Terminal degrees mark the end-points of formalized education, and as there are many routes to learning, there are many such degrees, ranging from professional master’s degrees such as the MArch, MBA and MFA to the many forms of doctorate. The proliferation of degrees prompts the consideration of a Doctor of Education Leadership vs. Education Leadership PhD. The differences between them are not necessarily evident upon an examination of their names, but the information below should provide some clarification of them.
Doctor of Education Leadership
Jack K. Nelson of the University of Idaho and Calleen Coorough of Lewis & Clark State College note in “Content Analysis of the PhD Versus EdD Dissertation” that a doctorate of education or EdD–under which rubric a doctorate in education leadership will generally fall–emphasizes educational practice. That is, it works primarily to equip students to carry out and oversee the processes of teaching and learning in practical settings such as schools and colleges. In that respect, it is a teaching degree rather than a subject degree, and those who hold it will likely be either expert teachers in a content area developed at the undergraduate level or educational administrators tasked with ensuring the quality of curriculum and instruction. Such recipients of the degree as Naima Duncan and Sean Chandler bear out the notion; their work is in the classroom and in the field, and their research has largely consisted of reports from their experiences. They seek to learn what does work, instead of looking at what might work better, as the PhD discussed below does.
Education Leadership PhD
Nelson and Coorough also note, following traditional understandings, that the PhD–Doctor of Philosophy, one of the oldest recognized degrees in the Western university system–in Education Leadership is a research-oriented degree. That is to say that it depends upon research and an understanding of theories underlying educational practice more than upon the practice itself. This is true of most if not all PhD degrees; the usual understanding of the degree is that it is earned after completing substantial coursework and making an original contribution to human knowledge in the form of a doctoral thesis or dissertation. Because of the research emphasis, there is a perception that the PhD is the result of a more rigorous course of study than does the EdD. This is not entirely fair, as there are many EdD programs that are quite rigorous and PhD programs that are lax, but it is true that the research leading to a PhD tends to be both more extensive and more general than that which leads to an EdD. The difference can be likened to a before-and-after scenario, with the PhD generating ideas that the EdD then tests out in practice. It can also be likened to the distinction between the undergraduate and graduate classrooms; the former seeks to master knowledge that already exists, while the latter seeks to make more knowledge exist.
Each degree has strengths that suits it to different people. Finding which strengths the degree supports can help a person to answer first whether a doctoral degree is the right choice; both involve significant investments of time and effort, and not all people are well served by them. If a person is, though, knowing the strengths of the degrees can help to find which is the right answer to the question of Doctor of Education Leadership vs. Education Leadership PhD.
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