Education Doctoral Program

Graduate College of Education

Dean: Dr. Cynthia Grutzik

Educational Leadership

BH 521
Phone: (415) 405-4103
Director: Dr. Barbara Henderson
Graduate Coordinator: Dr. Violet Ballard

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership

The Ed.D. in Educational Leadership is a three-year, intensive, multidisciplinary program that culminates in a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) with specializations in P-12 or community college leadership.  The program focuses on transformative leadership, social justice, and equity.  The program's purpose is to prepare educational leaders who envision and lead social justice reform for California public education from early childhood through community college and other postsecondary settings.

Our Vision

This applied doctoral program prepares educational leaders who will work in California public school settings including early childhood sites, elementary, middle, and high schools, and our community college system. The program strives to prepare a new generation of educational leaders who reflect the vast diversity of our state, and to that end, we honor the cultural and personal knowledge, as well as the resiliency that our students bring.

Our goal is to prepare leaders who can enhance development, learning, and academic achievement for all students. We prepare leaders who will work in our local communities to equalize student access to the cultural capital that a rigorous education based on open-minded inquiry and reflection can provide. San Francisco State University’s Ed.D. program is centered on issues of leadership, equity, and social justice and strives to use curricular materials and instructional methods that embrace this courageous approach. Our doctoral faculty are a multi-disciplinary group who are conducting research and taking practical action as public intellectuals around these same issues of social justice in education.

A distinctive aspect of our program is how the doctoral faculty conceptualize the dissertation as a problem of practice, a form of research most applicable for students earning an Ed.D. Specifically, we support our doctoral students to undertake practical and applied research including evaluation projects, practitioner research, participant action research, self-studies, and non-traditional research forms, such as narrative inquiry, autoethnography, as well as other research genres that involve artistic or creative expression.

Regardless of form, the overarching goal for our graduates’ culminating research projects is that these original inquiry projects will make a positive difference in the educational opportunities California provides for all of its people. These culminating projects should also demonstrate the potential to create broader ripples of influence, as our graduates take on increasingly significant leadership roles in educational institutions and community organizations.

Program Features

The curriculum addresses three major categories: (1) leadership and administration, (2) social justice and equity, and (3) inquiry. Other notable aspects of the program include:

  • Face-to-face classes and a cohort model provide ongoing support and build professional networking opportunities among peers.
  • Culminating research projects focus on addressing current and urgent issues of practice in diverse educational settings and take action to improve programs and systems for increased equity and to meet social justice goals.
  • Course scheduling accommodates the needs of working professionals.  Courses are offered on weekends during fall, spring, and summer semesters.
  • Courses are taught by multidisciplinary faculty and educational practitioners to ensure students gain an understanding of the complexities of providing effective leadership for educational institutions, given current and historical social, political, and economic contexts.

Program Learning Outcomes

Leadership: Students will be able to:

  1. Initiate, facilitate, and sustain collaborations
  2. Make complex decisions
  3. Act as ethical change agents
  4. Apply knowledge on issues of accountability
  5. Apply knowledge of education policy, public financing, and budgeting

Equity: Students will be able to:

  1. Apply analysis of inequalities to design and lead education institutions
  2. Support effective equity-centered curricula and pedagogy
  3. Integrate research & theory with data to address barriers to recruiting and retaining people from under-represented backgrounds
  4. Integrate findings to support special needs and non-traditional students
  5. Use effective communication with underserved populations

Inquiry: Students will be able to

  1. Evaluate a range of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research on ed. leadership
  2. Use findings from relevant qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research on ed. leadership
  3. Interpret program evaluations, research reports, to identify programmatic applications of research findings
  4. Design and carry out educational research that addresses a practical problem of educational leadership

Admission Requirements

The program encourages individuals to apply who have a background, experience, and potential in educational leadership in the community, early childhood, P-12 and postsecondary settings, who are committed to social justice, and who seek to build their expertise and capacity as agents of change through a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) 

The program requires the following for admission:

  • A master's degree from an accredited institution of higher education with a cumulative grade point average in graduate study of 3.0 or above.
  • Demonstrated educational leadership experience or potential in educational settings, community-based organizations, or policy development and analysis.
  • Demonstrated academic excellence, problem-solving ability, and interest in critically assessing and bringing about improvements in current educational policies and practices.
  • Professional résumé or Curriculum Vitae.
  • Three letters of recommendation attesting to the candidate's leadership and scholarship potential.
  • A written personal statement reflecting an understanding of the equity challenges leaders face in California's public schools or community colleges/institutions of higher education and how the Ed.D. would support the applicant's professional goals.
  • A personal interview with the admissions committee.

