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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

Mission and Context

Program goals are guided by several important considerations:

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Program Goals

  1. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Learn about the possible roles of adult learning in contributing to larger societal changes toward greater justice and the promotion of diversity and inclusiveness.
  3. 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].
  4. Develop creativity toward effective practice in at least one area of specialization within the interdisciplinary domain of “higher/adult education and social change.”
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

EdD Program Learning Outcomes

A: EdD Program-Specific Learning Outcomes

The student will demonstrate that they:

  1. 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:
      1. a. Education to promote diversity and inclusiveness.
      1. b. Theories and philosophies of education.
      1. 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.
  1. Evaluate key theories and methods of educational innovation and social change, as indicated by
      1. 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.
  1. 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.

    1. 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.]
    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.


    In addition to the above-mentioned EdD program-specific PLOs, EdD students must demonstrate the following general PLOs:

    WISR General Program Learning Areas and Outcomes for EdD Students

    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.

    C: Action-Research. 

    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.


    **Paradigm to Conceptualize Development of Expertise through Learning that Builds on and Integrates the Achievement of Program Learning Outcomes—The Dreyfus Model


    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 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 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.

    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.

    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).

    To learn more about the Dreyfus model go to: https://www.nateliason.com/blog/become-expert-dreyfus  and


    And also:  Chapter 5, Cases and Stories of Transformative Action Research. Bilorusky, J.  Routledge Press, 2021.



    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.