Newly redesigned doctoral program finds success

EdDThis spring the GSE graduated more doctoral students than ever in our history, and we expect the larger number of graduates to continue indefinitely.

The Educational Leadership Doctorate program is the highest professional degree offered in the GSE. The first GSE doctoral degree was awarded in 1981, and there are currently 258 alumni from this program. The GSE doctoral program prepares individuals in four specialized areas: Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Administration, Postsecondary Education, and Special Education.

The EdD program sent 27 graduates across the stage this yeara record number for the GSE– and the largest doctoral class at PSU. Forty PSU students, in total, have qualified to earn doctorate degrees so far this spring and these include both PhD and EdD programs. “Numbers for doctoral graduates are up across the university,” says Roxanne Treece, Graduate Academic Services Coordinator in the Office of Academic Affairs.  

In 2008, faculty saw a need to revise the GSE’s traditional format to better meet the needs of today’s students. In the past, like many doctoral programs, the EdD students met each week in cohort groups to take the essential program content courses. After the two years of coursework, the subsequent development and writing of the dissertation was carried out individually with students working one-on-one with an advisor. For a number of reasons this resulted in students often taking many years to complete their work. They had little or no peer support and, as nationally,  many struggled to complete the program. In the revised program, all students are now expected to complete their degrees within three or four years.  The GSE has reformatted the program to ensure more guidance and support from both faculty and peers.

The new GSE doctoral program includes “learning communities”—small study groups led by faculty—where students continue to meet after their initial coursework and gain support and encouragement from each other.

Professor Karen Noordhoff who leads a group explains: “The recent doctoral program redesign is doing a much better job of supporting our students’ success. In particular, we’re engaging students in ongoing, multiyear, small learning communities with faculty support. These learning communities sustain, encourage, and challenge students to complete the program in a timely manner (3-4 years), and help make significant leadership contributions to their educational professions in concrete and meaningful ways.”

“The record number of EdDs is largely due to two new strategies,” says Janine Allen, 2011-12 doctoral program coordinator. “First, over the last few years we initiated efforts to assist doctoral students who were still working on completing the program. The second strategy was to redesign the program for incoming students by streamlining the requirements, establishing rubrics and expected timelines for required milestones, and, probably most effective, building advising and career support into the curriculum.”

The work at PSU follows a national movement  to re-examine the EdD and make it stronger and more relevant that began in 2007. “The redesign of EdD programs is a national concern, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching started a program to support universities in this work,” says Dean Randy Hitz. Portland State joined 40 other universities across the nation in the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate. That project is ongoing as universities continue to share significant ideas and research related to their programs. 

Locally, GSE scholars are reaping the results of those efforts. “Receiving a doctoral degree is more than accumulating a series of courses. The challenge is to socialize students into the world of being a scholar as well as a teacher.” says Dannelle D. Stevens, CI Doctoral Specialization cohort leader and 2013-14 doctoral program coordinator. “Thus, there is a change in their identity in their professional life. The learning community this year, along with activities like the PSU Research Forum, has accelerated our students’ understanding of scholarship and fostered the development of their new identity.”

Congratulations to all our 2013 doctoral program completers!

Read more about the significant work that our doctoral students contribute to the field.


Doctoral students present at first annual PSU Research Symposium

The first annual PSU Research Symposium was held May 8, 2013 in the Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom. Recent revisions to the doctoral program have produced positive results. Students are more engaged in community projects and are successfully completing their programs on time. Professors Karen Noordhoff and Samuel Henry led students through a recent seminar/learning community. 

PresentationsEducational Administration students
(Led by Karen Noordhoff and Samuel Henry)

  • Audrey Lingley—Educational relevance of spiritual development in the middle grades
  • Bernd Ferner—Elementary teacher candidates’ images of mathematics and diverse students
  • Jennifer Wells—An examination of teacher thinking in project nanoscience and nanotechnology outreach (NANO): A secondary level nanoscale STEM
  • Katie Toppel—The call for cultural responsiveness: The interplay between scripted curricula and culturally responsive instruction

PresentationsCurriculum and Instruction doctoral students
(Led by Micki Caskey and Dannelle Stevens)

  • Su-Jin Jung—A Korean language school experience: Perspectives from Korean immigrant mothers
  • Michael Connor—Vygotsky’s tools and family book sharing

(Advisor is Will Parnell)

  • Ingrid Anderson—Early childhood educators’ perception of Oregon’s professional development system: A phenomenological study

The PSU Research symposium is sponsored by PSU’s Office of Graduate Studies, Research and Sponsored Projects, University Honors Program, Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, McNairs Scholar Program, and Sigma Xi.

More doctoral program news

Three doctoral students, led by Professor Samuel Henry, presented at the Action Research Conference of the Americas in San Francisco last week: Paulina Gutierrez, Michael Connor, and Donna Webb.

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