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UW College of Education Revises Graduate Degree Option

February 24, 2014

Doctoral students entering the University of Wyoming College of Education now have a more practitioner-focused option after a major revision to one of its two graduate program offerings.

The newly restructured Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) addresses the specific professional development and career needs of practitioners.

“For the most part, our students are practitioners who want to stay in their fields,” says Suzie Young, associate dean for graduate studies. “They want to keep doing what they are doing, but they want to move up and to become leaders.”

While the college long has offered an Ed.D. degree option, program requirements differed little from those of the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), which prepares graduates for higher education teaching or research careers. The new Ed.D. offers greater program flexibility and more problem-based project options.

“They really have a different need that the dissertation wasn’t meeting,” Young says of Ed.D. students.

The dissertation remains a capstone option in the new Ed.D., but students now have a wide range of options that may better meet their professional development needs. Representative types of capstone projects might include case studies, program evaluations, manuscripts written for refereed publication, documentaries on education topics or faculty-directed, team-based inquiry.

College of Education faculty members and administrators long have been interested in clarifying the differences between the Ph.D. and the Ed.D.

“They are doctoral degrees,” Young says of Ed.D.s. “They carry just as much weight in the community as the Ph.D.”

But their purposes are different. Pursuing institutional recognition of the Ed.D. as a distinct doctoral program type became a goal for the college. It also required deep discussion about what makes it unique and how programs should be revised to reflect that distinction.

“If we define it as a practitioner’s degree, then we need to be clear about what it is that’s different about it,” Young says.

A recent college-wide restructuring of the education Ph.D. opened the door for revisiting the Ed.D. A 2012 summer faculty retreat focused on exploring the Ed.D. launched that process, which concluded with UW Board of Trustees approval last month.

In addition to the major change to different types of capstone projects, the revised Ed.D. now offers a streamlined committee structure, no residency requirement (included in the new college Ph.D.), an eight-year time limit, and a planned move of all courses to outreach delivery. All courses feeding the college’s Ed.D. eventually will be offered online, intensive weekend, videoconferencing or a combination, opening the way for statewide, national or international enrollment of site-bound students who otherwise would not be able to pursue doctoral studies.

“Most of our students are out working,” Young says. “This is a part-time commitment for them.”

UW offers Ed.D. programs in the following areas: curriculum and instruction, instructional technology, education administration/educational leadership, and educational administration/adult and postsecondary education.

For more information about UW College of Education doctoral programs, visit or call (307) 766-3145.

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