Technical Survival Guide for Navigating Your Ph.D. Program in Educational Administration

About this Page

Launched in August, 2010, this wiki page was developed by EdAd faculty and ELPS staff. We have drawn on the best available printed and online sources along with our collective wisdom to present you with nearly all the information they will need to understand and naviagate the bureaucratic side of their porgram. We crave your feedback! This page will only be effective if the information in it is correct and useful. Please let us know right away of any errors of fact, new tips, or questions deserve an answer in the FAQ.

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About the Ph.D. in Education (Educational Leadership) with Coursework Emphasis in Educational Administration

The emphasis on coursework in Educational Administration is designed to prepare students with the advanced knowledge and skills to become leaders in school systems (superintendents, principals, directors) and for careers in the educational administration professorate. Courses are indexed to the Interstate Licensure Leaders Consortium's (ISLLC) key indicators of advanced emphasis which are applicable in more than 35 states. All doctoral students are expected to have earned a master's degree and have teaching experience in public or private elementary and/or secondary schools. Some students may have to complete additional course work if their program of studies has not included required master's level course work at Iowa State University.

Courses for the Ph.D.

Coursework is comprised of selections from three important cores (doctoral, educational administration, and research cores) as well as outside emphasis courses, capstone experience course credit, and dissertation course credit. These are all explained below.

ELPS Doctoral Core Courses (7 credits)

1) Doctoral Seminars
These are doctoral seminars taken by all students in ELPS regardless of program. These are departmental level courses, not program-based courses. Thus we have our students take these seminars with other doc students from the higher education programs. These MUST be taken on campus during a set of fixed dates. Usually they meet one Saturday a month.

Currently students can only enroll for the leadership seminars each fall and must be able to attend all dates in order to enroll. Two courses are taught in the fall and two in the spring; you must be able to attend all dates in order to start them in the fall.
  • ELPS 615A (1.0)
  • ELPS 615B (1.0)
  • ELPS 615C (1.0)
  • ELPS 615D (1.0)

2) Capstone
ELPS 616 Capstone Experience (3.0)

Educational Administration Core Courses (27-30 credits)

The educational administration emphasis consists of a minimum of 27 credits. You have three options for satisfying the educational administration emphasis:

If You Earned a Master's Degree Outside Educational Administration

  1. If you have earned your Master’s degree in an area outside the field of educational administration, you may complete core coursework for Iowa principalship licensure (30 credits).

If You Already Hold a Principal License

  1. If you already hold principal licensure, you may complete core coursework for Iowa superintendent licensure (minimum 21 credits, plus additional coursework to equal 27 credits); or
  2. If you already hold principal licensure, you may complete coursework from the array of educational administration courses (27 credits), depending on your stated area of interest.

A minimum of 15 hours of educational administration coursework must be completed at Iowa State University in satisfying this 27-credit emphasis area.

Core principal and superintendent licensure requirements follow:

Principalship Licensure Option (30 credits)

  • EdAdm 541 Principles of Ed Admin (3.0)
  • EdAdm 552 The Principalship (3.0)
  • EdAdm 551 Supervision for Learning Environments (3.0)
  • EdAdm 557 Human Resource Development for Learning (3.0)
  • EdAdm 554 Leading & Transforming School Cultures (3.0)
  • EdAdm 556 School Systems as Learning Cultures (3.0)
  • EdAdm 558 Developmental Needs of Diverse Learners (3.0)
  • EdAdm 559 Design and Delivery of School Curriculum (3.0)
  • EdAdm 575 Legal and Ethical Dimensions of Educational Leadership (3.0)
  • ResEv 550 Educational Research
  • EdAdm 591 Supervised Field Experience (6.0)

Superintendent Licensure Option (Min. 27 credits)

  • EdAdm 620 Program Induction Seminar (3.0)
  • EdAdm 621 Aligning the System for Student Achievement (5.0)
  • EdAdm 622 Maximizing Human Resources for Student Achievement (3.0)
  • EdAdm 623 Mid-Program Leadership Seminar (1.0)
  • EdAdm 624 School Finance (2.0)
  • EdAdm 631 Achieving Results Through Accountability Strategies (5.0)
  • EdAdm 632 Using System Assets to Create a Culture of Learning (3.0)
  • EdAdm 633 Career Induction Seminar (1.0)
  • EdAdm 634 School Business Management and Accountability (2.0)
  • EdAdm 691 Clinical Dilemmas of Practice (3.0)

NOTE: Additional hours may be necessary to make up any deficiencies from the master’s program.

