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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://sophos.berkeley.edu/dreyfus/html/paper_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:

THE STUDENT WILL DEVELOP SKILLS AS A SELF-DIRECTED LEARNER, INCLUDING BECOMING A CONSCIOUS, INTENTIONAL AND IMPROVISATIONAL LEARNER

Doctoral students will develop as self-directed learners who are able to expand and apply their intellectual and ethical capabilities, in many domains of learning, and to a variety of practical situations, including in their efforts to make creative contributions to their area(s) of specialization.

Faculty will support and challenge each student’s development in this learning goal area, and will evaluate their progress in achieving the following required learning outcomes:

  1. The student will articulate their learning plans through: a) assessments of their strengths, challenges, and purposes, and identifying how that assessment has contributed to their plans, and b) plans that faculty assess as coherent and internally consistent, with the student discussing the meaning that both the short-term activities and long-term directions have for them.
  2. The student will present descriptions of their learning progress and initiatives, and identify revisions and refinements in their personalized plans of study.
  3. The student will identify conscious choices they have made about how to benefit best from collaboration with faculty, students, and others in their area(s) of specialization.
  4. The student will make plans and decisions about their studies, and identify how those decisions were influenced, in part, by their self-defined, and desired and planned, role(s) in becoming a creative and proficient leader in their area(s) of specialization.
  5. Further, in some cases, although not required, the student may likely continue to articulate evaluations and redefinitions of their creative, leadership role(s) and their conceptualization(s) of their area(s) of specialization.

Measures: This highly developed capability for self-direction and conscious, improvisational learning will be especially evident in the student’s written self-assessments and oral exams, but also sometimes, in the student’s papers, collaborations with others, and action-research labs. Further, the student’s capabilities in using their self-directed learning to build toward their own future, as well as to contribute creatively to others–to their knowledge and/or innovative actions–will be manifest in their dissertation.

THE STUDENT WILL DEVELOP EXPERTISE IN METHODS OF PARTICIPATORY AND ACTION-RESEARCH

Doctoral students will be proficient in using a variety of action-research methods–in designing and critically evaluating action-research projects on various specific topics of inquiry and action in their courses, and especially in the dissertation. Through the use of action-research, they will be able to perceive how different situations raise different questions for inquiry, call for different perspectives of analysis, and suggest different courses of action. They will also develop a critically-minded capacity to articulate how they evaluate, weigh and use evidence in arriving at their conclusions, hypotheses or questions.

Faculty will support and challenge each student’s development in this learning goal area, and will evaluate their progress in achieving the following required learning outcomes:

  1. The student will identify the strengths and limitations of their uses of action-research.
  2. In writing course papers, and the dissertation, the student will identify and communicate to others how and why they interpreted their data in the ways they did.
  3. In the dissertation, the student will be able to put into words, what they have learned from their inquiry, how they came to those insights, the questions they have now come to ask themselves, and possible directions or plans for further learning, research, and/or action. Furthermore: a) the student will identify and demonstrate how the action-research in their dissertation has furthered their own learning in their area(s) of special concern, and b) the student will identify and discuss how what they have learned may create potentially valuable knowledge, and/or effective and valuable action and practice.
  4. The student will demonstrate awareness of various practical and ethical considerations in conducting action-research, including the relevance of their own purposes and values. More specifically, in their written papers, the dissertation, written self-assessments and oral exams, a) the student will identify and discuss practical and ethical issues in their action-research, and b) the student will identify and discuss the relevance of the action-research projects to their purposes and values.
  5. In addition, doctoral students will demonstrate the ability to use a holistic perspective, in designing their action-research projects, including, for example, an awareness of the possible relevance of more than one theoretical perspective, and the variable impact of situational factors, such as: a) Using more than one theoretical perspective, and b) Gathering data that they then use in analyzing the variable impact of situational factors.
  6. The student will demonstrate that they can identify concepts and insights gained from their research, not only in abstract terms, but also coupled with a rich variety of examples that the student uses to identify and illustrate the complexity, situational variability and nuances of the concept.

Measures: The above outcomes will be evidenced in student papers resulting from action-research projects, and from the dissertation, especially. Further possible outcomes are that the student may submit some of their work, either for publication, or dissemination to targeted audiences, and/or use to design, and even in some cases, implement, innovative programs, practices, or interventions in their profession and/or community. In addition, there will also be evidence of the depth of the student’s critical insights into methods of action-inquiry in the oral exams and the student’s written self-assessments.

