Educational Leadership

Doctorate in Education (EdD) degree in Educational Leadership

Doctorate of Education - Ed.D.

Degree Requirements

Western Illinois University’s Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) degree will provide current administrators with the leadership skills needed to lead schools to success in the rapidly changing educational landscape of PK-12 public education. Using a mid-career focus, the program prepares principals, superintendents, and other school leaders who have or are eligible for superintendent certification for evolving levels of school leadership.

The Applied Research Component

Students analyze issues related to improving student achievement. They develop and implement plans for school improvement in low-performing schools. The process begins with a detailed review of empirically-based research on effective schools and with research and dialogue around specific research questions. These questions frame the students’ two-year engagement in this applied research project.

In the first year, students study the leadership practices of a high performing school or a school characterized by recent, significant academic improvement. Schools are chosen from the list of Blue Ribbon and Spotlight Schools, as identified by the Illinois State Board of Education. In the second year, students work closely with a low-performing school. Students collaborate with the leadership of the low-performing school to conduct needs assessments and program evaluations, to match programs to needs, to acquire resources, to build coalitions at all levels (local, state, and federal), and to create infrastructures built on school data and scientifically-based research. This practical application of research and theory to real-world questions palpably impacts the field and improves the educational experience of children.

Doctoral Comprehensive Examination

A candidacy examination, administered each term by the graduate faculty in Educational Leadership is required of all students in the doctoral program near the end of coursework. The examination includes sections on research skills and learning theory as well as in the major area of specialization. Early contact with the major advisor to discuss the exam is highly recommended. Students have two opportunities to successfully complete the candidacy exam. If the first attempt is unsuccessful, the graduate committee will determine the appropriate remediation. The outcome of the second attempt is final. Students must be enrolled for at least one credit hour in the term in which they take their candidacy exam. Students are admitted to candidacy following successful completion of the examination and may begin to enroll in EDL 790. Students must select a dissertation chair within the first semester after admission to candidacy.

Dissertation Chair and Committee

Upon admission to candidacy and prior to beginning work on the dissertation, candidates are invited to give preferences for their dissertation chairs. Dissertation committees must consist of a minimum of four members, including the chair. The chair and two of the members must be faculty in the Department of Educational Leadership. The fourth member must be a member of the university faculty but may be from another department. A fifth member may be added, at the discretion of the committee chair. The fifth member may be from outside the university but must meet certain eligibility requirements. At least two members of the committee must be senior members of the graduate faculty. The Dissertation Chair Appointment Form must be on file at the Graduate School by the end of the first term of registration for EDL 790. 

Dissertation and Oral Defense

A dissertation represents a substantial contribution to knowledge in the candidate’s major field of study. Candidates for the doctoral degree are expected to conduct original scholarship appropriate to the field of Educational Leadership and to communicate the results of their research effectively. Following completion of the written dissertation and with the approval of the dissertation committee, a public presentation of the research is scheduled, followed immediately by an oral defense of the dissertation. This final examination of the candidate and the research is conducted by the dissertation committee, in accordance with the guidelines of the Graduate School. Successful completion of the oral defense is usually the final major step prior to graduation.


There must be continuous registration from the time of proposal approval until degree completion. During the period of time in which you complete the degree, there must be registration for some type of credit hour(s), e.g., a course, dissertation hours, or dissertation audit hours.

Graduation Requirements

Students must complete each core course with a grade of “B” or better or a grade of “S” for those courses graded satisfactory/unsatisfactory. The EdS program must be completed within eight years of the initiation of doctoral coursework (700 level classes). In addition, before being awarded the degree, each student must satisfy the following:

  • Successful completion of EDL 770, Comprehensive Examination, before a student may proceed to candidacy.
  • Successful completion of EDL 790, Dissertation.