Interview Form,
- submitting transcripts of previous college-level study to verify that the student has met WISR’s admissions requirements and to verify any transfer credit requested, and
- providing two letters of recommendation from others who can attest to the student’s readiness for further academic study.
- The application for admission must also include a written statement describing the scope and significance of the applicant’s study and future objectives, assessing how well these fit with study at WISR, and discussing the applicant’s commitments to professional and community work.
WISR is interested in working with students who find a common bond with the Institute’s stated philosophy and goals.
We are also interested in students who have given some thought to their educational goals and have an initial clarity about them, although we recognize that goals frequently change as a student’s course of study progresses.
WISR also seeks students who want a flexible program, tailored to their individual needs, but who also want discipline and rigor in their studies.
These and other issues are discussed frankly and openly with each serious applicant, and students’ intelligent self-selection to study at WISR is very deliberately emphasized.
Many tentatively interested inquirers are discouraged from formally applying if their specific interests, personal maturity, or resources of time and money do not promise success in study here. We help many potential applicants to find other ways of pursuing their studies elsewhere.
As part of the application process, each applicant must discuss her or his background and objectives with a core faculty member, usually WISR’s President or Chief Academic Officer. Interested persons are routinely encouraged to visit WISR seminars and to talk with other faculty, students, and Board members of WISR, to gain several perspectives on study at WISR and a sense of the learning community that they may be joining.
Set Up Your Interview
Call us and arrange for your interview. In preparation for the interview, we think it is valuable for you to read the questions we will be asking the topics we will be discussing in advance. Here’ the link to the “Admissions Application and Interview Form” which makes that clear.
About the Interview
As part of the application process, each applicant must discuss her or his background and objectives with WISR’s President or Chief Academic Officer. This meeting is both an “admissions interview” and an exploration, together, of how well WISR’s distinctive approach to learning and our specific State-licensed degree offerings, will meet the prospective student’s needs and enable him or her to have a strong likelihood of using a WISR program in the meaningful and successful pursuit of his or her short- and long-term goals.
Prospective students are urged to have a face-to-face meeting at WISR; however, if it is more convenient, or if the student is living at a distance, two or more in depth phone or video conversations often suffice. An hour-long conversation is scheduled so that the prospective student will not feel rushed, and indeed, students are welcome, and even expected, to have more than one conversation with WISR’s President or Chief Academic Officer.
After extensive discussions, most prospective enrollees are able to judge the kinds of student autonomy and commitment that study at WISR requires. Most applicants who do not have the necessary qualifications screen themselves out voluntarily.
The purpose of the conversations and interviews is to help each person to make a very informed decision about whether or not to apply for admissions, and also to enable the Chief Academic Officer and/or the President, sometimes in consultation with other faculty, make the decision to admit the prospective student, based on whether or not they are likely to benefit from studying at WISR.
The WISR “Admissions Application and Interview Form” shows how much we place a priority on admitting those prospective students who understand WISR’s learning methods and mission, whether or not a WISR degree is likely to aid them in achieving their future goal and who are likely to succeed in learning and pursuing an academic degree at WISR.