Frequently Asked Questions: The Ed.D. Capstone Project


What counts as a Problem of Practice?

A problem of practice (POP) is an existing or potential problem or dilemma that has practical implications for organizations, individual leaders, teachers and other educational staff face in their work. They are problems that make it difficult for a school leader and her or his staff to reach the ultimate goal of education--supporting the learning and development of all children. They are problems that impact a particular setting but also resonate with current issues and dilemmas in the broader field of educational leadership.

Can you provide an example?

The identified problem of practice should be concrete and easy to understand and define. For example, ensuring the ongoing development of school leaders is a POP because a) leadership is integral to the efficiency and effectiveness of schools, and b) contexts and expectations are constantly shifting.

How strongly must the issue of leadership be present within my problem of practice?

Issues of leadership must be clearly and strongly evident in your capstone project, your rationale and the literature base that you use.  You are pursuing an Ed.D. in leadership, not in curriculum or instruction or in another content area.  This does not mean you have to study leaders specifically.  The work of leadership spans organizations, processes, policy development and implementation, personnel, etc. The educational POP you choose must have a clear and substantial link to leadership.   

Must a problem of practice be drawn from my work place?

While it is more convenient for you and potentially more impactful for your capstone to address a problem of practice from your current work context, your committee will consider problems of practice from other contexts.  

What is the appropriate scope for a capstone?

A focus on one classroom would not be appropriate, as it is too limited to reveal the wider ramifications for educational leadership. Similarly, a focus on state or federal policy absent a connection with district or school concerns would not be appropriate either, as it doesn't necessarily concern the ongoing practice of educational leaders. Although the ultimate answer to this question depends upon your specific research questions, the scope lies somewhere between these two contexts.

What counts as a conceptual framework?

A conceptual framework is a tool or lens for thinking.  The framework provides a window for viewing the literature, thinking about the research process, etc. It provides an organizer for thinking about and understanding your data and structuring your findings. Although scholars do develop conceptual frameworks, we encourage you to identify an existing framework that is appropriate to your problem of practice and use it in your capstone work. 

What is the difference between a PhD dissertation and an EdD capstone project?

The scope of the dissertation is broader than the capstone project. PhD dissertations develop theory or test/explore theory through various methodologies thereby building on existing research. EdD dissertations/capstones apply theory and/or research to thorny problems in schools/school divisions for the purpose of recommending better practices and/or alternatives to current practice. The original contribution to knowledge in an EdD capstone project emphasizes contribution to practice based knowledge.

Who is the primary audience for my capstone?

You have three audiences.  The first is your committee, the second is the field of practice, and the third is the scholarly community.  Ultimately, the purpose of the capstone is to develop your ability to conduct research on critical problems of leadership practice that you do and will continue to face over the course of your career.  The capstone enables you to demonstrate your research and communication capabilities to your committee. Additionally, because your capstone is focused on an authentic problem of leadership practice, it should have relevance to your practitioner colleagues. For this audience you need to be able to articulate the significance of your study and the implications for practice. The third audience is the broader research and academic community.  For this audience, you will need to be able to demonstrate how your research fits within the current body of scholarship as well as how it makes a contribution.

What are the implications of audience for style?

The style of writing needs to be intellectually rigorous but also accessible to practitioners. The language should be less theoretically dense, free of academic jargon, and the prose should be persuasive and compelling. 

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