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The Doctoral Program: Mission, Learning Outcomes, Admissions, and Transfer

 Mission, Goals and Outcomes of the Doctoral Program

Mission of 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.

For example, WISR EdD students may aim to promote and excel 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.  WISR’s EdD program is especially suited to students who are interested in the role of education in working toward social changes for justice, sustainability and multiculturalism, either inside and outside of established institutions of higher and adult learning.  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.  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.

WISR Doctoral Alumnus, David Yamada, interviewed on MSNBC, because of his national reputation in addressing the growing problem of Workplace Bullying

WISR Doctoral Alumnus, David Yamada, interviewed on MSNBC, because of his national reputation in addressing the growing problem of Workplace Bullying

Program Goals, Learning Outcomes and Measures for Students in the EdD Program

WISR’s Learning Goals and Outcomes for this program were formulated based on the combined insights from several bodies of knowledge:

  1. The Learning Goals are derived from WISR’s mission and from the 7 core areas of learning and “meta-competencies” emphasized in all WISR’s degree programs.
  2. The Specific Learning Outcomes are derived from the 7 core areas and from the definition of “proficiency” in the Dreyfus Model of Knowledge and Skill Development.  That is, Doctoral students in this program will become proficient in their knowledge and skills in 1) the interdisciplinary field of higher education and social change, and 2) in one or more areas of special interest within that interdisciplinary field. Further, they will engage in creating new knowledge and/or new practices in one or more areas of special focus. Taken together, the specific stated learning outcomes for this program are indicative of having attained the stage of “proficient”, as defined by the Dreyfus Model of Knowledge and Skill Development (see for example: 1) https://www.nateliason.com/blog/become-expert-dreyfus   2) https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a084551.pdf  and 3) http://www2.psych.utoronto.ca/users/reingold/courses/ai/cache/Socrates.html )
  3. The collective experience of WISR faculty engaged with students in learner-centered education over the past 40+ years.
  4. Developmental approaches to learning, such as those articulated by John Dewey and Lev Vygotsky that emphasize the importance of providing each student with the needed personalized challenge and support to move from where they “are” to the successful attainment of these learning outcomes—and to do so in ways that are personally meaningful to each student. The objectives and expected outcomes of each course are designed to contribute to this developmental process—so that students not only benefit from “course-specific” learning, but are also able to use the learning in each course to develop toward the successful attainment of a number of the program learning outcomes.

Major learning goals, outcomes and measures of the outcomes for students in this program are stated below:

Program Goals:

1. Apply and develop specialized knowledge to one or more areas of interest within the domain of “Higher Education and Social Change”.

2. Demonstrate in one or more areas of specialization “proficient” knowledge and skills, as defined by the Dreyfus Model of Knowledge and Skill Development.

3. Be creative in their field of expertise, by drawing on extensive practical experience and a critically-minded engagement in considering broad variety of situational details when applying a variety of theories, perspectives and practices in their broad, interdisciplinary field of “Higher Education and Social Change.”

4. Become proficient in at least one area of specialization within this interdisciplinary field of study of “Higher Education and Social Change.” Develop the knowledge of a “competent” expert within the interdisciplinary field of Community Leadership and Justice.

5. Bring to the practice of their area(s) of specialization an awareness of the relevance of multicultural concerns and perspectives, as well as of the connections between specific issues and such larger matters as social justice, equality and environmental sustainability.

6. Practice skills of “learning how to learn” to be creative in their area(s) of specialization.

EdD Program Learning Outcomes

A: EdD in Higher Education and Social Change Program-Specific Learning Outcomes

The student will demonstrate knowledge and expertise in the interdisciplinary field of “higher Education and Social Change” and their area(s) specialization through the following specific learning outcomes. That is, the student will:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of the strengths, limitations and uses of three theories and/or strategies of practice in the interdisciplinary field of “Higher Education and Social Change,” at least one in each of three domains of practice (e.g., professional education, college teaching, grassroots/popular education, learner-centered education and reform in schools, environmental studies, strategies of social change, human dignity and humiliation studies, professional leadership, and/or community leadership).
  2. Demonstrate knowledge of the literature in their area(s) of specialization and as related to the field of “Higher Education and Social Change”
  3. Use their demonstrated knowledge in making a creative contribution to theory and/or practice in one domain of practice in this interdisciplinary field of higher education and social change.

More specifically, achievement and assessment of theses PLOs are guided and indicated by student achievement of specific learning outcomes in each course, and in each course module, as well as by what the student demonstrates in the comprehensive exams and the dissertation.

B: EdD Program Outcomes Using the Dreyfus Theory of Expert Knowledge–Achieve Creative Expertise in the field of “Higher Education and Social Change” as defined by the Dreyfus Model of Knowledge and Skill Development

The student will

Demonstrate to WISR faculty through their written assignments, action-research labs, and oral exams that–with regards to their preparation as a creative professional and/or community leader in the interdisciplinary field of Higher Education  and Social Change, and with regards to any specific areas of specialization the student identifies–they have achieved the level of creative expertise of a “proficient” expert as defined by the Dreyfus Model of Knowledge and Skill Development.* [*see description of “Proficient” stage of expert knowledge and skill as articulated by the Dreyfus Model, below]

To determine whether or not the student has demonstrated this, faculty will refer to the perspective articulated in that theory and to specific, measurable learning outcomes noted in italics below. 

