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School of Education

Doctoral student shows her research poster to a woman

Graduate Programs
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership

The Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership serves practitioners from schools, districts, higher education, and other educational environments.

Twenty-first century educators work in complex organizations with complex problems.  Educational leaders are expected to make important decisions that influence teaching and learning, the core function of educational institutions.  Effective leaders must access, analyze, and communicate relevant information, and, when they lack the information they need, know how to gather it.

UD’s Ed.D. program equips candidates with the knowledge, skills, and tools to gather and utilize information effectively in decision-making and problem-solving related to organizational improvement.

The program is grounded in the Educational Leadership Program Standards  developed by the Educational Leadership Constituent Council. Candidates in K-12 leadership positions can earn Delaware administrative certification (District Office Personnel and Assistant Superintendent and Superintendent Certificates). Students do not earn the Delaware assistant principal or principal certificate. Students applying for certification outside Delaware may request a program verification form from the Delaware Center for Teacher Education certification office to establish their eligibility for central office and superintendent certificates in other states.

The Doctor of Education represents the highest level of scholarly attainment in the professional field of education.  As intellectual and professional leaders, Ed.D. graduates are expected to inspire and lead by taking on complex problems and designing solutions across a broad range of K-12, higher education, and educational environments.

Program Coordinator: Danielle Ford

Program Requirements

Admission to the Ed.D. in educational leadership is competitive.  Admission decisions are made on a number of criteria including academic qualifications; leadership potential, experience and accomplishments; the applicant’s fit with the program goals and objectives and the expertise of the program faculty; and program capacity. Those who meet stated minimum requirements are not guaranteed admission, nor are those who fail to meet all of those requirements necessarily precluded from admission if they offer other appropriate strengths.

In addition to the University requirements above, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  1. Applicants must hold a master’s degree in a relevant area (e.g., educational leadership; literacy, mathematics, or science education; higher education; human services; special education; technology in education) from an accredited university by the month in which they begin doctoral work.
  2. Applicants must demonstrate scholastic ability by having achieved a minimum graduate grade point average of 2.75 on a 4.00 scale in their undergraduate degree and 3.00 on a 4.00 scale in their master’s program.
  3. Applicants should be working in or toward a leadership role in their current position (e.g., administrator, coordinator, or teacher leader at a district/school, higher education, or education department in other organization). A current Curriculum Vitae (C.V.) must be submitted as part of the application.

Application Requirements

To apply to the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership program, complete the steps of the UD online graduate application process. Some items specific to the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership program include:

    Please do not send any transcripts to the School of Education.

  • GRE scores are not required for application to the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership program.
  • Three letters of recommendation: Applicants must submit at least three letters of recommendation from people qualified to assess the applicant’s leadership skills and academic potential. One letter must be from the applicant’s supervisor. These letters are submitted online and described here.  We advise you to contact people to consider writing your recommendations well in advance of the deadline.
  • Essay or personal statement: The Ed.D. in Education Leadership program does require specific questions to be addressed in the application essay.
    1. Explain why you want to be admitted to the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership.
    2. The Ed.D. in Educational Leadership requires that candidates be involved in planning and implementing a series of initiatives targeted at specific improvement needs that candidates identify and in which they may exercise leadership. Describe the contexts and responsibilities in your current position which would allow you to exercise leadership.
    3. Describe a problem in your area of interest that typifies the kind of issue that you would like to pursue as a leadership professional and why you think it is important to address.
  • Supplemental materials are appropriate if they help establish your ability to analyze, reason, interpret and write clear and persuasive prose. A grant proposal, report, journal article, or other succinct writing may be included with the application.
  • A resume is required.
  • All students whose native language is not English must submit official copies of the TOEFL or IELTS test. The minimum acceptable score for the paper-based TOEFL test is 600; the minimum acceptable score for the Internet-based TOEFL test is 100. The minimum acceptable score for the IELTS is 7.0.International applicants who have completed a bachelors or masters degree from an American university may have this requirement waived.


For information about graduate tuition, visit CEHD’s graduate tuition page.

The program’s 27 credit core is built around the themes of leadership, educational improvement, and evidence-based decision making.  Coursework builds practitioners’ knowledge and skills in scholarly analysis, empirical inquiry, organizational analysis, improvement planning strategies, and oral and written communication as well as in substantive domains of leadership theory, curriculum, technology, and education policy. Fifteen credits of elective options allow students to pursue their academic interests, professional preparation needs, and career goals.

