A revised EDL program is currently under review, anticipating a fall start date of August 26, 2019. The new program will differ from what is currently posted on this page. Sign up to receive updates as they become available.

In the first year of the program, you will complete core courses that focus on USC Rossier’s four guiding principles: leadership, learning, accountability and diversity. Subsequent coursework will build on this foundation and align with your career objectives. Each concentration will expose you to context-specific best practices and cutting edge research, while emphasizing the application of theory to practice. In the third year, you will work collaboratively with faculty and other classmates in thematic groups to complete a dissertation that addresses a contemporary problem in educational leadership.

Program Components

Component Classes Purpose
Core Courses 6 Acquire broad-based knowledge based on USC Rossier’s guiding principles
Concentration Courses 4 Gain in-depth understanding in an area related to your specific work setting and develop inquiry skills to be used in the dissertation.
Inquiry and Research Courses 2 Understand how inquiry tools are used in educational research and learn to critique and design research studies.
Thematic Dissertation 4 Learn to conduct useful and relevant research in USC Rossier’s innovative thematic format.

Concentration Areas

Educational Psychology

Ideal for professionals in K-12, higher education, and business, military and government organizations who seek to improve the motivation, achievement, performance and retention of diverse learners.

The educational psychology concentration focuses on research and practice in the areas of learning and motivation in diverse social contexts.

The coursework emphasizes:

  • how people learn
  • what motivates them
  • which instructional and motivational strategies are most effective for individuals from different cultures
  • how the social context of instruction affects learning

Educational Psychology Courses

  • Advanced Educational Measurement and Evaluation
  • Current Research in Learning
  • Issues in Human Motivation
  • Issues of Lifespan Development

Required Knowledge and Career Experience

  • Demonstrated leadership ability in diverse settings
  • Interest in improving the learning, motivation, achievement, performance, and retention of diverse learners
  • Three to five years full-time work experience in an education-related position
  • Employment in K-16, counseling, special education, social services, higher education, human performance, instructional technology, military, or business-related professional development position

Higher Education Administration

Ideal for individuals interested in pursuing careers in senior administrative leadership positions at two- and four-year colleges and universities.

The higher education administration concentration is appropriate for individuals pursuing positions in student, academic and administrative affairs. The courses in this concentration will ground you in administrative theory and best practices, policy, economic issues, assessment, students (and how they learn) and the history and major philosophical assumptions that undergird the system of higher education.

Required Knowledge and Career Experience

  • Administration in Higher Education
  • Advanced Student Development in Higher Education
  • Assessment, Organizational Learning, and Performance
  • Finance in Higher Education

Required Knowledge and Career Experience

  • Master’s degree in higher education, college student personnel, counseling, education policy or related field
  • Experience in institution of higher learning (two-year, four-year) working in educational contexts
  • Three to five years of full-time work experience at a two- or four-year college or university providing direct services to students or working in an academic or administrative unit or at least three years full-time teaching experience in an academic discipline at a community college

K-12 Leadership in Urban School Settings

Ideal for current and prospective K-12 site and district administrators and/or those working with educational policy and practice at local, state and federal levels.

Courses in the K-12 leadership concentration meet the California Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (CPSELS). The course sequence culminates in either Leadership for Principals or Superintendents, providing an integrated composite of effective leadership practices, and resulting in more effective organizational outcomes, including increased student achievement.

K-12 Leadership in Urban School Settings Courses

  • Economics of Education
  • Politics and Policies of Educational Governance
  • School Leadership and Instructional Improvement
  • Leadership for Principals/Leadership for Superintendents

Required Knowledge and Career Experience

  • Experience in/with urban education K-12, policy, non-profit organization
  • Leadership experience in current position
  • 3-5 years full-time teaching experience or experienced teacher leadership

Teacher Education in Multicultural Societies (TEMS)

Ideal for aspiring leaders in the field of pre-service and/or in-service teacher preparation, focusing on more equitable learning for culturally and linguistically diverse students in urban settings.

By moving between theory, practice and policy, the TEMS concentration courses will prepare you to contribute to teacher education in urban settings, whether in university-based teacher education programs or as curriculum leaders in K-12 settings.

Teacher Education in Multicultural Societies (TEMS) Courses

  • Curriculum, Teacher Preparation, and Student Learning
  • Examining Literacy Theories and Practice
  • Research and Practice in the Preparation of Teachers
  • Pedagogy in Teacher Education

Required Knowledge and Career Experience

  • Master of Science or Master of Arts degree preferred
  • Experience working in and/or with schools
  • Three to five years of full-time work experience in an educational/related setting. Competitive candidates will have a minimum of three years of K-12 teaching experience.

Inquiry and Research

The two inquiry methods courses introduce the knowledge and skills you will need as a leader to ask the right questions, be a good observer and make effective decisions.

Inquiry courses enhance your ability to critique and design research studies. You will work in groups to examine literature in your subject field and learn how to apply important research tools such as questionnaires and interview guides.

The Thematic Dissertation

Our Unique Approach

The Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership program offers innovative thematic dissertation groups, in which you will work collaboratively with faculty and practitioners from your field to study a contemporary problem in educational leadership. Bringing together a strong combination of experiences and perspectives to assist in understanding the problem, your group’s work will culminate in a set of unique, complementary dissertations around thematically related topics.

You will write an individual dissertation, but access your faculty group leaders and fellow group members for support, literature and research design recommendations and feedback on drafts. Because your studies are related, your group members will hold each other accountable for staying on track and considering the most relevant theoretical and conceptual frameworks. The camaraderie and built-in support will motivate you to stay focused, which ultimately helps to shorten the dissertation process. This dissertation approach, which has been utilized by USC Rossier faculty for more than ten years, will allow you to explore important questions and conduct research like administrators do in everyday settings–collaboratively.

Thematic dissertation groups appeal to a wide range of student interests. Some are concentration-specific, while others lend themselves to cross-concentration exploration. Recent themes include:

  • Access and Persistence in Postsecondary Education
  • Data-based Decisions in Education: What Data? Which Decisions?
  • Effective Leadership Practices of the New Principal: Making a Successful Transition
  • Improving Instruction for Professional Education
  • Large Scale Educational Reform: Assessing the Evidence
  • Student Engagement in High-Performing Urban High Schools
  • Teaching and Learning: Innovative University School Partnerships for the Purpose of Teacher Education
  • The 21st Century: The Changing Role and the Challenges of the Urban Superintendent
  • The Role of the Academic Dean in Changing the Academy
  • Urban Schools That Have Closed the Achievement Gap


Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate
USC Rossier’s EDL program is an active member of the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate, a national effort by 55 institutions to reform and strengthen the education doctorate.