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Contact Information
Bryan Maughan, Ph.D.
Director, Professional Practices Ed.D.
College of Education
1776 Science Center Drive
Idaho Falls, ID 83460

About Professional Practices Doctorate

The Professional Practices Doctorate (Ed. D.) is an applied research degree that provides students with the opportunity to perform research within the context of their chosen profession. Students will be able to integrate rigorous academic professional development in research methodology to their professional practice and focus their inquiry on real-world, real-time applications.

 The following is a list of characteristics of a Professional Practice Doctorate (PPD). While this list is not exhaustive and doesn’t reflect characteristics of all professional practices doctorates, there are similarities that are common among all of them.

  • Courses prepare students for professional practice in the field
  • The content and skills students learn are broader and more inter-disciplinary than traditional PhD programs because professional practice requires a broader range of skills, expertise, and knowledge.
  • The components of coursework, research, and fieldwork are more integrated and connected in PPD programs. Part of the fieldwork associated with the UI PPD is the opportunity to enter unique mentoring relationships.
  • Faculty in PPD programs typically include more practicing professionals than is typical of traditional PhD programs
  • The curriculum includes more relevant field experiences that prepare students for professional practice.
  • PPD programs tend to rely on portfolios rather than qualifying or comprehensive exams for student assessment.
  • PPD programs tend to emphasize ‘more integration with the professional workplace’ and this can often ‘reduce the dominance of the university sector (the ‘academy’) and its tendency to privilege academic knowledge over professional knowledge’ (Green & Powell, 2005, p. 88).
  • ‘There is a strong practice element that, in turn, is mediated by intellectual understanding and reflection’ (p.90).
  • Students in PPD programs typically complete the doctorate part-time while working full-time and carrying family responsibilities.
  • In recognition of the experience and expertise students can contribute to a doctoral program, PPD programs often accept students in cohorts that complete the program together and thus form a cooperating and collaborating group that provides support and encouragement to members of the cohort, and share expertise.
  • Dissertations in PPD programs tend to be shorter and to focus on problems of practice.
  • Dissertations in PPD programs are typically done ‘in the field’ and are likely to use methods or research and scholarship suited to the context of practice.
  • Traditional PhD research dissertations generally use a research model that involves conducting research to test the implications of a particular theory in tightly controlled settings; PPD dissertations generally address a real world problem and may develop or use theory but the goal may not be theory development. The goal may be to develop a solution to a real-world problem. The result of a traditional dissertation is theoretical knowledge; the result of a PPD dissertation is professional knowledge (Willis, Inman, & Valenti, 2010, pgs 24-25).
  • The deliverable of the UI PPD program will be a Three Article Dissertation (TAD). These articles are not expected to be lengthy, but they will be expected to be publish-ready by the end of the three-year program. These articles will provide stakeholders with well-researched information to be considered for improved professional practices.

 This discipline-based educational leadership program is an exciting and meaningful way to earn a doctorate degree—a terminal degree that is both rigorous and highly relevant. While this program further prepares students to more effectively contribute to their professions, it also prepares leaders for related teaching/learning, applied research and service/outreach areas in higher education.