Students can plan their program of study with the individual program plan. This document includes basic information about the schedule of courses. While some courses may be offered online, this program in general is not offered in an online-only format.

Ed.D. Doctoral Core Courses   (27 credits)

Educational Improvement

Course Number Course Title Credits
EDUC 897 Curriculum Planning and Design 3
EDUC 818 Educational Technology Foundations
EDUC 839 Education Policy & Governance 3
EDUC 891 Organizational Problem Analysis and Planning in Education 3
EDUC 890 Leadership: Theory and Research 3

Evidence-Based Decision-Making

Course Number Course Title Credits
EDUC 827 Analysis of Secondary Data for Decision Making 3
EDUC 828 Research in Education Decision Making 3
EDUC 846 Collection and Analysis of Data for Decision Making 3
EDUC 863 Program Evaluation in Education 3

Core Course Substitutions

Students are expected to complete all core courses in the degree program.  On rare occasions, extenuating circumstances may warrant a course substitution.  On those occasions, students may write a petition to the SOE’s Committee on Graduate Studies in Education (CGSE) requesting a course substitution.  The petition should describe the extenuating circumstances that warrant the request and explain the benefits that accrue to the students’ scholarly development.  The student’s advisor must approve the petition.

Electives (15 credits)

Students can take electives from a list of courses in the areas of Evaluation, Measurement and Statistics; Learning Sciences; Literacy Development and Learning Problems; Mathematics Education; School Psychology; and Sociocultural and Community-Based Approaches to Education.  In addition to the courses on this list, the student’s advisor can approve other electives based on the student’s goals and needs.

K-12 School Leadership Internship (6 credits)

Students interested in earning a Delaware certificate for School District Personnel and Assistant Superintendent/Superintendent must take the 6 credit EDUC 879 School Leader Internship Course. This course takes the place of six of the 15 credits of electives.

Course Number Course Title Credits
EDUC 879 School Leader Internship Part 1–Spring 3
EDUC 879 School Leader Internship Part 2–Summer 3

Education Leadership Portfolio  (12 credits)

Course Number Course Title Credits
EDUC 880 Education Leadership Portfolio 1 4
EDUC 881 Education Leadership Portfolio 2 4
EDUC 882 Education Leadership Portfolio 3 4

Total credits: 54

The following courses are electives in the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership for students who were admitted to the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership in Fall 2013 or later.In addition to the courses on these lists, the student’s advisor can approve other electives based on the student’s goals and needs.

Learning Sciences
EDUC 804 Foundation of the Learning Sciences
EDUC 815 Design of Learning Environments
EDUC 819 Disciplinary Knowledge in Learning Sciences
Literacy Development and Learning Problems
EDUC 802 Reading Development and Instruction
EDUC 807 Writing Development and Instruction
EDUC 822 Critical Issues/Literacy Development
Mathematics Education
EDUC 833 Research/Theory of Math Learning
EDUC 834 Research/Theory of Math Teaching
EDUC 835 Research/Theory of Math Curriculum
EDUC 836 Research/Theory of Math Teacher Education and School Improvement
Research Methodology
EDUC 812 Regression and Structural Equation Modeling
EDUC 826 Mixed Methods in Social Science Research
EDUC 850 Qualitative Research in Educational Settings
EDUC 852 Critical and Interpretive Methods in Education Research
EDUC 858 Advanced Qualitative Research Methods
EDUC 859 Ethnographic Research
EDUC 865 Educational Measurement Theory
EDUC 873 Multilevel Models in Education
EDUC 874 Applied Multivariate Data Analysis
School Psychology
EDUC 618 Introduction to School Psychology
EDUC 651 Diversity and Family School Collaboration
EDUC 813 Childhood Psychopathology
EDUC 830 Consultation and Intervention: School Discipline
Sociocultural and Community-Based Approaches to Education
EDUC 854 Topics: Equity in Education
EDUC 855 Topics: Sociocultural Theories of Education

The Education Leadership Portfolio (ELP) is required for students who were admitted to the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership in Fall 2013 or later.

