Unlike the traditional dissertation, students pursuing the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree examine a Problem of Practice (POP), which is an area of concern or issue that has been identified in their context of professional practice. This POP becomes the focus of the dissertation research. The Applied Dissertation is embedded within the Ed.D. coursework, which provides students with a unique opportunity to examine an issue important to the organization in which they are employed. During the first year in the program, students examine their articulated Problem of Practice to identify underlying causes and associated factors. During the second year, students develop a potential solution, such as an intervention or policy change, and a plan to study the implementation and predicted outcomes. Students will demonstrate mastery of first- and second-year competencies through written and oral comprehensive assessments, which will serve as indicators of readiness for conducting their applied research. Students will then evaluate the effectiveness of this solution as their Applied Dissertation (Year 3). Characteristics of the Applied Dissertation that make it unique to this program include:
- Focus on understanding a POP from the students’ context of professional practice and the factors associated with the POP, or underlying causes for the POP, from a systems approach; and
- Examination of a solution that holds the potential for significant change within students’ context of professional practice and/or have implications for policy.
Although somewhat different from a traditional dissertation in its completion and focus, students are nevertheless expected to demonstrate mastery of the relevant literature, obtain extant and/or collect additional data and interpret the results in light of previous studies. The dissertation will be presented at a final oral defense before the student’s Dissertation Advisory Committee.
How do you identify your Problem of Practice?
What have you observed in your organization that might potentially limit the effectiveness of the educational organization in which you do your professional work? What issues have you observed that if addressed might improve the lives or experiences of learners or other individuals in educational organizations?
A POP should be:
- Directly observable. You should be able to articulate what you are seeing in your professional environment.
- Actionable. The factors associated with the POP or underlying causes for the POP should be able to be acted upon to improve the conditions of the situation.
- Strategic. It can be connected to broader system change.
- Transformation. Addressing the issue would make a significant difference in the educational context.
Think about the following questions as you write your POP statement:
- What issue have you observed? How is this issue problematic?
- Are there data available to illustrate the existence of this issue?
- How is this problem playing out in your professional context?
- What is a part of the POP that you will be able to impact for the purpose of improvement in your professional context?