Perry, J.A., Firestone, W. (July 2019). Teaching leaders to use research through the EdD. Presented at the Annual meeting of the British Educational Leadership, Management and Administration Society in Hinkley, UK.
American educational leaders face pressures to use research to guide their practice but are poorly prepared to do so. Since the EdD grows out of the PhD—a researcher preparation degree—it should help prepare leaders to use research. Guided by Wenger’s (1998) communities of practice theory, we asked, “what practices promoted learning to use research and how did students’ (and instructors’) participation shape those practices and create learning opportunities?”
To answer this question, we conducted case studies of four exemplary EdD programs spread throughout the United States. Three were in research intensive universities, three were state supported. Three had students recently win the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED) dissertation of the year award. During site visits, we observed classes, interviewed students and faculty, and collected documents. Data were coded and analyzed to generate case records (Yin, 2009) that were reviewed on site as member checks.
The EdD is characterized by its focus on problems of practice—real issues facing a school or district—as opposed to the theoretical problems addressed in PhD programs. The programs help students develop three skill areas and two dispositions. The skills are related to
- Research: Finding research, understanding research-ese, assessing research on validity, applicability and other grounds.
- Problem finding: Including clarifying the issues faced that are often initially misunderstood and learning to use theory to refine and refocus a problem.
- Leadership: including advocacy for conclusions and creating a context for others to use research.
The dispositions are respect for research combined with a tendency to view studies critically.
The practices that help develop these skills and dispositions include searches for literature, reading peer-reviewed journal articles, Socratic discussion of papers, and activities to design and enact instruments and studies—often onsite—and to share findings with school or district users. Pedagogy is interactive, featuring more dialog and team projects than lecture.
Our cases suggest that the strength of these programs is in developing research/problem finding skills. Students share findings with users but rarely analyze what leadership for research use might be or how to do it. The next step is to analyze our alumni surveys to assess how EdD programs influence their graduates.