Executive Ed.D. in Educational Leadership

Welcome from Dr. Wayne Lewis!
Dr. Lewis is the Doctoral Program Chair for the Educational Leadership program. Feel free to send him an email if you have any questions about the program or about planning a course of study.

Program Overview

Our Ed.D. (Doctor of Education) is an Executive EdD, or practitioner doctorate, designed for those who plan to work in leadership positions in schools as a practicing scholar. It is a practical degree built around action research relevant to your current work in educational institutions and culminates with the writing of a three chapter action research dissertation.  

The program consists of 45 credit hours plus a minimum of 4 hours of dissertation residency (a fall and spring semester at 2 hours per semester). Students take courses in three core areas: leadership, research, and elective. We admit cohorts of students in the Fall and the application deadline is generally around February 15th of each year.

You can complete the program in about 4 years if you follow the curriculum plan and stay on track with your independent action research project. 

NOTE: This program does not lead to rank change for Kentucky educators.

Executive EdD Pathway


Admission Requirements

Students are admitted to the Executive EdD through a selective admissions process based on a holistic review of all application materials.

Applicants will need

  • A graduate degree (Master’s degree) from an accredited college or university, with a minimum graduate GPA of 3.5
  • GRE, which is a requirement of the UK Graduate School; and
  • A graduate-level basic statistics course with a grade of B or higher completed before admission or up to two semesters after admission.

Application Documents

  1. UK Application for Admission
  2. Official transcripts from all postsecondary institutions that you attended.
  3. Professional Resume (limited to 2 pages) that provides your name and contact information as well as postsecondary education (all degrees, years awarded, institution names, emphasis area), work experiences, education certifications, professional memberships.
  4. A Personal Statement in the form of a Professional Essay (3-5 double-spaced pages, word-processed in either Times New Roman 12-point or Ariel 10-point, page numbers and your name in upper right corner). If you cite literature/resources to support your comments, adhere to the academic writing guidelines provided in 6th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.
    • Part I: Provide background about your experiences as a leader and share how these experiences have prompted you to enroll in a doctoral program in educational leadership studies. Share your career aspirations and explain how completing an Executive EdD program will assist you in achieving your professional goals.
    • Part II: Articulate your beliefs, perceptions, and reflections about each of the following four themes related to effective leadership: (a) a vision of success, (b) a focus continuous learning and professional growth, (c) engagement of all stakeholders, and (d) a demonstration of ethical practice.
  5. Four references including one by your supervisor and a college/university faculty member.

Program Pathway

The Executive EdD program requires successful completion of 45 credit hours of postmaster’s graduate coursework including twelve required courses and three elective courses, depending on your specialty area. Candidates must complete at least 4 credit hours of EDL 767 Dissertation Residency.

The Director of Graduate Studies is assigned to students in the Executive EdD program as an advisory chair upon their admission. The student must meet with her or his advisory chair during the first semester to develop an individualized Executive EdD program plan that will be reviewed regularly and updated as needed.

Leadership core. A total of 24 credit hours constitute the leadership core. Required courses:

  • EDL 700, Knowledge Base
  • EDL 701, Leadership in Educational Organizations I
  • EDL 703, Leading Organizational Change
  • EDL 702, Leadership for Organizational Learning
  • EDL 704, Politics of Educational Leadership
  • EDL 634, Securing and Developing Staff
  • EDL 571, Design Thinking in Education
  • EDL 669, Leadership for Creative Problem Solving

Research methodology core.  A total of 12 credit hours constitute the research methods core. Successful completion of a graduate-level basic statistics course is a prerequisite for admission to the program to assure candidates have background knowledge.

  • EDL 751, Foundations of Inquiry
  • EDL 771, Seminar in Educational Leadership: Action Research I
  • EDL 771, Seminar in Educational Leadership: Action Research II
  • EDL 792, Research in Educational Leadership

Electives. A total of 9 credit hours constitute the electives core which represents the student’s area of interest (e.g. international perspectives, higher education, school technology leadership, superintendency, instructional leader, etc.). Electives can be taken within or outside EDL. Students should get approval for electives from their advisory (DGS or dissertation chair) prior to enrollment in a course.

Sample Course Sequence

Year 1 Fall Semester (6 credits)

  • EDL700, Knowledge Base for Leaders
  • EDL751, Foundations of Inquiry

Year 1 Spring Semester (6 credits)

  • EDL701, Leadership in Educational Organizations I
  • Specialization Elective

Year 1 Summer Semester (6 credits)

  • EDL703, Leading Organizational Change
  • Specialization Elective

Year 2 Fall Semester (6 credits)

  • EDL702, Leadership for Organizational Learning
  • EDL571, Design Thinking in Education

Year 2 Spring Semester (6 credits)

  • EDL704, Politics of Educational Leadership
  • EDL 669, Creative Problem Solving in Leadership

Year 2 Summer Semester (6 credits)

  • EDL 634, Securing and Developing Staff
  • EDL 771, Seminar in Educational Leadership: Action Research I

Year 3 Fall Semester (6 credits)

  • EDL 771, Seminar in Educational Leadership: Action Research II
  • Specialization Elective

Year 3 Spring Semester (6 credits)

  • EDL 792, Research in Educational Leadership
  • Specialization Elective

Year 4 Fall Semester (6 credits)

  • EDL 767, Dissertation Residency (sit for Qualifying Exam)

Year 4 Spring Semester (6 credits)

  • EDL 767, Dissertation Residency (Dissertation Defense)

Qualifying Exam and Dissertation

After the first year in the program the student must identify a dissertation chair and form a dissertation advisory committee according UK Graduate School regulations.

At the completion of EDL 771: Seminar in Educational Leadership Action Research I, the student will complete a Capstone project (Chapter 1 of the Dissertation) which will be reviewed by the dissertation committee. After review, the student will revise the project based on feedback.

Qualifying examination. A student is eligible to sit for the qualifying examination (i.e., defense of dissertation proposal) upon successful completion of 45 credits of doctoral coursework, production of three well written dissertation chapters (i.e., introduction, literature review, methods), and approval of dissertation chair.
Dissertation residency. Students must enroll in EDL 767 Dissertation Residency Credit (2 credits) the semester in which the qualifying examination is scheduled and remain continuously enrolled in EDL 767 until successfully passing oral examination (i.e., dissertation defense). The UK Graduate School requires a minimum of 4 residency credits earned during academic year (i.e., fall and spring semester).

Candidacy. After passing the qualifying examination, a doctoral candidate is eligible to proceed with dissertation research. Approval to conduct research must be sought from the UK Institutional Review Board (IRB) and any other entities requiring permission to conduct research at a site or to use existing data.

Oral examination. The summative assessment for the doctoral program is defense of a completed dissertation (Chapters 1–3) during a formal oral examination conducted by candidate’s advisory committee and an external reviewer representing the UK Graduate School. Candidates who pass the oral examination have up to 60 days to make revisions to dissertation before submitting a final copy in required format to EDL and Graduate School. Candidate must complete all degree requirements within five years of passing qualifying examination.