Degree Requirements: Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Purpose of Degree

The Doctor of Education degree is intended for students who are interested in the application of scholarship and research to educational endeavors. Coursework, examinations and the dissertation emphasize the reflective use of research as the basis of informed educational practice. Students are required to attain comprehensive knowledge of education, intensive knowledge of an area of specialization, skills in critical evaluation of research pertinent to the specialization, and proficiency in the planning and execution of research on topics in the practice of education.

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Course Requirements

At least 12 course units of graduate work must be taken at the University of Pennsylvania. One course must be a research seminar in the area of specialization. The program of study may include work completed for the master’s degree. Up to eight course units may be transferred from another institution upon approval of a student’s advisor. All degree students must maintain a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 for all courses applied toward the degree.

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Transfer of Credit

GSE will, under certain conditions, accept equivalent credit toward the degree. Up to eight graduate level CU’s taken at GSE, Penn, or another institution, may count toward the Ed.D. degree. Transfer credit is not automatically accepted or applied toward the doctoral degree. Students must follow formal procedures to request the application of transfer credit toward GSE degree requirements. The acceptance of transfer credits does not override specialization requirements. In order to receive transfer credit students must have earned a grade of at least “B” for all courses. Grades of “Satisfactory” or “Pass” are not transferable. No academic work done while the student was an undergraduate will be counted toward a graduate degree with the exception of courses taken when the student was an official submatriculant in the Graduate School of Education. The following conditions apply to transfer of credit:

  • Graduate credits were earned at the University not more than 10 years prior to admission to the doctoral program.
  • A maximum of four course units may be counted toward the degree for courses taken while a student is enrolled in the College of General Studies.
  • A maximum of eight course units of graduate level coursework earned at GSE, Penn, or another institution within the preceding 10-year period may be accepted upon recommendation of the advisor.

For courses taken more than 10 years prior to admission to the ED.D. program, within or outside the University, students must show that:

  • a grade of “A” or “B” has been earned;
  • the faculty advisor and the division chair agree that the courses are acceptable;
  • the student has enrolled in relevant graduate-level courses or engaged in appropriate academic activity after completion of courses for which credit is requested;
  • when there is not agreement between the student’s advisor and division chair, the student must pass an examination in the content areas for which credit is requested.

Process for Approval of Transfer of Credit

Students must be admitted to a degree program before a request for transfer of credit can be considered. To request transfer of credit, students must:

  • Obtain the appropriate transfer of credit request form.
  • Complete the form in consultation with their advisor and obtain the necessary approvals from the advisor and division chair.
  • Submit an official copy of the transcript
  • Student must matriculate at least one semester before submitting the transfer of credit form.

Penn In Touch will reflect the transfer credits on your transcript.

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Residency Requirement

All doctoral students must satisfy a residency requirement as a condition for earning the degree. The residency requirement is defined as completion of at least four course units within two successive terms in University courses approved for graduate credit by the Graduate School of Education. A maximum of two of these four course units may be taken in summer sessions continuous with the academic year term in which the remaining course units are taken (e.g., spring/fall, fall/spring, summer/fall or spring/summer). This requirement may be fulfilled at any time after the student has been admitted to GSE for post-baccalaureate coursework. Some programs require full-time study in every semester. Consult the division for more information.

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Advisor

Each student will be assigned an academic advisor upon admission. The advisor will help plan the student’s program of study, assist in selecting courses, provide academic advising and monitor academic progress. Students should contact their advisors individually in the first semester of the students first year before the drop/request period has concluded. The planned program of study should be developed between the advisor and the student in the first semester of the first year of study. The planned program of study can be revised over time. After this initial meeting, students and advisors are mutually obligated to stay in regular contact, preferably twice a year, but always at the start of the academic year to review progress and consider alterations to the planned program of study. While the advisor will know much about GSE policies, rules do change. Students should always consult the Student Handbook or the Student Records Office for the most current academic policies, procedures and deadlines for completing academic requirements. To request a change in advisor, the student should see the division coordinator for procedures.

