Professional Practitioner Doctorate Opens New Doors

Monday, June 20 2011

MOSCOW, Idaho – In response to a national and regional need, the University of Idaho is opening new opportunities in education through a professional practitioner doctoral program starting this fall in Rexburg.

The doctorate focuses on applied research, teaching/learning and service/outreach for professionals in or related to education.

“In the recent past, the differences between the Ph.D. and the Ed.D. really became increasingly blurred,” said Jim Gregson, associate dean in the College of Education. “In some cases, coursework and doctoral studies for the Ph.D. focused on local practice, while coursework and doctoral studies for the Ed.D. focused on highly empirical and theoretical research at the national and international levels.”

According to Gregson, the degree is part of a national movement to make education more powerful in its ability to address local problems that may have global applications. He adds the program also will help people analyze data that already has been collected in a useful way for the learning institution, community and stakeholders.

“Schools are often data rich, but analysis poor,” said Gregson.

He noted the college’s efforts in developing and delivering the new program “is symbolic of our valuing both doctoral degrees, but understanding that different populations have different needs and interests with respect to doctoral studies.”

According to Gregson, superintendents, principals in local school districts, and professors at regional colleges and universities that focus on teaching rather than on basic research, as well as state and community agency professionals value a doctoral degree that requires a dissertation because it is highly relevant, applicable and accessible to the communities and stakeholders they serve.

Consequently, the professional practitioner degree will work on a dissertation that uses more accessible language and can be delivered in a non-traditional format; in this way, the document can be used more effectively to promote change. The course also is distinctive because students will work on elements of their dissertation as part of their coursework, in addition to time spent outside the classroom.

“We often work on issues that impact a large group of people, but sometimes we produce documents that are not very reader-friendly to the very people it concerns,” said Gregson. “We are using our efforts with this professional practice doctorate to experiment with some very different approaches. For example, while these students will be exposed to as much theory and research methodology as our other doctoral students, they’ll focus on ‘what does this theory and research mean in their or their organization’s practice?’”

U-Idaho’s College of Education is working with Brigham Young University-Idaho to deliver the program. BYU-Idaho’s recent transformation to a four-year university has contributed to the need for doctoral-level education for many of its professors. In addition, the U-Idaho’s education college has had several inquiries from community members in the area who have expressed interest in the program.

“As a higher education institution, we’re partnering with them to help us understand how we can improve practices, and better meet the needs and serve the interests of important stakeholders,” said Gregson. “This program really helps professionals rethink what they are doing and explore new ideas.”

The new doctoral program – similar to a previous program at the university, but with a changed delivery system among other enhancements – is a self-sustaining program that involves a cohort of 23 to 25 students over a three-year period. After the cohort’s second year, the program will be evaluated to see if a new cohort will be formed.

The program includes peer and collaborative learning between the cohort groups and requires 18 hours of research coursework, but the cohort will look at considerable data collectively. Gregson expects groups of students to align themselves with topics, though they’ll have a different slant or ideas from the core review of literature depending on their educational experiences.

Gregson stated that the program is a hybrid of intensive face-to-face teaching and multiple forms of online delivery since Rexburg is a good distance from campus centers.

“We’re really focusing on engaged scholarship,” said Gregson. “The cohort model is a powerful tool.”

Bryan Maughn directs the program and currently is working to recruit and secure commitments for the first cohort.

The tentative application deadline for the cohort is July 21. For more information, contact Maughn at (208) 709-2777 or
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s land-grant institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year. The University of Idaho is classified by the prestigious Carnegie Foundation as high research activity. The student population of 12,000 includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars, who select from more than 130 degree options in the colleges of Agricultural and Life Sciences; Art and Architecture; Business and Economics; Education; Engineering; Law; Letters, Arts and Social Sciences; Natural Resources; and Science. The university also is charged with the statewide mission for medical education through the WWAMI program. The university combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities and focuses on helping students to succeed and become leaders. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. For more information, visit