Meeting the minimum requirements qualifies an individual for consideration, but does not guarantee admission to the program. Admission will be granted on a competitive basis. The Ed.D. in Educational Leadership does not include a second-language requirement.

Program Requirements

Criteria for Continuing in the Program

  • Students must advance to candidacy and complete all courses and milestones demonstrating skill, academic competence, and standards of scholarship and professionalism expected in this doctoral program.
  • Students are expected to make satisfactory progress in accordance with the Ed.D. cohort structure and program of study.
  • Students must maintain at least a 3.0 cumulative grade point average.
  • Students may not have a grade point average below 3.0 in two successive semesters.
  • Students must pass all program milestones within two attempts.

Unit Requirements

The program expects the following of students in completing unit requirements:

  • The program of study is composed of at least 60 semester units earned in graduate status at the doctoral level.
  • At least 42 semester units must be completed in residence at SF State. The program leadership may authorize the substitution of credit earned by alternate means for no more than 18 units of these 60 required units.
  • A grade point average of 3.0 (grade of B) or better must be maintained in all courses taken to satisfy the requirements for the degree, and courses in which no letter grade is assigned will not be used in computing the grade point average.
  • No more than 12 semester units will be allowed for the culminating experience or dissertation.

Program Milestones

Students in this program continuously self-reflect and receive feedback from faculty on their learning. Additionally, there are three milestones that provide formal assessment during the program:

  • The initial milestone occurs after the first year of coursework when the student must pass the qualifying examination to advance to the second year. The qualifying examination is a short paper that is read and scored by a faculty panel.
  • The second milestone is the dissertation proposal defense, which should be completed during the second year of coursework. It requires an oral defense of the student's research proposal to their dissertation committee. The dissertation study should be related to a significant leadership problem or issue fundamentally grounded in equity and social justice in the context of early childhood, P-12, community college, or other postsecondary education.
  • The third and final milestone is the presentation of the student's dissertation study through an oral defense of their work before their dissertation committee, including completion of all required revisions, as stipulated by their committee.

The dissertation must focus on a significant problem or issue and have the potential to contribute to the improvement of public education. Work in support of this final research project is embedded throughout the curriculum. All research undertaken for the dissertation must meet the requirements and gain the approval of the University Institutional Review Board and the Office for the Protection of Human and Animal Subjects. The dissertation may take a variety of forms and must demonstrate a strong scholarly and professional foundation of knowledge on the part of the student, with a strong potential to impact educational systems and or policy in California.

Contact Information

For application details, please visit the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership website:

Dr. Barbara Henderson, Director
Ed.D. in Educational Leadership
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue, BH 521
San Francisco, CA 94132
Phone: (415) 405-4103

Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) — Minimum 60 units

To be eligible for the Ed.D. degree, the students must progress through and complete a specified pattern of study that includes 60 units of doctoral level coursework (outlined below).

In addition, students must pass the three program milestones:

  1. Qualifying exam written during the second semester;
  2. Defense of their dissertation or culminating research project proposal before the Dissertation Committee;
  3. Defense of their dissertation or culminating research project before the Dissertation Committee.