Purpose of the ELP

The Ed.D. is a professional degree with an applied project as its capstone requirement for doctoral completion – the Education Leadership Portfolio (ELP).  The ELP connects theory with practice, academic work with professional work, and leadership development with organizational and/or instructional improvement.  The ELP demonstrates the candidate’s expertise and accomplishments related to a leadership initiative in his/her professional work.  The ELP is directed by the student’s advisor and an ELP committee.

ELP Components

The ELP consists of three primary parts: a Problem Statement, a Final Reflection Essay, and a coherent set of Artifacts.

  • The Problem Statement describes the student’s focus of inquiry, the context in which the student will study the problem and the student’s role in the organization; and an improvement goal that includes the student’s strategies for moving from what is to what should be.
  • The Final Reflection Essay ties the entire portfolio together. It includes a description of the problem addressed, improvement strategies undertaken and their results, and reflections on both the success of the improvement efforts as well as the candidate’s leadership development.
  • Artifacts are linked to the student’s focus of inquiry and reflect different approaches and methodologies for addressing the improvement goal. The artifacts are constructed in collaboration with the candidate’s advisor, ELP committee members, and doctoral coursework instructors. They are connected to practice, focused on leadership and improvement, and aimed at specified organizational audiences (e.g., colleagues, staff, employees, constituencies). Examples of artifacts include, but are not limited to, needs assessments, problem or vision statements, literature syntheses, white papers, web designs or tools, professional development products, curriculum designs, policy briefs, data analysis reports, program evaluations, strategic plans, resource allocation plans, policy documents, and leadership communications. The artifacts are included as appendices to the final portfolio.

Establishment of the ELP Committee

During the last semester of a student’s Ed.D. coursework, the student will select a doctoral advisory committee (henceforth, “ELP Committee”) in consultation with the student’s advisor. The ELP Committee shall include the student’s advisor, a minimum of two additional University faculty from within the School of Education, and one member from outside of the program. The outside member may be a relevant individual from the student’s place of employment. The student’s advisor will serve as chairperson of the ELP Committee. The ELP advisor must be a member of the SOE faculty. SOE faculty who do not have regular faculty status may co-chair the ELP committee provided that the other co-chair meets the definition for regular faculty status. The definition of faculty shall include professional staff who hold secondary faculty appointments. Faculty who have retired or resigned from the University may chair committees of students whose work began under their direction prior to their retirement or departure from the University. An advisor who is not employed full time by the University of Delaware may serve as co-chair of the committee provided that the other co-chair meets the conditions stated above.

Outside committee members shall include individuals not affiliated with the SOE.  These may be individuals from outside of the University who are nationally recognized for their expertise in the area of study specified by the ELP, as well as faculty members from other units on campus.  It is the responsibility of the ELP advisor to replace members who withdraw from the committee during the ELP process.

Schedule for ELP Completion

The ELP is a 12 credit project completed in three distinct stages:

  1. Development of ELP Problem Statement (ELP 1: EDUC 880),
  2. Conduct of Improvement Strategies (ELP 2: EDUC881),
  3. Reflection on Leadership Efforts (ELP 3: EDUC 882).

Students register for each 4 credit course in sequence.

Students are not allowed to register for the next class until all work is completed for the previous course. Each stage (or course) is led by the student’s advisor and supported by the student’s ELP committee.  Although students begin to develop artifacts during their Ed.D. coursework, students begin the formal ELP process after they have completed all doctoral coursework.

A student will first register for ELP 1 (EDUC 880). In this course, the student constructs an ELP pre-proposal document which is composed of a problem statement (i.e., a concise description of the student’s focus of inquiry) along with a brief description and rationale for the possible artifacts that are aligned to the student’s focus of inquiry. Half of the artifacts may be based on student’s work completed during Ed.D. coursework.  After the ELP pre-proposal document is completed, it is sent by the student’s advisor to the ELP Committee members for their feedback on the student’s problem statement and proposed artifacts, and for recommendations related to both the problem statement and the composition of the proposed artifacts.  With the committee’s direction, the student then makes necessary revisions in the problem statement and constructs several proposed artifacts. These are presented to the committee in an official ELP Proposal Defense, where the student defends the problem statement, the initial artifacts, and negotiates the composition of the remaining ELP artifacts.  The ELP Committee may decide to increase or decrease the total number of required artifacts depending on their scope and breadth, and how the artifacts address the candidate’s improvement goal. At the successful completion of this defense, the advisor will construct an ELP Proposal Defense Contract, which highlights the revisions that the committee requires of the initial artifacts, and outlines the composition of the final ELP artifacts. When the ELP committee signs off on this contract the student will be considered to have completed the requirements for ELP 1 and will be allowed to register for 4 credits of ELP 2 (EDUC 881).