THE STUDENT WILL DEVELOP A MULTICULTURAL, INCLUSIVE PERSPECTIVE

Doctoral students will reflect on, and articulate, with some degree of nuance and complexity, how multicultural concerns and perspectives can be incorporated into the ideas and practices of the broad, interdisciplinary field of “higher education and social change”, as well as in their area(s) of specialization. In addition, they will demonstrate a proactive approach to their multicultural concerns, by showing an awareness of the need to 1) change those societal forces that limit inclusiveness through systemic marginalization, and 2) develop educational theories or strategies to address oppressive patterns of internalized consciousnesses among the population that promote exclusion, inequalities and injustices.

Faculty will support and challenge each student’s development in this learning goal area, and will evaluate their progress in achieving the following required learning outcomes:

  1. The student will identify and discuss the relevance of multicultural concerns and perspectives to what they studied.
  2. The student will also identify challenges and practical considerations in making use of those multicultural concerns and perspectives.
  3. The student will form and articulate a coherent perspective, and/or proposed action strategy, on the role of education in social change, to the development, and practice of, empathy, compassion, a sense of community with others–and an appreciation of the broad spectrum of perspectives and consciousness that arise out of people’s culture, gender identity, economic background, religious and sexual preferences.

Measures: The above outcomes will be evidenced in course papers and action-research labs, in the dissertation, in written self-assessments, in collaboration and dialogue with others at WISR, and in oral exams.

THE STUDENT WILL DEVELOP SKILLS IN MAKING CONNECTIONS WITH THE BIGGER PICTURE AND INQUIRING INTO WAYS OF CREATING CHANGE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE, GREATER EQUALITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Doctoral students will use their studies on the role of education for social change and justice to develop, and to articulate for others, new ideas, new or possible practices and strategies of action, new lines of inquiry and future plans–in their area(s) of specialization. For example, in keeping with WISR’s transdisciplinary and holistic approach to learning, students may demonstrate learning and active exploration into: 1) the relationships between issues of environmental sustainability and social/economic/racial justice, and/or 2) the connections between the personal experiences of individuals and larger societal and historical forces.

Faculty will support and challenge each student’s development in this learning goal area, and will evaluate their progress in achieving the following required learning outcomes:

  1. The student will identify how education can be used in ideas or practices their area(s) of specialization to contribute to social justice, greater equality, and/or environmental sustainability.
  2. The student will identify 1) examples of how to connect micro issues and perspectives with macro dynamics in their area of specialization, and 2) examples of how to make use of “bigger picture” considerations to improve ideas or practices in their area(s) of specialization.

Measures: The above outcomes will be evidenced primarily in student papers and the dissertation, but also in written self-assessments and the oral exams, as well as in collaboration and dialogue with other students and faculty.

THE STUDENT WILL BE ABLE TO COMMUNICATE CLEARLY TO THEIR AUDIENCE(S), IN THEIR OWN VOICE AND ON TOPICS THAT MATTER TO THEM, AND LEARN TO COLLABORATE WITH OTHERS

Doctoral students will be able to discuss, in depth and with clarity and purpose, in their writings, dialogue with faculty, and in their collaborations with others, their inquiries and ideas in Higher Education and Social Change and their area(s) of specialization.

Faculty will support and challenge each student’s development in this learning goal area, and will evaluate their progress in achieving the following required learning outcomes:

  1. In their writings and oral communications, the student will identify and discuss how and why their ideas and practices have developed—that is, how, in the process of inquiry-and-action they have come to the insights that they have. That is, they will be transparent about the process of their inquiry that has led them to, or toward, their ideas, conclusions, and recommended next steps.
  2. In their writings and oral communications, the student will be able to discuss the differing impact and relevance of varying situations and contexts
  3. Further, they will discuss and reflect on the significance of their own emotional commitments to the inquiry and actions in which they are involved.
  4. The student will be able to discuss and write about general principles and concepts in relation to specific situations, examples and stories.
  5. In their dissertation, the student will demonstrate an awareness of at least one possible audience, and show an awareness of the needs, interests and perspectives of that (those) audience(s).
  6. The student will demonstrate the ability to use their writing to fine tune and/or further develop their own thinking on the topic of concern, and
  7. Most importantly, the student will use their writing to make a creative contribution to their area(s) of specialization.

Further, throughout their studies, Doctoral students will continue to refine and develop further the following essential communication skills expected of graduate students:

  • Writing clearly and in an organized fashion;
  • Writing in their own voice, and from their own perspective;
  • Using their papers to further develop and fine-tune their thinking and understanding of the ideas and practices being studied;
  • Engaging in collaborative dialogue with faculty and students to: 1) more deeply engage themselves and others in thinking more deeply and inquisitively about the topic being discussed, 2) to develop further, theories and/or practices in their area(s) of specialization, and 3) contribute to their own learning and the learning of others.

