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K-State Today

November 4, 2011

College of Education joins national group redefining doctorate degree in education

Submitted by Patrice Scott

Kansas State University's College of Education recently joined an elite group – just 57 universities nationwide – for the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate. This program will redefine doctoral training for school leaders and potentially impact every child's education in the country.

The purpose of the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate is to strengthen the doctorate in education and make it a more relevant degree for practitioners. Erroneously perceived as "Ph.D.-lite," the doctorate in education has suffered an identity crisis essentially since its inception at Harvard in 1921. K-State, the only Kansas university participating in the Carnegie Project, was invited to join the consortium following a competitive selection process.

Why K-State?

David Thompson, professor and chair of the college's department of educational leadership, is pleased to be at the forefront of the national dialogue.

"K-State has a long and distinguished history of granting doctoral degrees in education since 1968," he said. "In addition, we are a top producer of Ed.D. professionals in the state of Kansas. We are proud to be part of this elite group and believe we have more to learn and much to contribute to the national conversation."

The discussion will focus on defining and restoring the purpose of a doctorate in education so that it becomes the degree of choice for school leaders.

"The doctorate degree should be evaluated by every institution that offers it for the purpose of moving good education to great education," he said.

Thompson said that successful schools, like all successful organizations, are the sum total of many factors, especially leadership.

"This  — the Carnegie Project — is of critical national importance and is why we are involved in educational leadership," Thompson said. "We understand, increasingly every day, that the quality of educational leadership is tied to the outcomes of our schools. Through the Ed.D. program, we are training today's and tomorrow's school leaders and consequently deeply impacting the education children will receive."

This begs the questions: 1) What's the difference between an Ed.D. and Ph.D.?; and 2) Who should pursue which degree?

These and other higher order questions were addressed in October at a Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate conference convening in Vermont where Thompson served a K-State's representative.

"The consensus was that a differentiation between the Ed.D. and Ph.D. should rely on breadth of skills," Thompson said. "A Ph.D. would teach one how to research a problem or issue at a sophisticated level while an Ed.D. should give wider research skills aimed at recognition, application and practice across the complexity of a social system."

He likened it to the roles of a medical doctor and medical researcher.

"A medical researcher doesn't regularly see patients; however, the researcher provides information that will impact patient care," Thompson said. "The M.D. – the practitioner – will determine how to apply the information produced by the researcher. In the case of distinguishing the Ed.D., a Ph.D. would provide research that an Ed.D. would put into practice."

The Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate cohorts meet twice a year, and the next convening will be at California State University-Fresno in June 2012 followed by one in October at the College of William and Mary. During each hiatus, member institutions are expected to consider and apply Carnegie Project principles to their own doctoral programs.

The Carnegie Foundation unveiled Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate in 2007 (Phase 1) with about 24 colleges and universities. Phase II began in 2011 for the purpose of widening the impact of the Carnegie Project throughout the nation. Eventually, a Phase III is planned, again for transplanting best practices into even more of the nation's doctorate in education degree-granting institutions.

For more information about Carnegie Project, please visit cpedinitiative.org, cpedinitiative.org/emerging-literature or contact David Thompson at thomsond@k-state.edu.