Sixty units of doctoral level coursework are comprised of 20 courses offered through the Educational Leadership Doctoral Program under three main themes: Leadership, Equity, and Inquiry. The courses are listed below:

EDDL 910Transformational Leadership and Coalition Building (Themes: Leadership and Equity)3
EDDL 911Organizational Theory, Change, and Systemic Reform (Themes: Leadership and Equity)3
EDDL 912Advanced Educational Leadership Seminar (Themes: Leadership and Equity)3
EDDL 920Literacy and English Language Learners (Themes: Leadership and Equity)3
EDDL 921Theories of Learning and Student Development in Math and Science (Themes: Leadership and Equity)3
EDDL 930Qualitative Analysis for Education Theory, Practice, and Transformative Leadership (Theme: Inquiry)3
EDDL 931Quantitative Analysis of Structural Inequality in Education (Theme: Inquiry)3
EDDL 932Transformational Strategies to Address Inequality in Education and Society (Themes: Leadership and Equity)3
EDDL 940Policy, Law, and the Political Economy of Education (Themes: Leadership and Equity)3
EDDL 941Accountability and Performance of Educational Organizations (Themes: Leadership, Equity, and Inquiry)3
EDDL 942Integrated Planning and Budget (Themes: Leadership and Equity)3
EDDL 945Communication Techniques & Strategies in Educational Leadership (Themes: Leadership and Equity)3
EDDL 961American Education Leadership (Themes: Equity and Inquiry)3
EDDL 962Analyzing Critical Issues in Education (Themes: Leadership, Equity, and Inquiry)3
EDDL 963Seminar: Linking Theory with Practice (Theme: Inquiry)3
EDDL 964Research Seminar: Analyzing Critical Issues in Teaching and Learning (Theme: Inquiry)3
EDDL 965Advanced Research Design (Theme: Inquiry)3
EDDL 966Data Collection Methods (Theme: Inquiry)3
EDDL 997Dissertation Seminar: Early Stage Writing and Data Analysis (Theme: Inquiry) (repeatable for up to 9 credits)3
EDDL 998Dissertation (Theme: Inquiry)3

Educational Leadership Discipline

EDDL 910 Transformational Leadership and Coalition Building (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: Restricted to Ed.D. in Educational Leadership students.

Reviews research about educational leadership, emphasizing transformational leadership, creating and implementing a vision; develop skills in identifying, interacting with, and mobilizing key constituents, emphasizing board relations; includes an introduction to important leaders in the field.

EDDL 911 Organizational Theory, Change, and Systemic Reform (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: Ed.D. in Educational Leadership students.

Presents key constructs from organizational theory that are critical to understanding, analyzing, and implementing organizational and systemic reform; discusses key measures of accountability used in California; provides case studies of district and college systemic reform efforts.

EDDL 912 Advanced Educational Leadership Seminar (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: Restricted to Ed.D. in Educational Leadership students. Capstone course in Ed. D. program.

Addresses key educational challenges embedded in high-level educational leadership positions through close interaction with regional educational leaders. Participants develop and present dissertation prospectuses to panels of local educational leaders.

EDDL 920 Literacy and English Language Learners (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: Ed.D. in Educational Leadership students.

Review recent research on best practices for developing the academic skills of English language learners, K-adult; includes curriculum and instruction issues at the administrative level, supervision of instruction and teacher evaluation, and approaches for implementing best practices.

EDDL 921 Theories of Learning and Student Development in Math and Science (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: Restricted to Ed.D. in Educational Leadership students.

Students analyze theories and promising practices for improving academic and life opportunity outcomes in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

EDDL 930 Qualitative Analysis for Education Theory, Practice, and Transformative Leadership (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: Ed.D. in Educational Leadership students.

Qualitative research with implications for contextualizing theory, practice, and promoting educational change through transformative leadership; emphasizes qualitative research design, collection, analysis, representation, research ethics; includes auto-ethnography, arts-based approaches, practitioner inquiry, narrative inquiry, interviewing, memos and coding, document analysis. Course content, readings, and assignments place special emphasis on qualitative research as linked with race, class, dis/ability, indigenous knowledge, gender, and sexual orientation in educational contexts.

EDDL 931 Quantitative Analysis of Structural Inequality in Education (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: Ed.D. in Educational Leadership students.

