Online EdD in Education Policy and Leadership

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The Online EdD program at American University is proudly part of The Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED). The vision of the CPED is to inspire all schools of education to apply the CPED framework to the preparation of educational leaders to become well-equipped scholarly practitioners who provide stewardship of the profession and meet the educational challenges of the 21st century.

Prepare to advance your career and join a network of American University faculty, students, and alumni who are transforming education in the United States.

American University’s School of Education believes education shouldn’t just focus on what students learn—it should provide students with an opportunity to reach their full potential and be a force for positive social change. Education should give students hope. Antiquated policies and structures have made hope hard to find in modern education, and the United States needs a new approach to education leadership and policy to bring hope and action to its schools.

The Online Doctorate in Education Policy and Leadership (EdD) is a response to this need, empowering leaders in education who have the practical experience and theoretical knowledge to effect widespread, progressive change in education. Whether they pursue opportunities in educational instruction, organizational leadership, or policymaking, EdD graduates will be better prepared to change education, for every student.

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Required Credits

40 credits beyond an approved master’s degree

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Estimated Time to Completion

Less than three years

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Practitioner-focused Coursework and Research

Resulting in a dissertation of practice

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Three On-Campus Residencies

In Terms: 1,4, and 6

Program Pillars

Graduates of the Online EdD program will be equipped with the skills every education leader needs to be effective, including strategic budgeting, collaborative inquiry, talent management, partnership building, learning science, and program evaluation. We strive to hone students’ knowledge and develop their skills and beliefs in the following four domains:



Social Justice
and Anti-Racism

Policy and

These domains serve as the backbone of our program and live out in each course, module, and residency experience that our students engage in. After completing their coursework and their Problem of Practice dissertation, students will have the policy, leadership, and research skills necessary to serve in senior positions in school district central offices, independent schools, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, advocacy organizations, and more.

The Cohort Experience

Peer learning and a sustained learning network are essential hallmarks of the Online EdD program. As a result, students will progress through the program as part of a cohort, taking the same courses, and accomplishing program milestones together. We intentionally build a diverse cohort of students to contribute to the dynamic learning environment in the program. Learning will occur through robust dialogue, shared learning experiences, and presenting current professional work and doctoral research.

Professional headshot of AU Alum Shayna Cook

I chose American University’s doctorate in education policy and leadership program because I want to apply my understanding of how to influence and change systems to produce research that highlights the steps for enacting policy changes that produce equitable outcomes for young children and the educators within this system. I want to continue to foster my skills in policy and research to be able to evaluate progress toward systems change.

Shayna Cook
Senior manager at education policy firm from Washington, DC


3 Hours


Live online classes with remote students in your cohort attended according to a specific schedule.


3 Hours


Self-paced courses or work completed according to your schedule.


8-10 Hours


Homework, projects, research, etc.


14-16 Hours

Total Weekly Hours

Hours are estimates and are subject to change per term course.

EdD Domains & Competencies

Personal Mastery

Social Justice / Anti-Racism

System Thinking

Policy & Research


40 Credits | 3 Required D.C Residences


Anti-Racism, Systems Thinking, Policy, Research

In order to be effective educators, practitioners, and administrators who are committed to fostering equitable, inclusive, and antiracist educational environments, it is important to be engaged in discussions on these topics on a regular basis. Having a clear understanding of equity, inclusion, and antiracism in the context of education as well as its limitations is only a starting point for engaging in more deeply involved issues related to achieving social justice and equity for all who participate in education. This course serves as a venue through which students act as both learners and teachers, requiring them to think deeply about their own positionality, understand the unique processes by which students develop across multiple social identity dimensions, and recognize the challenges and opportunities educational organizations face when enacting commitments to equity, inclusion, and antiracism. Usually Offered: fall, spring, and summer. Grading: A-F only. Prerequisite: EDU-702.

Personal Mastery, Anti-Racism Systems Thinking

Collaborative Inquiry through Systems Thinking is about systems thinking and change—building knowledge of some key frameworks and applying the frameworks to cases and to our own personal contexts, including ourselves, the organizations we work in, and our doctoral cohort. Systems thinking involves the capability to conceptually examine the whole, the sum of parts, rather than the individual parts separately. And systems thinking propels thinkers and leaders to be able to act with a view of both the current reality and the future.

During this course, we will explore many of the concepts that undergird the entire doctoral program: organizational change, social justice, personal leadership, and policy research. We will focus with a strong emphasis on the first three (organizational change, social justice, personal leadership) in this course, and systems thinking and change will serve as a springboard into our doctoral program in education policy and leadership.