As learning goals toward related learning outcomes for PLO area B, faculty and students will be informed by the following perspective on the “proficient” expert from the Dreyfus Model:

Specific degree program learning outcomes used by WISR faculty to assess and guide student achievement of this of this this stage of expertise are that the student will:

  1. identify strengths, weaknesses, and uses of at least three theories and practical approaches to the role of higher education and adult education in contributing to social change, and use more than one perspective.
  2. identify strengths, weaknesses, and uses of at least three theories and practical approaches in their particular area(s) of specialization, and use more than one perspective in analyzing problems and/or in taking action.
  3. inquire into, and then formulate, ways in which at least two of these theories and practices relevant to some topic in “higher education and social change” can be improved—for example, through the use of informed experience and critical reflection, and/or by a more holistic appreciation of a multiplicity of varying circumstances, contexts and impacting variables. That is, the student will demonstrate that they generate ideas and/or propose practices that take into account a holistic perspective involving a variety of situational considerations and/or variables.
  4. produce a creative contribution to theories and/or practices in their field of specialization and/or to the broader interdisciplinary field of “higher education and social change.”

Further Learning Goal and Method–and the role of “inquiry-oriented” learning outcomes in contributing to Program Learning Outcome #7: Faculty will guide students in achieving these Program Learning Outcomes by helping them to use action-and-inquiry in their specialization and in the interdisciplinary field of “higher education and social change”—by attending the importance of the following “inquiry-oriented” learning outcomes:

  • The student will gather data that they then use in analyzing the variable impact of situational factors.
  • As part of this holistic appreciation of a multiplicity of varying circumstances, contexts and impacting variables, the student will demonstrate that they have learned not just to rely on general principles, but also can articulate, test and revise concepts and proposed strategies and practices through stories and case studies, accompanied by reflective analyses. More specifically:
    • The student will identify concepts and 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 the concept.
    • The student will use a “discovery of grounded theory” approach to develop possible theories and/or practice approaches, drawing on data from specific cases, stories and/or practical experiences.

WISR General Program Learning Areas and Outcomes for EdD Students

C: Self-Directed Learning. Demonstrate skills as a self-directed learner, including a creative and critically-minded, intentional and improvisational learning.

D: Action-Research. Use methods of participatory and action-research in creating new, specialized knowledge and/or competent practice, and in the pursuit of becoming creative and proficient in their own area(s) of specialization (see PLO #1).

E: Multiculturalism and Inclusiveness. Demonstrate an awareness of issues of diversity and inclusiveness, and also demonstrate competence in working with diverse populations.

F: Social Change and Social Justice. Demonstrate skills in making connections with the bigger picture and in inquiring into ways of creating change for social justice, greater equality and environmental sustainability, and do so,

  • while making new contributions to specialized knowledge and competent practice.

G: Communication and Collaboration. Communicate clearly to their intentionally designated audience(s), in their own voice and on topics that matter to them and to their audience(s), and learn to collaborate with others. More specifically, the student will demonstrate that they can do these things while can communicating new knowledge and/or practices, including articulating the relevance of that knowledge and/or those practices.

H: Building Bridges to the Future. Build bridges to their post-graduate involvements. Specifically, the student will

  • propose a personally meaning career path and/or plans for community involvement, including relevant readings and/or community or professional involvements that contribute to that personally defined, meaningful life path where the student may make creative contributions in their area(s) of involvement
  • articulate specific plans and options for the next significant steps to take after graduation, in terms of creative community and/or professional involvement

*About the “Proficient” Stage of Expert Knowledge and Skill in the Dreyfus Model:

“As you react emotionally to your decisions at the level of Competence, your positive and negative responses to decisions will reinforce the correct ones and discourage the incorrect ones and you will develop an increasingly intuitive sense of what recipes and maxims to apply to the situation. The defining characteristic of the Proficient is an intuitive sense of what the goal should be given the situation. While the Competent has to create or find rules for what to do in a situation, the Proficient has an intuitive sense of what the goal should be, but not necessarily exactly how to do it.” (From: https://www.nateliason.com/blog/become-expert-dreyfus  ) And: “If events are experienced with involvement as the learner practices her skill, the resulting positive and negative experiences will strengthen successful responses and inhibit unsuccessful ones. The performer’s theory of the skill, as represented by rules and principles, will thus gradually be replaced by situational discriminations accompanied by associated responses. Proficiency seems to develop if, and only if, experience is assimilated in this atheoretical way and intuitive behavior replaces reasoned responses.” (From: http://www2.psych.utoronto.ca/users/reingold/courses/ai/cache/Socrates.html  )


While outcomes may appear to overlap or repeat at different degree program levels (BS, MS, EdD), specific indicators related to the appropriate stage of learning are incorporated into each outcome. This is described in detail in the Table, “Progression of Increasingly Higher Stages of Expertise, and Program Outcome Indicators for Each Degree Program.”


Transfer of Credits

Dr. Crystallee Crain, WISR Faculty, Roger Mason, Doctoral Student, and Dr. Torry Dickinson, WISR Faculty

Dr. Crystallee Crain, WISR Faculty, Roger Mason, Doctoral Student, and Dr. Torry Dickinson, WISR Faculty

Orientation to WISR

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 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 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.





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