Research Core Courses (12-14 credits)

  • ResEv 552 Basic Educational Statistics (3.0)
    • OR Stat 401 Statistical Methods for Research Workers (4.0)
  • ResEv 580 Qualitative Research Methodology (3.0)
  • ResEv 553 Intermediate Educational Statistics (3.0)
    • OR Stat 402 Statistical Design and Analysis Experiments (3.0)
    • OR ResEv680 Critical Issues in Interpretive Methodology (3.0)
  • Res Ev 597 Program Evaluation
  • EdAdm 615B Dissertation Seminar (3.0)
    • OR ResEv 554 Intermediate Research Methods (3.0)

NOTE: ResEv 550 Educational Research (3.0) is a prerequisite to ResEv552 and ResEv580, so doesn't count as research credit.

NOTE: Usually we advise students to take 552 & 580 (intro quant & qual) so that they have the basic knowledge of each and then take the advanced version (553 or 680) of whichever method they plan to use for their dissertation. So if you want to do a quantitative dissertation, your sequence would be 580-552-553, and if you wanted to do a qualitative dissertation, it would be 580-680-552. Qualitative (580) is harder to get into and 680 is currently offered only in the spring, so if you want to do a qualitative dissertation, try to get 580 scheduled in the fall.

Ed Ad Coursework (12 credit)
In 2010 the Ed Ad faculty created new doctoral seminars in order to help students meet the requirement that they take 12 hours of ISU Educational Administration courses. They are:

Ed Ad 651X Ethics, Care, and Spirituality in Administrative Practice (Marshall) (3.0) - Wednesdays, Summers
Ed Ad 652X Critical Theories of Practice (3.0) -
Ed Ad 653X International & Comparative Education (3.0)- Spring 2013
Ed Ad 654X Immigration & Education: Historical and Contemporary Issues in K-12 Schools - Spring 2013 (3.0)

After the creation of the School of Education (2012), we also suggest CI 601 and CI 602 (which meet as a sequence in the fall and spring) as alternatives to the above courses. If you have a different doctoral-level course that you believe would meet your needs because of your dissertation topic or career goals, discuss it with your advisor.

If the Ed Ad courses aren't offered, you'll need to take:

Coursework Outside Emphasis (9 credits)

Coursework outside of the educational administration emphasis is intended to provide breadth to the program of study and to allow students to pursue study that will complement and expand their knowledge base related to areas of interest. Masters coursework could be counted as all or part of this requirement.

Capstone Experience (3 credits)

Students finish their coursework and then conduct a "mini-project" between their coursework and the dissertation. This is typically 35-50 pages and usually conducts some kind of pilot for their dissertation.
  • ELPS 616

Dissertation Research (12 credits)

  • EdAdm 699

Important Note About "Residency"

Before spring 2013, there was a residency requirement. The Graduate College required that 24 credit hours be taken in two terms or two terms and a summer (fall, spring summer consecutively). The terms must start in the fall -- i.e., an academic year -- and could be taken at any point in your program. Often people used their dissertation hours to meet this requirement.

In March 2013, the School of Education received a waiver of the Residency Requirement, effective immediately. Students who file their Program of Studies form after March 2013 do not need to meet the residency requirement.

If you have already filed a Program of Studies form which planned courses to meet the residency requirement and now you no longer need those courses, you can file a Modification to the POS form. You'll need to discuss this with your major professor and get approval from the rest of your committee.

Total Program Credits: Minimum 75 hours

NOTE: Master’s level coursework may be accessed to meet the university minimum of 72 graduate credits, provided that these courses are approved by the POS committee and ISU Graduate College. At least 36 credits must be earned at Iowa State University. Students must complete 24 hours in a 12-month period to satisfy university residency requirements.

The Steps You Must Take in Your Ph.D Program

  • Select Your Doctoral Committee (5 members):

    • 1 committee chair from Ed Ad (Marshall)
    • 2 faculty members (recommended to come from Ed Ad -- above plus Beatty or Van Gorp)
    • 2 committee membes from the School of Education or outside the department faculty
    • You must invite each person via E-mail. You also must fill out the Committee Appointment Form [MS Word Doc], and send it to Holly Ryan.
Sample POS Committee Invitation Letter for Students
  • Dr. Dandy,

  • My name is Samantha Student and I am in the Ed Adm doctoral program. Pauline Professor is my major professor. I am working with her on putting my committee together. Would you be willing to serve on my committee?

  • My research focus is at-risk education. I am very interested in how funding is propelled to the secondary level and very little to the elementary. Early interventions typically do not occur. By the time students are at the secondary level, high schools may get them to graduate but their success beyond is not significant.

  • If you would be able to serve on my committee, I’d greatly appreciate your guidance

  • Thanks,

  • Samantha

  • Samantha Student
  • Assistant Principal
  • Iowa's Best High School
  • 1000 Iowa Blvd.
  • Iowaville, IA 59999
  • 515-555-1212

  • You must fill out POS form Development and Approval of Program of Studies (POS)

  • You must also fill out POS Form [MS Word Doc] & POS Supplemental Form [MS Word Doc].