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Build conceptual knowledge of systems thinking frameworks, including Senge’s five disciplines, Heifetz’s technical and adaptive leadership approach, and Bolman and Deal’s Four Frames
  2. Apply systems thinking frameworks to your current organizational context and your own personal reflection
  3. Utilize systems thinking to generate proposals for shared case analysis

Research, Personal Mastery, Anti-Racism

School of Education system leaders present their problem of practice to students to demonstrate the variety of disciplinary and methodological approaches to educational inquiry. The course also reviews research and statistical methodologies.


Personal Mastery, Anti-Racism

Leading in today’s educational context necessitates practitioners embrace and deploy the highest versions of their whole self while engaging in the practice of leadership. Exercising this type of leadership requires a deeper consciousness of self and the roles our identity, emotions, and adult development play during the leadership process. Practicing conscious leadership balances the “being and doing” of leadership by honoring and releasing a more healed educational practitioner ready to take on the most complex education issues of our times. This course uses blogs, reflective papers, self-assessments, journals, and executive coaching to serve as the “mirror” for diagnosing students’ leadership defaults, strengths, and blind spots. Supplementing the mirror, this course utilizes diverse research, texts, and ways of knowing to provide students with a robust toolkit of self-reflective frameworks, practices, and inclusive tools that shifts mindsets, behaviors, and practices (internal and external) on behalf of creating a more just education system for all.

At the completion of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Explain current issues and practices of leadership development in order to formulate a holistic view of today’s educational context
  2. Develop a comprehensive understanding of your personal leadership style including default behaviors
  3. Apply conscious leadership concepts, practice, and theories to personal leadership strategy
  4. Examine personal change toward conscious leadership to continue enhancing leadership potential
  5. Demonstrate an ability to exercise conscious leadership within your educational context to facilitate meaningful change
  6. Recognize the role that power, identity, mindset, emotional awareness, adult development, and equity play during the leadership process

Policy, Systems Thinking, Strategy, Anti-Racism

This course will offer you the opportunity to learn and apply policy analysis tools and management science to develop and successfully implement education policy. You will analyze historical and present-day education policies from intent to implementation. The course will begin with an exploration of policy basics and frameworks, then continue an intentional path through problem identification and problem-solving to case studies and policy analysis. You will learn how policy at the federal, state, and local levels influences and impacts American PK-12 education and the issues and challenges that educators face as a result of these policies. Several policy authors will offer insight into their own experiences through guest speaker sessions.

The EdD in Education Policy & Leadership domains are: Systems Thinking, Personal Leadership, Social Justice & Anti-Racism, and Policy & Research. Although this course touches on all the identified domains, Education Policy and Change will place an emphasis on Policy & Research. Additionally, the competencies for the EdD program are:

  1. Personal Awareness and Mastery: The ability to understand one’s self—one’s strengths, one’s reasoning, and one’s ability to connect with others. Ability to build a learning community.
  2. Commitment to, Practice of, & Fostering in others Anti-Racist and Social Justice Beliefs and Action: The ability to engage in authentic conversations and action around personal, organizational, and systemic social justice and anti-racism.
  3. Systems Thinking, Organizational Change & Organizational Learning: The ability to diagnose, observe, and act with knowledge of systemic variables and thinking. Ability to lead and manage systemic change efforts and learning.
  4. Research Methods, Practice & Knowledge: Skill and competence with qualitative, developmental, and quantitative methods, analysis, and research design methods.
  5. Policy Writing, Implementation, & Navigation: Knowledge and skill of policy history, policy implementation, and political navigation.
  6. Strategy: Skill to create organizational strategic direction with a clear understanding and view of internal and external dimensions.

This course emphasizes competencies 3-6.


Systems Thinking Anti-Racism, Research

Within this course, we will dig into the creative process of exploring various focus areas for your practitioner research. This foundational course will equip learners with the virtual and physical environments to creatively explore, use design thinking and design research, and create multiple pathways for students’ personalized study and focus. This course will enable learners to narrow their interests and identify a focus area for the duration of their doctoral studies.

We will employ a disruptive innovation lens, a design research approach, design thinking principles, and an anti-racist framework to identify and narrow our emerging problems of practice. Learners will experiment with potential problems of practice and narrow their practitioner-oriented research to guide their studies. Within your third semester as doctoral students, you will experiment and build your skills, frameworks, and questions to solidify your study.

The course will include a mix of creative exercises, reading, presenting, academic research, practitioner research, writing, and writing peer groups.