Students on dissertation should also communicate with their advisors twice a year so that progress is closely monitored. Once a student has formed a dissertation committee, the committee chair automatically becomes the student’s advisor.

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Evaluations and Examinations

Qualifications Evaluation (also known as Program Candidacy)

The purpose of program candidacy is to provide rigorous review and feedback to Ed.D. students regarding their academic progress within the first two years of study. Program candidacy is a prerequisite to doctoral candidacy. Minimum school-wide criteria are described below. Additional requirements about the timing, process and materials for program candidacy review may be further specified by each specialization. Check with your academic advisor or division coordinator for details.

Eligibility for Qualifications Evaluation (Program Candidacy)

  • Program candidacy review must be completed after completion of 6, but not more than 8 CU’s, and no later than the fourth semester of coursework.
  • Students must have completed (or be in the process of completing) the residency requirement.

Eligibility will be assessed according to the following criteria: satisfactory performance in courses as shown by the student’s GSE transcript and faculty recommendations; a coherent course of study as illustrated by the planned program of study and prospectus; and a demonstration of the ability to do research as demonstrated by a research paper.

Procedure for Qualifications Evaluation

  • Specialization faculty reviews the student dossier.
  • Specialization faculty votes to recommend student for program candidacy.
  • Division faculty votes whether to admit student to program candidacy.
  • The student is given feedback in conference or in writing about the decision, his/her performance and future course of study.

Students who are recommended for program candidacy are permitted to continue in the program.  Students who do not pass program candidacy are withdrawn from the degree program.

Appeal of Qualifications Evaluation

Students may appeal to the division chair if the program faculty does not admit them to program candidacy. Students may appeal to the Committee on Degrees if the division does not admit them to program candidacy.

Preliminary Examination

The preliminary examination is a test of knowledge in the candidate’s area of specialization.  The examination requires students to demonstrate knowledge and reasoning in the key content areas in their specialization as specified by the academic division. The format of the examination varies from program to program, but must include at least six hours of examination, at least three hours of which must be written. All examinations are administered in accordance with the rules set forth in the Code of Academic Integrity. Students should consult their advisor about the particular form of the examination they will take. Doctoral candidacy is conferred upon successful completion of the doctoral preliminary examination.

Students are permitted two opportunities to pass the preliminary examination. If they are unsuccessful after two tries, they will be withdrawn from the doctoral program.
To be eligible to take the preliminary examination students must:

  • Have been admitted to program candidacy
  • Have the recommendation of their advisor
  • Submit evidence satisfactory to the advisor of ability to do research in their area of specialization
  • Be registered for the term in which the exam is taken
  • Register to take the preliminary examination using the form on the website (by the deadline listed in the GSE academic calendar.

Doctoral candidacy is conferred upon successful completion of the doctoral preliminary examination.

Final Oral Defense Hearing

A public, oral presentation of the dissertation is required. The presentation must either include, or be followed by, an oral examination.

Satisfactory Progress

Lack of significant progress in completing degree requirements for two consecutive years (exclusive of time when on official leave of absence) will automatically terminate candidacy or eligibility to apply for candidacy if not already attained. Therefore, students should take the initiative in providing their advisor with evidence of continuous progress; in the absence of such evidence, advisors may apprise themselves of their advisee’s status each term and refer a student to the Committee on Degrees if satisfactory progress is not maintained.

Time Limitation for Completing Ed.D. Requirements

Ed.D. students are expected to complete all degree requirements within 12 years. After 5 years on dissertation, students are required to meet with their advisors to review their progress and status and to co-write a report outlining the student’s progress and plans for completion of the degree. This report is to be placed in the student’s folder. In very unusual circumstances, Ed.D. students can petition for an additional 2 years, see Recertification Procedure for Ph.D. students. Official leaves of absence will not automatically change these time limits.