Presents research on structural inequality in education from contemporary and historical perspectives; emphasizes evidence-based, quantitative analysis of data on equity and achievement gaps in education; addresses quantitative methods, descriptive analysis, measurement, and research ethics.

EDDL 932 Transformational Strategies to Address Inequality in Education and Society (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: Restricted to Ed.D. in Educational Leadership students.

Research on historical and contemporary responses to inequality in education; includes multicultural education, the culture of poverty, single race/sex schools; new trends and strategies affecting equity in education, including immigrants, sexual identity, age, gender, organizations, and special needs learners.

EDDL 940 Policy, Law, and the Political Economy of Education (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: Ed.D. in Educational Leadership students.

Public policy processes and legislation related to education; public financing structures; schooling and school law, including fairness and justice, as well as common problems encountered in districts; special needs learner issues (i.e., older adult learners and students with disabilities).

EDDL 941 Accountability and Performance of Educational Organizations (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: Ed.D. in Educational Leadership students.

Addresses strategic planning processes, development of performance, and institutional effectiveness measures, including California education accountability structures and introduction to program evaluation, incorporating quantitative and qualitative data.

EDDL 942 Integrated Planning and Budget (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: Ed.D. in Educational Leadership students.

Budgeting and financial management in public education; budget as the manifestation of mission, goals, application of equity at district level; quantitative budget analysis skills, data presentation; financial management systems, focus on information technology, special needs learner impacts.

EDDL 945 Communication Techniques & Strategies in Educational Leadership (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: Ed.D. in Educational Leadership students.

Review research in communication styles and techniques with an emphasis on cross-cultural communication; training in public communication techniques and analysis and improvement of communication styles; use of technology, communication with public media, and date presentation.

EDDL 961 American Education Leadership (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: Restricted to Ed.D. program students.

To be completed during the first fall semester of the Ed.D. program. Introduction to doctoral-level reading, writing, research skills and research problems in the field of educational leadership. (Plus-minus letter grade only)

EDDL 962 Analyzing Critical Issues in Education (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: EDDL 961.

To be completed during the first spring semester of the Ed.D. program. Continuation of the development of doctoral-level reading, writing, research skills, and research problems in the field of educational leadership. (CR/NC grading only)

EDDL 963 Seminar: Linking Theory with Practice (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: Ed.D. in Educational Leadership students.

To be completed during the first summer session of the Ed.D. program. Guides student development of a research problem and literature review appropriate for dissertation study. (Plus-minus letter grade only)

EDDL 964 Research Seminar: Analyzing Critical Issues in Teaching and Learning (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: Restricted to Ed.D. in Educational Leadership students.

Introduction to mixed methods research; critique examples of published research and investigate qualitative and quantitative problem statements and methodologies. To be completed in the fourth semester.

EDDL 965 Advanced Research Design (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: Enrollment in the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership program.

Development of a qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods research design suitable for advanced research in education. (Plus-minus letter grade only)

EDDL 966 Data Collection Methods (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: EDDL 965.

Addressing the challenges of qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis processes. (Plus-minus letter grade only)

EDDL 997 Dissertation Seminar: Early Stage Writing and Data Analysis (Units: 3)

Prerequisites: Classified standing in Ed.D. in Educational Leadership; Advancement to candidacy; open to students who are in the third year of their doctoral program or equivalent.

Support and guidance to allow students to make substantial progress on the first half of their dissertation writing, data collection, and early analysis via conferencing, written feedback, and collaborative research and writing groups. May be repeated for a total of 6 units. (CR/NC only)

EDDL 998 Dissertation (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: Advancement to candidacy.

Independent student research leading to the completion of the doctoral dissertation; includes dissertation support seminar for sharing and critique of preliminary research findings. May be repeated for a total of 6 units. (CR/NC, RP grading only)

EDDL 999 Independent Study (Units: 1-6)

Prerequisite: Classified standing in the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership; enrollment by petition.

Intensive study of a particular problem. Study is planned, developed, and completed under the direction of program faculty. Open only to doctoral students who have demonstrated an ability to do independent work. May be repeated. (CR/NC grading only)