In ELP 2 (EDUC 881) the student will make revisions to the initial artifacts outlined in the ELP Defense Contract, and begin the process of developing the remaining artifacts under the direction of the committee. During ELP 2, the student is required to meet with the advisor and committee to review student progress and identify appropriate adjustments and revisions to the artifacts. At the end of ELP 2 the student will have completed all revisions to the initial artifacts that will be reviewed and approved by the ELP committee, and the student will be allowed to register for 4 credits of ELP 3 (EDUC 882).

In ELP 3 (EDUC 882) the student will develop the remaining ELP artifacts and write the final reflection paper. At the conclusion of the ELP 3, and upon recommendation of the student’s ELP advisor, the student will present and defend the ELP before the ELP committee in a formal ELP Defense. When the ELP committee signs the doctoral completion form, the student completes the doctoral program and is recommended for the Ed.D. degree.

Defending the ELP

The ELP defense will be scheduled only after the ELP advisor has determined that a defense is appropriate.  The committee will have a minimum of two weeks to review the entire portfolio. The ELP defense will be open to the public, and notices will be emailed to all SOE faculty and graduate students at least one week prior to the defense date.  The candidate will present a summary of the completed portfolio and will then field questions from the committee, attending faculty, and guests.  After all questions have been answered, the ELP committee will meet to decide whether the ELP is accepted, rejected, or accepted pending revisions. Results of the meeting will then be presented to the student.

Processing the Final Portfolio

The ELP will consist of the following parts: an Abstract, the Final Reflection Essay, and Appendices that include the Artifacts. The initial pages will include signature pages that attest that the student has met the requirements of the ELP.

Registration Requirements for Graduation

Students must be registered for ELP 3 or in Doctoral Sustaining Status in the term in which the degree is officially awarded.  Sustaining registration is required in summer or winter session only if the degree is awarded at the conclusion of that term. Students enrolled in Sustaining are considered full-time students. Students may only register for Sustaining Status for a maximum of two semesters.

See also the doctoral defense and graduation procedures

Program Policy Document

For detailed information about program policies, requirements, and administration, please see our program policy document. If you have questions about this information, please contact your advisor or program coordinator, Danielle Ford.

Financial Assistance

Ed.D. students are usually part-time graduate students and normally do not qualify for financial assistance. If an Ed.D. student is full time, however, the full-time Ed.D student is eligible to apply for the same assistantships and fellowships as full-time Ph.D. students.

Matriculation Information

Applications are accepted only for the Fall semester. However, admitted students who are unable to begin graduate study in the fall may request a deferral to begin in another semester (Winter, Spring or Summer) that same year. The deferral must be requested from the program, and requires approval of the program and the Graduate College.

Time Limits for the Completion of Degree Requirements

Time limits for the completion of degree requirements begin with the date of matriculation and are specifically expressed in the student’s letter of admission. Students entering a doctoral program with a master’s degree are given ten consecutive semesters to complete the requirements. Students who change their degree plan and have transferred from one degree program to another degree program are given ten consecutive semesters from the beginning of the first year in the latest program.

Extension of the Time Limit

An extension of time limit may be granted for circumstances beyond the student’s control. Requests for time extensions must be made in writing and approved by the student’s adviser and the School of Education Director or Designee. The Director/Designee will forward the request to the Office of Graduate Studies. The Office of Graduate Studies will determine the student’s eligibility for a time extension and will notify the student in writing of its decision to grant an extension of time.

Transfer of Credit Earned as a Continuing Education Student at the University of Delaware

Students who complete graduate credits with the classification of CEND (Continuing Education Non-Degree) at the University of Delaware may use a maximum of 9 graduate credits earned with this classification toward their graduate degree. The CEND credits, grades, and quality points become a part of the student’s academic record and grade point average. CEND credit can be transferred provided that (1) the course was at the 600 to 800 level, (2) the course was taken within the time limit appropriate for the degree, and (3) the course was approved by the student’s advisor and the School of Education Director or Designee.

