Addressing Critical Problems through Leadership Portfolios: A Content Analysis

Addressing Critical Problems through Leadership Portfolios: A Content Analysis

Joan L. Buttram (University of Delaware, USA), Doug Archbald (University of Delaware, USA) and Elizabeth Nash Farley-Ripple (University of Delaware, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0445-0.ch015
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This chapter reports on a content analysis of portfolios used as the capstone requirement in the University of Delaware's Educational Leadership EdD program. The portfolio is focused on the demonstration of leadership to address a significant problem of practice within the candidate's organization. The findings revealed that such portfolios are likely to be rooted in the accountability and policy mandates facing the districts and other education organizations in which candidates typically work; these are the challenges that define and shape their work. Similarly, these portfolios are more likely to be focused at the organizational level; this focus reflects where the majority are situated in their organizations, where they have the most control and influence, and where they will likely see the greatest return on their investment of resources and effort. This study also offers a framework to examine other non-traditional capstone projects.
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The first PhD’s in education were conferred near the turn of the century; the first EdD in 1921. In the 50s and 60s the number of degree recipients of both types mushroomed which inevitably raised curiosity about whether there were significant differences between the two degrees. There were not, studies showed (Eels, 1963; Brown, 1966; Ludlow, 1964). Over the next several decades more studies showed similar findings and most concluded the EdD should carve out a more distinctive, professional preparation role with a dissertation focused on practice (Dill & Morrison, 1985; Nelson & Coorough, 1994). Little change occurred, as Perry (2013) notes, until the 2000s when the volume of discourse on this subject became difficult to ignore (Archbald, 2008; Grogan & Andrews, 2002; Guthrie, 2009; Levine 2005; Malen & Prestine, 2005; Murphy & Vriesenga, 2005; Shulman, Golde, Bueschel, & Garabedian, 2006; Wergen, 2011).

Evidence now indicates that many EdD programs are changing and even, apparently, dissertation designs: according to a recent national survey about 12 percent of programs require some other type of culminating project (Buttram, 2014). Alternatives include action research, problem-based investigations, manuscripts for publication, client-driven consulting reports, leadership portfolios, practitioner handbooks, and clinical portfolios of assessments (Buttram & Doolittle, in press). These options are conceptualized as alternatives to traditional dissertations. Traditional dissertations, in contrast, engage candidates in research. Because few candidates in education leadership go on to pursue careers in which research skills alone are needed, such alternatives afford opportunities for candidates to demonstrate a broader range of skills.

A robust literature shows a variety of new EdD dissertation models that have been developed and recounts the challenges of design and implementation experienced by program faculty and deans (Belzer & Ryan, 2013; Chan, Heaton, Swidler, & Wunder, 2013; De Lisi, 2013; Latta & Wunder, 2012; Marsh & Dembo, 2009; Perry, 2013; Smrekar & McGraner, 2009; Welch, 2013). However, scant literature was found – only a few papers – providing analysis of contents, objectives, or outcomes of some of these new EdD dissertation models.

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