    • Program requirements are as follows:
      • 12 hours in EdAd at ISU
      • 4 hours of required doctoral seminars
      • 12-14 hours of research core (Pre-req-Resev 550; See POS sheet for required course options)
      • 9 hours outside major
      • 3 hours of capstone experience (ELPS 616)
      • 12 hours of Dissertation research (EdAdm 699)
      • 24 semester credits in a 12-month period must be taken to satisfy residency. Dissertation hours can be used.
      • 72 hours minimum required for degree
      • At least 36 credits must be taken at ISU
      • No non-graded transfer classes allowed (ISU classes with “S” are okay)
      • Must have earned a B or higher for transfer classes
  • Set Your 1st POS Meeting [Doesn't Need to be Full Committee, but should contain as many people as possible from the student's committee so that (hopefully) everyone can meet you and have input on your program of study. This reduces surprises later.

  • Committee approves your POS. POS Approval Form is signed and Holly submits it for you.

    • You will need to complete your degree within 7 years of admittance. If course credits from past courses are used as transfer credits, you need to count from those dates. If it exceeds 7 years, your advisor or program coordinator will need to submit an Over-age Course Memo.
  • Complete your coursework.

  • Work on and complete the Portfolio.

    • All PhD students also must do a portfolio, which is based on the PhD rubrics. It's a departmental, not Ed Ad, requirement, which, in conjunction with the capstone, replaces the preliminary oral exam. The capstone is often part of the portfolio, since many students use it as evidence of meeting their research standard, but it doesn't have to be. Joanne Marshall has sample portfolios if you'd like to see them.
    • Be sure to write 3 self-assessments per standard. Check self-assessment criteria on ELPS webpage. -- See above about first self-assessment at the first POS meeting for accurate web address
    • You need 2 artifacts and a reflection page for each of the 6 domains
    • Domain descriptions and evaluation rubrics on ELPS webpage (currently

Note on Over-age courses
  • In the event that you have courses that are over 5 years old that you wish to bring into your program, a memo will have to be written by the POS faculty chair requesting a waiver. Here is a template that you could fill out in advance and send to your advisor (thereby making their day).

Over-age Waiver Memo Template
TO: Dr. David Holger

Graduate Dean
Graduate College

FROM: NameOfProfessor, POS Chair
for Ms. Student Name

RE: Overage coursework

DATE: December 15, 2011

On behalf of the POS Committee for Ms. Student Name, I am asking for approval of the overage courses listed on line 1-11 from Name of University on the attached Program of Study.

Ms. Name has remained current in the field of this coursework through her former positions as Assistant Dean of Students at Amazing Outcomes North High School as well as her current position supervising student teachers and field experience students at the University of Middle Southeastern Iowa.

Her POS Committee will ensure that she has remained current in the field at the time of her preliminary oral examination. If you have any questions, please contact me.

NameOfProfessor, POS Chair

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

  • Set Your 2nd POS Meeting: Capstone Project Proposal [At Least Three Committee Members)

    • YOU need to set up this meeting.
    • Doesn't Need to be Full Committee. Minimally at least three, with absentees submitting comments to the student and chair via email. You don't want to be in the position of eventually presenting a capstone that is news to some of the committee.
    • Submit Capstone proposal to Chair.
    • Once chair is satisfied, submit Capstone proposal to other committee members
    • Set up a Capstone Proposal Meeting
    • Capstone criteria on ELPS webpage (
  • 3rd Student Meeting [Full Committee]: Capstone & Portfolio Defense

    • YOU set up this meeting. You need to notify Holly at least three weeks in advance so she can fill out a Preliminary Oral Exam form.
    • Invite your client for first part (not necessary for client to attend or phone in)
    • If approved, Judy types and submits form to Grad. College.
  • 4th Student Meeting [Full Committee]: Dissertation Proposal

    • YOU need to set up this meeting
    • Can consist of 20-40 page proposal or three dissertation chapters
    • Dr. Marshall currently teaches the department's dissertation seminar in the fall, which helps students put together their dissertation proposals. Or you can do it on your own.
  • Complete the needed Graduate College forms

    • Complete application for graduation
      • NOTE: graduation application form / diploma slip needs to be filed by Holly the first week of the semester in which you expect to graduate.
    • 3 weeks prior to defense date, you must submit the Oral Exam Form (same as Diss. Defense) to Graduate College.
    • provide copies to committee 3 weeks in advance
  • Final Student Meeting with Committee [Full Committee]: Dissertation Defense

    • YOU set up your Dissertation Defense date, again notifying Holly so she can fill out a final oral exam form.
  • Submit your thesis to thesis office. See Grad College electronic thesis site

  • Provide a copy of the capstone, portfolio, and dissertation to Holly. Provide a bound copy of the dissertation and regular copy of the portfolio and capstone to Dissertation chair.