Personal Mastery, Systems Thinking, Anti-Racism

This course will explore the fundamentals of building a team culture and learning culture within an organization. We will explore the alignment and synergy between learning and efficacy; diagnose and assess the culture within our organizations; create plans for deepening a culture of learning and growth within an organization; and explore the connections between growth culture and equity. This course is meant to support the leadership development of students, provide them with theories and tools to employ in their current and future roles; and engage students in thinking about how individual and team learning intersect. Within the course, students will write reflective essays, engage in group learning simulations, and explore the ideas within their existing roles and organizations.

Through the course, students will engage in real world teaming experiences with their EdD cohort colleagues, and they will have the opportunity to focus on applied projects, within teams, supporting national organizations on existing challenges. We will also spend time during our residency weekend focused on teaming dynamics and project launch.


Research, Anti-Racism, Systems Thinking

This course falls as the mid-point course in a three semester continuum, where doctoral learners build their skills as scholarly practitioners with an anti-racist lens. Learners enter the course having identified a problem of practice for their scholarly research. And within EDU 710, learners will build their toolkit of practitioner research methods and approaches to support their general knowledge and to consider how to possibly apply toward their problem of practice. Within the course, learners will explore improvement science, participatory action research, ethnography, developmental, qualitative, and quantitative methods. During the course, students will learn about the methodological approaches and apply them in small scale ways toward their problems of practice.

Anti-Racism, Strategy, Systems Thinking

This course surveys what education leaders need to know about learning sciences and provides an overview of approaches to administration, analysis, and interpretation of student-level, classroom-level, school-level, and system-level learning outcomes, attending specifically to issues of equity and educational opportunity. Students develop skills in implementation science as applied to problems of practice.

Personal Mastery, Anti-Racism, Strategy

In this course students explore speechwriting, public speaking in victory and crisis, communicating from values, and working with social media and the news media. Students learn how to make every communication a dialogue, how to advance their goals and those of listeners, how speaking from the best of yourself gives confidence, and how to distill a message into one memorable sentence that captures listeners’ attention, moves your ideas forward, focuses the problem, and helps achieve your goals.

Research, Anti-Racism, Personal Mastery

School of Education system leaders present their problem of practice to students to demonstrate the variety of disciplinary and methodological approaches to educational inquiry. The course also reviews research and statistical methodologies.


Research, Anti-Racism, Systems Thinking

This course is the third in a series following EDU 703 and EDU 710. This course will begin with a bit more tool sharpening with participatory action research, qualitative methods, and developmental methods with an anti-racist lens. Learners will explore a potential matrix of methods that they may employ for their own scholarly research. Learners will work with their doctoral committees and their peer support networks to solidify a scholarly practitioner approach to apply to their problem of practice. Students will gain practice in developing and piloting survey instruments as well as interview and observation protocols focused on the practices and experiences of education stakeholders. Students will also become familiar with strategies for drawing response samples. Finally, students will learn systematic approaches to, and tools for, qualitative data coding and analysis.

Systems Thinking, Anti-Racism, Policy

This course provides a structured environment for students to explore partnerships between educational institutions and community organizations, families, government agencies, businesses, and non-profit organizations. Existing structural and institutional barriers make collaborative partnerships between schools/education settings and community groups difficult to attain, particularly when leaders lack the skills and competencies to bridge the gap. The course incorporates literature, case studies, and problem-based learning exercises and encourages students to consider assumptions of community stakeholders, to clarify and challenge their own assumptions, and to explore the opportunities and risks associated with cross-sector collaboration and partnerships.


Systems Thinking, Policy, Research, Anti-Racism

The budget for any organization offers a glimpse into what efforts will be prioritized over a given period of time. The pursuit of excellence through equity in school systems may meet barriers in the budgeting process, as leaders allocate resources to best achieve district or system goals. Therefore, it is crucial that system leaders be able to strategically budget a district’s resources (time, money, and people). This course focuses on the tools, research, and best practices to help leaders be good stewards over an organization’s resources and deploy those resources to protect and maintain focus on district/system goals.