Measures: The student’s learning outcomes pertaining to written skills will be evidenced in their papers, thesis, written self-assessments, and written, critical reflections on reading, as well as in the online forums. Their oral communication skills will be evidenced in their dialogue with faculty in oral exams, and in seminars and informal discussions with students. The student’s collaborative skills will be evidenced primarily in their collaboration with other students in seminars, informal dialogue, possible collaborative projects, and the online forum. In some cases, collaborative skills may be evidenced in projects with people beyond the WISR community of learners, and seen through their papers, dissertation, written self-assessments, and oral exams.

THE STUDENT WILL DEVELOP THE CAPABILITY OF PURSUING EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES, AND/OR COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENTS, APPROPRIATE TO THEIR COMPETENCIES, EXPERIENCE, AND INTERESTS

For those Doctoral students for whom employability or career advancement is a goal, they will:

  1. expand their knowledge of professional and/or community leadership networks and career paths that incorporate their interest, values and purposes;
  2. gain significant proficiency of knowledge and skills in one or more areas of specialization to be considered for positions that make good use of their creativity and expertise, including positions in schools, non-profit organizations, grassroots community groups, small business operations, international affairs, or local civic affairs; in other words, have creative expertise in their knowledge and skills in an area of endeavor in their field; and/or
  3. be able to use their creativity, knowledge, skills, and ability as self-directed learners and proficient scholar-practitioners to make their current job positions more interesting, meaningful and /or productive; and/or to create their own options and alternatives for employment and/or community involvement, such as for example, starting a new program in an existing organization, starting a non-profit, or creating one’s own self-employed practice.

For those more concerned with community involvement than employment, the above outcomes apply in terms of leading to what the student considers to be meaningful community involvement where they can contribute to the creation of new knowledge and/or new practices and strategies.

Measures:  The above outcomes will be evidenced in surveys of students, recent alumni, and the employers, coworkers, and/or clients of recent alumni. In addition, evidence will be found in the students’ written self-assessments, oral exams, doctoral dissertation, and especially, employment and/or community involvement in the first two years post-graduation.

In surveying students and alumni to obtain evidence with this Program Objective, WISR will evaluate:

  1. The satisfaction of students and recent alumni—how, if at all, are they a) satisfied with how their WISR learning has contributed to their realizing these objectives, and b) able to identify some specific examples of how their WISR learning has contributed to these objectives.
  2. The performance of recent alumni—in surveys, their employers, coworkers, and/or clients will express satisfaction with the professional, community and/or leadership contributions of WISR alumni.
THE STUDENT WILL BECOME KNOWLEDGEABLE IN THEIR MAJOR FIELD OF STUDY, AND IN THEIR PARTICULAR AREA(S) OF SPECIALIZATION

Doctoral students will become knowledgeable about many of the theories, perspectives and practices in their interdisciplinary field of “higher education and social change” and they will be skillful in being able to perceive the importance and practical relevance of differing circumstances   in the domains with which their particular area(s) of specialization are concerned. 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://sophos.berkeley.edu/dreyfus/html/paper_socrates.html )

Faculty will support and challenge each student’s development in this learning goal area, and will evaluate their progress in achieving the following required learning outcomes.

  1. The student will identify strengths, weaknesses, and uses of several theories and practical approaches to the role of higher education and adult education in contributing to social change.
  2. The student will identify strengths, weaknesses, and uses of several theories and practical approaches in their particular area(s) of specialization.
  3. The student will be engaged in inquiring into, and then formulating, ways in which some of these theories and practices can be improved through the use of informed experience and critical reflection, and by a more holistic appreciation of a multiplicity of varying circumstances, contexts and impacting variables. That is, the student will be able generate ideas and/or proposed practices that demonstrate a holistic perspective involving a variety of situational considerations and variables.
  4. The student will demonstrate that they use more than one theoretical perspective.
  5. The student will show that they can gather data that they then use in analyzing the variable impact of situational factors.
  6. 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:
  7. The student will be able to 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.
  8. The student will demonstrate that they know how to 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.
  9. The student will be able to identify the limitations of existing theories and practices, and/or identify alternative scenarios and new, modified approaches that are context-specific.

Taken together, in accomplishing the above objectives, the student will demonstrate that their creativity in their field and area(s) of specialization has resulted result from their skills in using action-research methods in a variety of situations, from their becoming well-versed in existing knowledge, critiquing that knowledge, and exploring new, alternative possibilities, and formulating new hypotheses, theories and/or possible strategies and avenues of action.

Measures: This “proficient” and creative level of skills and knowledge, characterized by the   constellation of the above stated learning outcomes, will be manifest in student papers and action-research activities, in the student’s written self-assessments and oral exams, and also in dialogue with faculty and other students. This level of skill, knowledge and creativity will be especially evidenced in the dissertation.

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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