Transfer of Credit from Another Institution

Graduate credit earned at another institution will be evaluated at the written request of the student. Such a request should be submitted first to the student’s advisor using a Request for Transfer of Graduate Credit form. A maximum of 9 credits required for the degree will be accepted provided that such credits (1) were earned with a grade of no less than B-, (2) are approved by the student’s adviser and the School of Education Director or Designee, (3) are in accord with the student’s program requirements, (4) are not older than five years, and (5) were completed at an accredited college or university. The credits, but not the grades or quality points, are transferable to University of Delaware graduate records. Graduate courses counted toward a degree received elsewhere may not be used. Credits earned at another institution while the student was classified as a continuing education student at that institution are not eligible to be transferred to one’s graduate degree at the University of Delaware. Credits from institutions outside of the United States are generally not transferable to the University of Delaware.

Transfer of Credit from the Undergraduate Division at the University of Delaware

Students who wish to transfer credits from their undergraduate record to their graduate record may transfer a limited number by arranging with the department to have these courses approved by their instructors before the courses are taken. These courses must be at the 600-level, and the student must perform at the graduate level. These courses must be in excess of the total required for the baccalaureate degree, must have grades of no less than B-, and must not be older than five years. The credits, grades, and quality points will transfer.

Graduate Course Numbering System

Graduate credit may be earned for courses numbered 600 through 969. (Courses numbered 600 to 699 are graduate-level courses open to qualified, advanced undergraduates by permission of the instructor.)

Graduate Grade Point Average

Students must have a minimum overall cumulative grade point average of 3.0 to be eligible for the degree. In addition, the grades in courses applied toward the degree program must equal at least 3.0. All graduate-numbered courses taken with graduate student classification at the University of Delaware are applied to the cumulative index. Credit hours and courses for which the grade is below “C-” do not count toward the degree even though the grade is applied to the overall index.

Application for Advanced Degree

To initiate the process for degree conferral, candidates must submit an “Application for Advanced Degree” to the Office of Graduate Studies. The application deadlines are February 15 for Spring candidates, May 15 for Summer candidates, September 15 for Fall candidates, and December 15 for Winter candidates. The application fee payment is required when the application is submitted

The Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs differ primarily in terms of research expectations. The difference in expectations is reflected in the kinds of research preparation students receive and the kinds of problems that the thesis should address.

The Ph.D. program is designed to prepare students to launch a research career that focuses on studying important problems of the field of education. Thus, Ph.D. students are expected to identify and address a problem that has some fundamental or generalizable significance.

In contrast, the Ed.D. program is designed to prepare students to assume leadership roles in administration, curriculum, and teaching. Thus, Ed.D. students are expected to identify and address a problem that has some significance to a local situation. In addition, the Ph.D. program is a 4-5 year program designed for students to attend on a full-time basis, most often with support from an assistantship or fellowship. In contrast, the Ed.D. program is a 3-4 year program designed to be completed on a part-time basis with students maintaining their current employment.

Comparison Ph.D. Program Ed.D. Program
Master’s degree required? It is not required in most specializations. However, a previous master’s degree is required for the math education area. A master’s degree is required to enter the Ed.D. program.
Preparation Training to conduct research to solve national problems. Training to use data to solve local problems.
Thesis Dissertation, addresses problem of generalizable significance. Educational Leadership Portfolio,
Addresses problem of local, practical importance.
Time commitment Full-time, 4-5 years. Part-time, 3-4 years.
Funding available from UD School of Education Tuition waivers and/or assistantship stipends are possible* No
Typical future employment Faculty member at a graduate university, or researcher in private corporation, foundation, or center. Leader in a school, district, or department of education, or faculty member at a 2- or 4-year college.

* Funding practices are subject to change according to availability.

Doctoral student engages in research activity with two children

How to Apply

Applications for all graduate programs at the University of Delaware are done online through the Office of Graduate and Professional Education. To apply to the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership program, complete the steps of the UD online graduate application process. For information about graduate tuition, visit UD’s graduate tuition page for CEHD programs.

Hui Yang

“The University of Delaware is a large institution, but as a graduate student here – as I have worked my way through my program, the school has become ‘smaller’ and more personal which has made my experience more meaningful and fulfilling.”

Sterling H. Seemans, Ed.D. in Educational Leadership (anticipated May 2020); M.Ed. in School Leadership, 2012; BS in Health Sciences, 2008. He is currently an Assistant Principal at Rising Sun High School in North East, Maryland.