Select one of the following:

  • EDU-610 Overview of Qualitative and Quantitative Research Strategies (3)
    • Students are introduced to concepts and principles of social science research design. Observation, interview and survey design, literature reviews, development of problem statements and research questions, surveys of quantitative and qualitative data analyses, and formative and summative evaluation techniques are emphasized. Students demonstrate their competencies by engaging in a small-scale research study
  • EDU-631 Educational Leadership and Organizational Change (3)
    • Students examine organizational change and leadership in educational organizations, including K-12 schools, federal and state agencies, school districts, and charter school management organizations. Students analyze theories and approaches for management, strategic planning, decentralization versus centralization, organizational learning, stakeholder engagement, and personal leadership.
  • EDU-633 Economic Inquiry in Education (3)
    • Students learn how to use economic principles, such as productivity and return on investment, to evaluate education policies and programs. They apply these economic analytical approaches to education policies and programs such as value-added assessments, teacher compensation, early childhood education, and class-size reduction. Students also examine basic resource allocation and education finance, including costing-out models, school-district budgeting, Title I funding, and weighted-student formulas.
  • EDU-634 Education and Public Policy (3)
    • Students examine major public policy issues and theories in American education through the three-phase lens of policy design, policy adoption, and policy implementation. They learn to describe tensions in federal, state, and local education policies with reference to historical and international comparisons, as well as to evaluate the use of various education policy tools. Policy issues considered include standards and accountability, whole-district reform, school choice, teacher quality, and college and career readiness.
  • EDU-636 Education Law and Policy (3)
    • Students examine legal issues relating to reforming elementary and secondary education through an analysis of federal and state court cases. They identify important legal standards/rules and explore how legal precedents could be applied to different situations across the country. Students also analyze institutional reform litigation such as school finance and voluntary desegregation; federal and state educational authority, including civil rights enforcement; local educational authority, including school boards and collective bargaining agreements; and legal conditions for school improvements.
  • EDU-686 Proseminar in Education Policy and Leadership (3)
    • Working in small groups, students serve as consultants to an educational organization on a pressing issue of policy or practice. During this field-based project, they apply skills developed through their program of study in education policy and leadership. Students learn approaches to project management, client relations, analytical design, and project presentation, as well as receive support for transitions into policy and leadership careers.
  • EDU-693 Education Program and Policy Implementation (3)
    • Students learn about how educational organizations, including schools, school districts, and state agencies, implement education programs and policies. Students learn approaches to program management, including how to use data to set performance targets, make strategic improvement decisions, assess programs, and prioritize changes. Students are also introduced to basic grant writing and administration, including enforcement, monitoring, and support for education grants.
  • EDU-696 Selected Topics: Non-Recurring (1-6)
    • Topics vary by section. Repeatable for credit with different topic.

Anti-Racism, Systems Thinking

While the EdD program is designed to be completed online, students are required to attend three (3) residencies at American University. Taking place over one weekend in Terms 1, 4, and 6, the residencies allow students to broaden their connections with faculty and advising staff, familiarize themselves with the various academic and professional resources American University offers, and deepen the relationships they have forged within their cohort through face-to-face interactions with one another. Students will also participate in workshops, dialogues, and in-person class sessions that will contribute to the development of their dissertations of practice and assist in the practical application of the knowledge gained through their studies.


Research, Anti-Racism, Personal Mastery, Systems Thinking, Policy, Strategy

This course facilitates preparation of the doctoral dissertation proposal and achievement of candidacy and includes strategies for preparation of a project brief to present the Dissertation in Practice to the dissertation committee and other stakeholders. Students workshop components of their dissertation with other students and meet individually with their dissertation chair.

Technology Fee


Research, Anti-Racism, Personal Mastery, Systems Thinking, Policy, Strategy

May be taken by doctoral students who are advanced to candidacy with the approval of the faculty supervising the dissertation (or designee). It is a 9 credit course, but tuition is assessed at the 1 credit rate. The course is graded SP/UP and students will be deemed full-time. The Office of the Registrar must be notified when a student has advanced to candidacy.

Technology Fee


Students will participate in a residency enabling them to interface with peers and faculty.
The program will include three (3) required D.C. residencies, encapsulated in the EDU-798 course.

A group of people sitting at a table with laptops and notebooks.

Residency #1

Term 1
4 Days (Thurs to Sun)
Washington D.C.

This residency will provide students with the engagement and opportunities to connect and build a strong cohort and professional network.

Presentations from academic resources and supports offered throughout their program will assist students with navigating the tools needed to be successful as online doctoral students.

During the residency, students will participate in a public narrative workshop and begin to forge relationships with faculty whom they may partner with in the future.

Residency #2

Term 4
4 Days (Thurs to Sun)
Washington D.C

This residency will include an opportunity for education system leaders to present their own problem of practice to graduate students and faculty demonstrating their commitment to anti-racist research.

Students will have time to engage with their committee-chair for their dissertation. Students will be in DC and across cohorts and able to engage with each other.

Multiple cohorts will be in attendance allowing students to engage in cross-cohort interaction.