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The Dissertation

Forming a Dissertation Committee

Students must consult with their advisor for assistance in selecting a group of at least three people with earned doctorates to serve as the dissertation committee. The dissertation committee is responsible for evaluating their proposal for dissertation research, for supervising the preparation of a dissertation on an approved problem, and for evaluating the dissertation. Committee members should be selected on the basis of their relationship to the dissertation content.

The chair of an Ed.D. dissertation committee must be a member of GSE standing faculty or be a member of the associated faculty approved to chair dissertation committees. Click here for a list of faculty authorized to chair EdD dissertation committees. Students should see their academic advisor for specific information.

Approval Process for a Dissertation Committee

To formalize the committee, submit a completed Request for Appointment of the Dissertation Committee and Scheduling of the Oral Proposal Form to the Student Records Office. The committee must be formally approved before students can hold their oral proposal hearing. Allow at least three weeks for the request to be reviewed by the Assistant Dean’s office. To request a change in dissertation committee, students must complete a Request for Change of Dissertation Committee form. Changes to the committee must be approved by the Assistant Dean for Academic and Student Affairs.

Research on Human Subjects

Students must obtain University approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) before they may conduct research on human subjects for their dissertation study. Since education research generally involves little or no risk to the participants, the University permits GSE students to apply for an expedited review by the IRB. Detailed information about these procedures is available from the Office of Research Services.

Oral Proposal

Procedure for Oral Proposal of Dissertation

All doctoral candidates must present their dissertation proposals orally to the dissertation committee. To schedule the oral proposal, the student must:

Decide with the committee members on a day, date and time to hold the proposal.

Submit the Request for Appointment of Dissertation Committee and Scheduling of Oral Proposal Form signed by the chair and each committee member with the proposal abstract, to the Student Records Office at gse-sro@gse.upenn.edu at least two weeks in advance of the date the hearing is to take place. The Student Records Office will assign a room for the proposal hearing and notify the student, the committee members and the division coordinator. The notice will also be posted on the GSE calendar, and the building monitors.

Having passed the oral proposal, the student will be issued a signed ballot verifying that fact. A second copy of the ballot must be submitted to the Student Records Office so that this information can be added to the student’s transcript. A third copy of the ballot is for the dissertation chair’s records.

The student, the chair, and majority of the committee are required to be physically present at the oral proposal and final defense hearings.

Although all members of a student’s dissertation committee are expected to be physically present at the oral proposal and final defense hearings, in extenuating circumstances one member, or a minority of the committee, may be physically absent as long as the absent member(s) participate(s) in the oral proposal and final defense hearings.

At the oral proposal hearing, the dissertation committee will review the proposal with the student and help refine the proposed dissertation project. The committee will vote on the proposal and indicate any revisions that might be required before the student may be allowed to proceed with the dissertation research. Oral proposal hearings are not normally held during the summer. Candidates who wish to have the oral proposal hearing during the summer must secure the approval of all committee members. If approval is granted, the student will be required to register for courses, or for dissertation supervision (EDUC 995) for the summer session in which the oral proposal hearing is held. After the dissertation proposal is approved, three ballots will be signed by the committee. One ballot is for the student, one for the chair, and one for the Student Records Office. Students must complete all remaining requirements for the degree within a period of four years. For an extension of time to complete the dissertation, students may petition the Committee on Degrees. Students must have the recommendation of the dissertation committee chair to be considered for an extension of this time limit.

GSE Standards for the Oral Proposal

Your committee will determine whether you pass your oral proposal hearing. Your proposal must pass the following criteria:

  • The topic is stated clearly and relevant background literature reviewed and evaluated.
  • The research question(s) are stated clearly.
  • The contribution and importance of the research question(s) with respect to relevant literature, theory, policy, and/or practice are articulated in a convincing manner.
  • The research plan and methods are appropriate and adequate to study the research question(s) posed, and are explicitly described.

