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MS in Education and Community Leadership, Program in Education

*In Fall of 2015, WISR merged the MS degree in Education with the MS degree Community Leadership and Justice, into one degree:  MS in Education and Community Leadership. However, within this new degree program, there are two programmatic tracks—1) Education and 2) Community Leadership and Justice. The two program tracks will have slightly different emphases, as well as common core content (e.g., in the study of action-research, multiculturalism and social change).

Mission and Objectives of MS Program Track in Education

Mission of MS program track in Education

This is an exceptionally innovative and extremely distinctive program of graduate level and personalized studies, and it aims to prepare students for positions, careers, and/or community involvement in leadership and creative change in the field of education.  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’s MS program track in Education is aimed to meet the needs of innovatively-minded people who want to improve one or more aspects of education—from pre-school through high school to higher education, and also including adult and community education.  Quite importantly, this program also aims to develop educators who are able and inclined to assume the role of community leaders as part of the “bigger picture” of their roles as educators. WISR has attracted creative, dedicated learners concerned with such varied topics as second language instruction, the preservation of indigenous language and culture through education, continuing education for professionals concerned with such specific topics as workplace bullying, the development of labor-oriented studies in school curricula, the development of ethnic studies curricula and more culturally inclusive studies of history, the role and importance of play in early childhood education, methods for training therapists who wish to combine somatic and verbal approaches  in working with survivors of major forms of trauma, the development of educational programs for people in prison, to those educators, other professionals, and other citizens aiming to make an impact on the field of education, improving vocational and technical education curricula in an institution serving students from many countries from all over the world, providing education in methods of non-violent communication for adults in various different cultures, among a host of other important and distinctive concerns with educational innovation and improvement.  Across these various interests, many WISR students, and faculty, are often committed to the importance of improved multicultural education, and the use and further development of learner-centered approaches to education.

WISR Board member, Bob Blackburn, WISR learner, Dalia Liang, and Michael McAvoy, WISR faculty member

WISR Board member, Bob Blackburn, WISR learner, Dalia Liang, and Michael McAvoy, WISR faculty member

WISR’s MS program track in Education is especially suited to students who are interested in promoting the development of learner-centered forms of education and/or in the role of education in working toward social changes for justice, sustainability and multiculturalism, either inside and outside of established schools and other educational institutions.  The program is not designed for those seeking careers and jobs that require teachers’ credentials or school administration credentials or that require an accredited graduate degree. Graduates of this program may aim to seek employment in non-profits, some alternative private schools, nongovernmental organizations, or to start their own organizations or become self-employed.  WISR encourages people to apply whose purposes and interests re within the scope of our MS program track in Education’s offerings, and who are aiming to develop distinctive professional career niches for themselves.

Learning Objectives for Students in the MS program track in Education

    Major learning outcomes for students in this program are:

  • Beginning to define for oneself, and explore, one or more areas of specialization within the field of education.
  • Develop a solid foundation of theoretical and practical knowledge in at least one area of specialization within the field of education.
  • Familiarity with some of the possible uses of learner-centered approaches to education, and the possible roles of educators who also act as community leaders in working for social changes aimed at supporting democracy, social justice and multiculturalism through educational improvements.
  • Successfully building bridges for oneself to the next important things that the student wishes to be involved in, and accomplish, in her or his life and career.
  • Ability to conduct major projects which can positively contribute to improved practices and knowledge in one’s area(s) of focus within the field of education, using methods of action-research, especially, qualitative, participatory research.
  • Significant progress in WISR’s core meta-competencies and areas of learning: 1) Critical, Creative, Compassionate, Collaborative/Communal Thinking and Communication; 2) Becoming a Conscious, Intentional, Improvising Learner; 3) Community Leadership and Collaboration; 4) Experience, Competence, Talent, and Knowledge in One’s Chosen Area(s) of Specialization; 5) Participatory Action-Inquiry and Qualitative Research; 6) Awareness of Issues of Justice, Sustainability and Social Change; 7) Multicultural Perspective.

 Admission, Transfer of Credit, Orientation


Entering students must hold a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Students with undergraduate degrees from unaccredited institutions may apply for special admission—by submitting evidence of the quality of their previous academic study (e.g., copies of papers, or recommendations from academicians who hold accredited doctoral degrees).  Such applicants may also submit information about successful community projects in which they have played a key role, as well as professional or scholarly papers or projects that they have produced. In these cases, we are looking for evidence that suggest that their previous undergraduate study, and their resulting competencies, are at the level expected of accredited programs. In some cases, such students may be admitted provisionally, and  be on probation for a six-month period, during which time they can demonstrate their preparedness for study in WISR’s MS program track in Education.

In addition to transcripts of previous academic work, and an affidavit where they attest to the details of their high school graduation or passage of the GED, all applicants must submit a one-page application form, and a brief statement of their interests and reasons for wanting to study in WISR’s MS program track in Education, along with two letters of recommendations from academicians, professionals, or community leaders familiar with the student’s accomplishments and abilities.  Quite importantly, all applicants must have an interview with WISR’s President or a faculty member in the MS in Education and Community Leadership—to determine if WISR’s program will address the student’s needs and purposes, and if there is a good fit between the student’s desired approaches to learning and the “WISR way.”

