Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Van E. Cooley


The phenomenological study examined how a K-12 school district–university partnership impacted a school district’s leadership from the perspectives of cohort members and non-cohort members. The doctoral cohort consisted of 22 candidates. The intent of the program was to merge theory with best practice and to focus on increasing the district’s leadership capacity. The study involved a purposeful sample of 10 participants that included 5 teachers who participated in the doctoral educational cohort and 5 teachers who were not members of the cohort. Data were collected through interviews.

This doctoral cohort was modeled on learning theory that addressed the needs of adult learners. Course content was not changed; however, class activities and assignments were modified to address the professional development needs of cohort members while concurrently meeting university accreditation standards. Several courses extended across multiple semesters as a systematic approach was used to connect theory with district challenges.

Respondents identified a number of changes that occurred in the areas of collaboration, knowledge, and leadership. This included increased participant leadership resulting from participation in the doctoral cohort partnership, and establishment of a learning community. Attitudinal changes were evident as participants demonstrated passion and enthusiasm in leaning activities. Non-cohort members witnessed professional growth in cohort members and noted that cohort members became a resource for non-cohort members in reference to teaching and assessment practices. Cohort members created a sense of shared responsibility and emerged as leaders who encouraged others to improve performance and create a collaborative community. Trust also increased between cohort and non-cohort members.

Recommendations for further research included (1) a study regarding the long-term ramifications of doctoral cohort programs on school improvement, (2) the impact of cohorts on student achievement, and (3) the impact of cohorts on increasing measurable leadership capacity.

The investigation adds to the literature on doctoral cohorts and provides insights into methods of alternate program delivery. The study examines the impact of doctoral cohorts and problem-based learning on a district’s leadership capacity.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access