Contacts for Students

Marjorie Smith, Administrator
School of Education
Iowa State University
N121 Lagomarcino Hall
Ames, IA 50011-3195
Telephone (515) 294-4143
Fax (515) 294-4942

To check on forms, transcripts, register for classes (basically everything else) call:

Holly Ryan, Record Analyst

School of Education
Iowa State University
N121 Lagomarcino Hall
Ames, IA 50011-3195
Telephone (515) 294-1241
Fax (515) 294-4942

A Checklist for Your Quest for POS Approval

Make Sure You Have...


What is allowed to be transferred in from a student's masters degree? Who decides? What if I have an MBA or other non-educational degree?

Some. Your advisor gets to decide.

How many credits may a student transfer into their program?


Besides the Graduate College forms, are there internal forms we should have students fill out?

Yes. Visit this page and complete the form appropriate to your path.
You should complete the appropriate form in Excel and send them to your advisor whenever you are talking about your program with your advisor. These are not a substitute for ISU's POS form, but these forms will help your planning along the way as you work to bring in transfer credits, schedule courses, etc.

What are the "rubrics?"

The rubrics are a set of forms that you fill out prior to your first POS meeting. The rubric forms are located here (under the heading "Ph.D. Assessment Rubrics"). You should assess, then mark (on the rubric form), where you think you are on each category and write a short reflection on your assessment for each of the 9 major areas (a paragraph for each will do). Bring these to the POS meeting. You don't have to do the technology rubric anymore.


You'll complete the rubrics again at your preliminary oral, updating and lengthening your reflection (1-3 pages for each) and adding a couple of artifacts providing evidence of your progress in each rubric. Together with a resume and a statement about yourself as a learner, the rubrics make up your doctoral portfolio.

Are there hard and fast rules about what constitutes an elective?
No, whatever is useful for the your program AND approved by the advisor.
Example: Our program once had a student doing a dissertation on African American spirituality, so took a class with Dr. Mary Sawyer in Religious Studies on the Black church in America. Another student we had was studying school finance; he took a class over in the business school.

What paperwork am I responsible for?

You should:
1. Put together your own POS paperwork
2. Put together a Committee Appointment Form
Both these forms are on the forms page of the Grad College Website.

What about creating a POS Committee?

The advisor will help the you select who you want to have on their committee.
The POS committee has 5 members.
You should put two tenure track people from EDAD, then add two clinical from EDAD and then an ELPS person or outside person that makes the most sense.

Can I switch major professors / POS committee members later if I change my topic?

Absolutely. You can change whomever you like as long as you keep the same number of tenure-track / clinical / outside person slots.

Should I set a POS meeting early in the program?

Yes, at some point you will need to schedule a POS meeting. This should be near the beginning of your program.
It's your responsibility to set the POS meetings.

When do I prepare a capstone proposal?

You need to write a Capstone proposal. It has to have a client and be related to your dissertation. It, in conjunction with the portfolio, replaces prelim orals for us. It's an applied research project.
The student does a capstone project and presents it and their doctoral portfolio at a "Preliminary Oral" meeting.
See Joanne Marshall's for a capstone prospectus outline.

What is the doctoral portfolio?

A compilation of evidence in 6-9 areas within which you must demonstrate competency. See "rubrics" above.

When do I write my dissertation proposal?

When you are done with the capstone and successfully defended it, you should take the Dissertation Seminar. You write your dissertation proposal in that semester, get feedback from the professor leading the seminar, and by January your major professor says Yea or Nay as to the strength and readiness of your proposal. Then the major advisor acts as the gatekeeper for the rest of the committee in shepherding drafts to them.

Who teaches the disseration seminar?

Joanne Marshall has taught the seminar in the past. See course website . It's currently scheduled for fall semesters and meets half on campus, half online.

Where are the capstone guidelines?

They are here:

When do I have meetings of my full committee?

The only two meetings that the entire committee has to be at are:
The Prelim Oral
Final Defense

How soon should I register for capstone?

Not until you are done with coursework.

How long does it take to finish?

Often people spend 1-2 academic years in course work and then start their capstones and dissertations. The Graduate College lists defense deadlines for graduation each year. You can backwards map from those deadlines and work with your major professor in order to figure out your schedule. For example, if you wanted to graduate in spring 2012, the last day to defend your dissertation is April 13. You need to allow time to schedule the oral, for your committee members to read your work (at least three weeks), and for your major professor to give you feedback on the first draft and for you to revise it. Work with your major professor to figure out what a reasonable date for your first draft would be. (E.g., Dr. Marshall would say March 1 for spring graduation, June 1 for summer graduation, and October 1 for fall graduation.)