Transfer of Credits

Entering students may submit for faculty approval, up to 6 semester units of previous Master’s level work, for transfer. Such credit will be subject to the same process and criteria of review that was discussed above under “Admissions.”

Orientation to WISR

All entering MS in Education and Community Leadership 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.

WISR Alumni panel, Vera Labat, Osahon Eigbike, Suzanne Quijano and Lydell Willis

WISR Alumni panel, Vera Labat, Osahon Eigbike, Suzanne Quijano and Lydell Willis

Also, students are introduced to methods of note-taking 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 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.

Regulations regarding WISR’s MS program track in Education

Length of Study

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 MS degree in Education and Community Leadership the length of study at WISR may be expected to be about 4 years, unless they are able to study at the intensity of a seriously engaged full-time student.* 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 a $600 re-enrollment fee when resuming their studies.

Faculty review of student progress

An Executive Committee of at least three WISR faculty, will review each student’s progress semi-annually, in consultation with the faculty with whom the student has been most closely working.  The purpose of these reviews is to help students make timely progress toward their degree and their personal and professional career goals.  In conducting these reviews, faculty will be mindful that during the first year or so of study, students at WISR do not typically complete courses at the same rate as they do after that.   When faculty have concerns about a student’s progress, they will negotiate with that student a progress plan for the next six months.  The purpose of the plan will be to enable the student to make better progress, and to assess whether or not it is realistic for the student to succeed in completing the program in a timely fashion.  If, after the end of the six-month progress plan, WISR faculty do not believe that it is realistic that the student can complete the program within a reasonable time frame (specifically, 4 to a maximum of 6 years for the MS programs), then the faculty committee reviewing student progress will recommend that the student be disenrolled.  (Note:  students enrolled prior to July 2014 will have a longer period of time to complete their studies, but they will still be subject to disenrollment if they do not show continual progress.) The student may appeal any decision to WISR’s Board of Trustees. If the student is disenrolled, they will be given an opportunity, after a period of at least six months, to re-apply for admission, if they can make the case that their circumstances and/or ability to complete the program have improved.  If re-admitted, they will be given one six-month period to demonstrate good progress, and they must continue to demonstrate good progress in each subsequent six-month period.

Course Descriptions and Structure of MS Curriculum, for program track in Education

 Basic format

Generally, WISR courses involve all, or most, of the following:

  • Required and recommended readings to choose from (both books and articles);
  • Action-inquiry projects, culminating in a written paper;
  • Sharing with others at WISR–notes, drafts of ideas, reflections on readings, one’s action-inquiry and practical community/professional involvements–for feedback and dialogue;
  • Regular mentoring and guidance from WISR faculty, on all aspects of the content and process of one’s learning;
  • The development of each student’s eportfolio;
  • Assistance and support from faculty in writing in one’s own voice, clearly, for oneself to further learning, and with one’s audience(s) in mind;
  • Written reflective analyses of what one read;
  • Written self-assessment of one’s learning accomplishments and personal insights from one’s learning activities and methods;
  • Opportunities to participate in small seminars, with other students and faculty–always both on site at WISR and by video-audio conference over the internet as well as by phone.


40th Anniversary w-out 2015

 Course Requirements:

36 semester units of required coursework, electives/independent study/practicum, and thesis.

Required Courses:

MS 501: Learning the WISR Way: Introduction to Transformative Learning for Professional and Community Leadership (3 semester units)

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.

MS 511: Action-Research Methods for Educators, Other Professionals and Community Leaders  (5 semester units) 

This course involves an in depth study of action-research methods, including specific techniques and the overall logic and perspectives used. It includes qualitative and community-based participatory research for expert use by educators, other professionals, change agents and community leaders. The ultimate goal of the course is to enable the student to learn how to, and also  to be successfully engaged in independently designing and conducting his or her action-research projects, either on her or his own or with a lead role in collaborating with others. 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, including how to do program evaluations and community needs assessments, as well as the use of research in formulating new programs and policies. The course will involve a thorough and critical analysis of  key ideas in the logic of research design, including the concepts of validity and reliability—examining parallels between the criteria for rigorous research in the natural sciences and action-research used in professional practice and leadership in areas related to human services, education, community improvement and social change. It includes advanced study of methods of data gathering and analysis using participant observation, interviewing, story telling.

MS 522: Contemporary Issues in Education (5 semester units)

The study of a variety of contemporary issues in education. How do people learn? What is the value of different types of learning, expertise, knowledge and “intelligence”? How is learning assessed and how can such assessments contribute to or impede learning? What are the main issues and disagreements about successful forms of, and approaches to, education and learning? What is the role and nature of education in a democratic society, and what does this have to do with concepts such as equality, justice, meritocracy, elitism and excellence. What are current reform movements, and current debates and what are the competing interests and philosophies involved? The course will consider community control, Federal standards and authority, and corporate influence, among other competing interests. What is the impact on education of the mass media, technology and the internet?