Four people posing for a photo in a classroom.
A group of people posing for a photo in an office.

Residency #3

Term 6
4 Days (Thurs to Sun)
Washington D.C

This residency will include an opportunity for education system leaders to present their methodological approaches and pilots from a critical race lens to their colleagues and faculty.

Breakout sessions will include a review of research methodologies, designated time to prepare for Internal Review Board (IRB) clearance, and preparation for student’s defense of their proposals.

Headshot of AU Alum Brian Reilly

I was drawn to the program at AU because of the location, the emphasis on policy and leadership, and the entire application process from the first information sessions to the individual and group interviews. I like how we meet as a cohort for virtual face-to-face sessions in addition to the asynchronous content we work on.

Brian Reilly

Special education administrator from Massachusetts

EdD Faculty Members

Professional headshot of AU EdD Faculty Cecily Darden Adams

Cecily Darden Adams

Adjunct Instructor
Professional headshot of Alida Anderson

Alida Anderson

Associate Professor
Professional headshot of AU EdD Faculty Sarah Irvine Belson

Sarah Irvine Belson

Professional headshot of AU EdD Faculty Samantha Cohen

Samantha Cohen

Senior Professorial Lecturer
Professional headshot of AU EdD Faculty Amaarah DeCuir

Amaarah DeCuir

Professorial Lecturer
Professional headshot of AU EdD Faculty Antonio Ellis

Antonio Ellis

Scholar in Res. and Director of the Institute for Education Equity and Justice
Professional headshot of AU EdD Faculty Annice Fisher

Annice Fisher

Adjunct Professorial Lecturer
Professional headshot of Reuben Jacobson

Reuben Jacobson

Director of Education Policy and Leadership Program & Sr. Professorial Lecturer
Professional headshot of AU EdD Faculty Anne Karabell

Anne Karabell

Professional headshot of AU EdD Faculty Edit Khatchatryan

Edit Khatchatryan

Adjunct Professorial Lecturer
Professional headshot of AU EdD Faculty Stefan Lallinger

Stefan Lallinger

Professional headshot of AU EdD Faculty Brian McGowan

Brian McGowan

Associate Professor
Professional headshot of AU EdD Faculty Hannah Park

Hannah Park

Assistant Librarian University Library
Professional headshot of AU MAT Faculty member Carolyn Parker

Carolyn Parker

Director of Master of Arts in Teaching Program and Sr. Professorial Lecturer
Professional headshot of AU EdD Faculty David Rease

David Rease

Adjunct Professorial Lecturer
Professional headshot of AU EdD Faculty Kelvin Roldan

Kelvin Roldan

Adjunct Professorial Lecturer
Professional headshot of AU MEd Faculty Robert Shand

Robert Shand

Assistant Professor
Professional headshot of AU EdD Faculty Michele Shannon

Michele Shannon

Adjunct Professorial Lecturer
Professional headshot of AU EdD Faculty Robert Simmons

Robert Simmons

Senior Professorial Lecturer
Professional headshot of AU EdD Faculty William Thomas

William Thomas

Director EdD Program and Professorial Lecturer

Key Dates & Deadlines

Application Deadline
Deposit Deadline
Fall 2024
January 12, 2024
April 1, 2024

Connect With Us

Speak to an Enrollment Advisor

Call: (202) 807-6173

Online Events

Check back soon for more upcoming events.

Schedule a School Tour

Our online students, as well as prospective students, are always welcome to tour our campus Email:


This program is designed for working PK-12 leaders who want to connect policy to practice and gain the practical knowledge and skills to transform their organizations and education systems.

Students will participate in a residency enabling them to interface with peers and faculty.

The program will include three (3) required D.C. residencies, encapsulated in the EDU-798 course.

1st Residency: The first residency will occur from Thursday – Sunday in Washington D.C., during the first month of Term 1. This residency will provide students with the engagement and supports needed to commit to their problem of practice and the program. This begins with the opportunity to work face-to-face with their professors and peers, specifically in their first term courses. Presentations from academic resources and supports offered throughout their program will assist students with navigating the tools needed to be successful in their composition of a dissertation. The end of the residency will conclude with a presentation of their problem of practice.

2nd Residency: The second residency will occur from Thursday – Sunday in Washington D.C. during the beginning of Term 4 and will include an opportunity for education system leaders to present their problem of practice to graduate students to demonstrate the variety of methodological approaches to educational inquiry. Breakout sessions will include a review of research methodologies, designated time to prepare for Internal Review Board (IRB) clearance, and preparation for students defense of their proposals.