Standards for the Dissertation

  1. The topic is stated clearly and relevant background literature reviewed and evaluated.
  2. The research question(s) are stated clearly.
  3. he contribution and importance of the research question(s) with respect to relevant literature, theory, policy, and/or practice are articulated in a convincing manner.
  4. The research plan and methods are appropriate and adequate to study the research question(s) posed, and are explicitly described.
  5. The research plan and methods are implemented effectively.
  6. The research produced trustworthy evidence that bears on the research question(s).
  7. The conclusions follow convincingly from the evidence and its interpretation.
  8. The dissertation manuscript is coherent, well structured, clearly written and is in accordance with the specifications of a standard style manual regarding grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc.
  9. With appropriate revisions, the dissertation is of sufficient quality to be publishable in an academic or practice-oriented journal that is peer reviewed.

Formatting the Dissertation

Final Defense of the Dissertation

The final oral defense is approximately one and a half hours in length and is based upon the candidate’s dissertation. To schedule the final oral examination, doctoral candidates must submit the completed the Final Defense Hearing Form and abstract to the Student Records Office at least two weeks in advance of the date of the final defense. The Student Records Office schedules the meeting room and formally notifies the dissertation committee that the meeting has been scheduled. Students and Education faculty are also invited to attend these presentations.

The student, the chair, and majority of the committee are required to be physically present at the oral proposal and final defense hearings.

Although all members of a student’s dissertation committee are expected to be physically present at the oral proposal and final defense hearings, in extenuating circumstances, one member, or a minority of the committee, may be physically absent as long as the absent member(s) participate(s) in the oral proposal and final defense hearings.

At least one term must elapse between passing the preliminary examination and the final defense. At the discretion of the dissertation committee, the candidate will be recommended to the faculty of the Graduate Group in Education for the degree of Doctor of Education. After the final defense hearing, three ballots will be signed by the committee. One ballot is for the student, one for the chair, and one for the Student Records Office.

Final oral examinations are not normally held during the summer. Candidates who wish to have the final oral examination during the summer must secure the approval of all committee members and register for Dissertation Supervision (EDUC 995) for the summer session in which the final oral examination is held.

Procedure for Scheduling the Final Defense of the Dissertation

To schedule the final defense, the student must:

  • Mutually agree with the committee members on a day, date and time to hold the defense.
  • Submit the Final Defense Notification form signed by the dissertation chair and the proposal abstract to the Student Records Office at least two weeks in advance of the date the hearing is to take place. The Student Records Office will assign a room for the defense hearing and notify the student, the committee members and the division coordinator. The notice will also be posted on the bulletin board in the second floor administrative suite, and the building monitors.
  • Having passed the final defense, the student will be issued a signed ballot verifying that fact.  A second copy of the ballot must be submitted to the Student Records Office so this information can be added to the student’s transcript. A third copy of the ballot is for the dissertation chair’s records.

Required Documents for Ed.D. Dissertations

  • Dissertation submitted to ProQuest ETD Administrator
  • Upon approval of dissertation on ProQuest, one copy printed on 100% acid-free paper
  • One Title Page printed on 100% acid-free paper with chairperson’s signature
  • Click here for submission steps

Filing and Depositing the Dissertation

Please click here for EdD dissertation submission instructions.

Graduation

The GSE academic calendar lists the deadlines for completing degree requirements in order to graduate in any academic term. All degree candidates must apply to graduate on-line at the beginning of the term in which they plan to receive the degree. Failure to apply for graduation by the published deadline will make it impossible to receive the degree at the time desired

Certificate of Advanced Study

 Students who complete all requirements for a Doctor of Education except the preliminary examination and the dissertation may apply to the Assistant Dean to receive a Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS). The CAS is a form of recognition for completing significant doctoral level study in an educational field. Students who elect to receive a CAS will not be eligible to re-enter a degree program and complete the doctorate at a later date. A CAS may be awarded to students matriculated in the Graduate School of Education who:

  • are in good standing;
  • have completed all requirements for an approved  doctoral  specialization of study except the preliminary examinations  and the dissertation; and
  • are recommended by the faculty of the appropriate program.

The certificate contains:

  • The name of the School and the University;
  • The name of the student;
  • The title of the field of specialization in which the advanced study was completed;
  • The signature of the Dean of the Graduate School of Education.