MS 539: Education, Multiculturalism, Justice and Change (5 semester units)

This course involves a study of formal education, as well as “natural” learning processes in the fabric of societies and cultures, in relation to how education and learning 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 both in educational institutions, and also in everyday life—and how this impacts learning and human development. It includes the study of the impact on education and learning of such societal forces as colonialism, imperialism,racism, prejudice, sexism and population diversity. Also, the study of the role of education, and liberating learning methods, in addressing such forces. Specifically, critical analysis of ideologies such as “tolerance” and the “meritocracy” as well as an 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.

MS 561: Education and Community Leadership in History and Society, and for Social Change (5 semester units)

This course involves the study of theories, methods and practices of community leadership and education in the context of the “bigger picture”—history, society, social philosophy, and the future prospects and challenges for social change. It includes the study of American history, including 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, racism, feminism and societal conflicts. This course draws on enlightenment philosophy, progressive era ideas such as those of John Dewey, the work of Paulo Freire, and the ideologies and philosophies in action of those who have promoted other competing visions for American society. In this context, the course examines the roles of community leadership and of education—as they have been, and as they could be, and students are encouraged to develop their own perspectives on the role of education in creating a better tomorrow.

MS 599: Master’s Thesis (8 semester units)

The Master’s thesis is an in depth study of a topic of strong interest to the student, and one that generally helps the student build bridges for him/herself to the next important things she or he wishes to do with her/his life—as a professional, and a leader. The student makes use of what he or she has learned at WISR about action-research methods to do a serious and substantial inquiry that involves some original data collection by the student. It is an inquiry that is based on action and/or that has action implications of some significance to the student and/or others. In particular, Master’s thesis makes a worthwhile contribution to the professional field.

Electives (at least 5 semester units of electives are required):

MS 521: Contemporary Issues in Leadership, Justice, and Multiculturalism (5 semester units)

The study of a variety of contemporary issues in community leadership. How do people assume a role of community leader, or of professional or organizational leader? How do leaders address issues of social justice and multiculturalism? What is the value of different types of leadership, expertise, and knowledge? What are the main issues and disagreements about issues of social justice and change, environmental sustainability, racism and multiculturalism? What is the role and nature of leadership in a democratic society, and what does this have to do with concepts such as equality, justice, meritocracy, elitism and excellence. What are current reform movements, and current debates and what are the competing interests and philosophies involved? The course will consider community control, Federal standards and authority, and corporate influence, among other competing interests. What is the impact of the mass media, technology and the internet on leadership and how can good leadership use these constructively?

MS 531: Learner-Centered Education (5 semester units)

The study of learner-centered approaches to education—among adults and children, within schools and colleges, as pat of professional education, and in non-institutional settings in the community and larger society. Includes an examination of such theories and philosophies of education as those of Freire and Dewey. How can educators become more attuned to individual differences, to the needs, purposes and styles of learning of each learner. What strategies and varied practices support learner-centered education?  

MS 571: Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies (5 semester units). 

Study of 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.

MS 581: Supervised Community or Professional Practicum/Internship (1 – 6 semester units)

Professional or community practicum/internship. This course gives students the opportunity to gain direct experience in their profession and/or by working in the community further developing their expert professional level skills. Students might work in a community agency, a professional organization, a school, a small business, a public agency or some other, appropriate setting. As part of their internship, the student will also study, critically reflect on, and write about their professional and/or community involvement experiences. As an option, students may also create their own project—for example, providing needed services, training, or assistance to others, under the supervision of a WISR faculty member, and also in some cases, under the supervision of another expert. A minimum of 45 hours of supervised internship/practicum is required to qualify for each semester unit of credit.

Assigning Academic Credit to Courses in WISR’s MS program track in Education 

Credit is assigned based on the extent to which a student is expected to demonstrate a substantial level of learning and accomplishment, in a course, thesis or independent study project or practicum, in two broad realms—1) The quantity and quality of the student’s engagement in learning at WISR, and 2) the learning outcomes and competencies demonstrated by the student, based on faculty assessment of student learning–through mentoring discussions, small group seminars, papers and projects completed, and self-assessments written by the student pertaining to the evidence of their learning process and outcomes.

WISR’s expectations for the quantity and quality of student engagement in learning at WISR approximate that of the traditional “Carnegie unit” which grants one semester unit for each 45 hours of participation in learning.

In addition to this substantial, high quality engagement in learning at WISR—similar to the well-known Oxford model of education—WISR faculty only award credit if the student’s work indicates learning and competency accomplishments comparable to what students would typically receive for that number of semester units (typically 5 semester units, at WISR) in an accredited program performing at a grade of “B” or higher.

In addition, in assessing student work, WISR faculty use the above stated programmatic learning outcomes, as well as the outcomes for each particular course, to evaluate student progress as demonstrated by evidence from mentoring discussions, small group seminars, papers and projects completed, and self-assessments written by the student pertaining to the evidence of their learning process and outcomes.

More Information on:

Grading and Awarding Academic Credit

Required Seminar Participation and Annotated Bibliographies

Graduation Review Boards and Assessment of Student Progress