Reimagining the Dissertation for Online Doctoral Students

Concurrent Session 4

Brief Abstract

The focus of this session is on the redesigned Northeastern University Doctor of Education Dissertation.  The Dissertation was redesigned to meet the needs of scholar-practitioners in an online doctoral program who can leverage skills gained through online coursework to demonstrate and disseminate knowledge.

Presenters

Sara B. Ewell, PhD, is a Teaching Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Northeastern University. In the Doctor of Education, an online program, she is the co-lead of the Curriculum, Teaching, Learning, and Leadership concentration. Dr. Ewell’s research interests include online education, social justice, educational leadership, urban education, teacher preparation and retention, and qualitative research. Dr. Ewell led the redesign of Northeastern University's Doctor of Education program to align with the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate, shifting to a Dissertation in Practice in order to best serve the needs of scholar-practitioners. Prior to joining Northeastern University, Dr. Ewell taught K-12 students in urban and suburban public school districts, taught at Stonehill College, and worked as a research assistant at University of North Carolina and the Center for Teaching Quality.

Additional Authors

Kimberly Nolan is an Associate Teaching Professor in the Graduate Programs in Education including the Doctor of Education program. Her research interests include school climate, experiential learning, action research and student-centered schools. Dr. Nolan is a leader within Northeastern’s Network of Experiential Learning Educators (NExT) within the Graduate School of Education and throughout the university. Her previous work includes experience as a middle school science teacher, middle school assistant principal and alternative high school principal.
William Henry Ewell is an Associate Professor in the Northeastern University Graduate School of Education. He previously served as department chair, Fellow in Public Policy at the Martin Institute, and Associate Professor of Political Science at Stonehill College. His research concerns American political institutions, political and policy reform, particularly education policy. He has been published in the Legislative Studies Quarterly and the Journal of Political Science Education. William’s co-authored paper “The Impact of Unified Party Government on Campaign Contributions” argues that unified party government confers a substantial fundraising advantage to intra-chamber majority parties. Prior to his academic tenure, Ewell served more than a decade in federal and state government. He served as a legislative aide in the United States Senate for Rhode Island United States Senator John Chafee. He also served former North Carolina Governor James B. Hunt at the Hunt Institute for Educational Policy and Leadership where he worked with governors and state legislators from across the country to improve their state education policy systems. Ewell is a proud father of three children, Will, 8, Emma, 7 and Max, 10 months. He is married to Sara Ewell, a Northeastern University faculty member, and together they are passionate about education, social justice, the environment and raising their three children to love learning and have a passion for life.

Extended Abstract

The focus of this Discovery Session in the Teaching and Learning Effectiveness track is on the redesigned Northeastern University Doctor of Education Dissertation.  The Dissertation was redesigned to meet the needs of scholar-practitioners in an online doctoral program who can leverage skills gained through online coursework to demonstrate and disseminate knowledge. The shift to the below described dissertation was done in response to faculty, administrator, and student desire for a more relevant, forward thinking reporting of research findings as well as the work of the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate.    

The Northeastern University Graduate School of Education Doctor of Education Dissertation engages students at the onset of their coursework to identify a problem of practice and work through iterative cycles of planning, data collection and analysis, change work and reflection. This approach is identified as action research. Action research supports an experiential degree that works toward social justice through on-going change work.  Students graduate from the EdD program with the habits of mind to approach on going challenges and serve as change agents within their organizations and larger professional contexts with the goal of improving the human condition.

The Dissertation in Practice represents the culmination of two years of coursework and two cycles of action research.  The Dissertation in Practice requires three components to disseminate knowledge gained through on-going change work.  They include: 1) Action Research Written Report 2) Change Agent Dissemination-with the option to present to stakeholders, create a multimedia presentation aimed at a broader online audience or write a publishable journal article 3) Final Reflection analyzing impact of research with the option to be oral or written.  

The session will present the process of redesigning the dissertation and final products.  It will then turn to group discussion about the possibilities for reimagining the format for dissertations and formal research in online academic programs.  Participants will be split into small groups to brainstorm ideas and identify potential challenges.  The session will end with a large group share out of ideas and discussion of next steps.