College of Education & Human Services

Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) - Educational Leadership PreK-12 Track

Doctorate of Education Program Overview

The School of Education offers a graduate program in educational leadership leading to a Educational Doctorate (Ed.D.). The first cohort doctoral students began in 2001 with 22 students. Twenty-one of which completed their program and successfully completed their dissertation, since that time 16 cohorts have begun the program with cohorts ranging from 5 to 21 students. During the 2018-2019 school year, 19 students earned their doctoral degrees.

The doctoral program develops leaders who enable educational institutions, regardless of the obstacles, to exceed. This goal is achieved by means of a collaborative, inquiry-based learning structure that unites a group of practicing professionals as they explore how theory, research, applied technology, and heightened political understanding serve to resolve the issues educational leaders regularly face.

Beginning with the Fall 2016 semester, the doctoral program has two options. The traditional option is for those educators who intend to work in the PreK-12 environment as teachers, principals, central office administrators, superintendents and consultants. For those interested in superintendent licensure and the doctoral degree (PreK-12 option), both programs have been redesigned to work seamlessly to achieve those objectives. Twenty-four semester hours of the superintendent licensure coursework also counts towards the doctoral degree.

The educational leadership doctoral program at Western Illinois University offers courses through the Weekend Academy format. In this format, classes meet on Saturdays (8 a.m.-5 p.m.) and Sundays (8 a.m.-1:30 p.m.). A 3 s.h. class meets three weekends a semester. Students generally take two courses a semester. Courses are offered at both the Macomb and the Moline campuses. Two-way and three-way video conferencing is utilized for some coursework. Some courses are delivered in a hybrid format (a combination of face-to-face and online).

Educational Leadership Program History

Educational Leadership has long been recognized for strong programs leading to school principal and superintendent certification. The department has certified more than 2,000 principals and 600 superintendents since 1967 when Illinois began approval of administrator preparation programs. These programs have received National Recognition by the Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) and the Specialized Professional Association for school leadership preparation programs. The Ed.D. degree extends the department’s other program efforts and, specifically, builds upon the Superintendent Licensure program.

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.


There must be continuous registration from the time of the dissertation research 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 or dissertation 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 Ed.S. program must be completed within eight years of the initiation of doctoral coursework. 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 (12 s.h.)


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. 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 request 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 Educational Leadership program. The fourth member must be a member of the WIU 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.


Step 1 - Application for admittance to the Western Illinois School of Graduate Studies

Step 2 - Application for admission to the Ed.D in Educational Leadership Program

Additional Information