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Teachers College, Columbia University
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Higher and Postsecondary Education

Department of Organization & Leadership

Program Description

The Higher and Postsecondary Education Program at Teachers College, Columbia University strives to prepare knowledgeable scholars and scholar-practitioners in the field of higher education. We strive to develop the abilities to analyze and foster excellence in teaching and learning, scholarly and professional development, and student development. Additionally, we strive to develop, in students, the abilities to analyze, design, and integrate the structures, processes, policies, and technologies that comprise colleges, universities, and state and national systems of tertiary education. Further, we strive to develop understandings of social/cultural and civic perspectives, with attention to the connection between institutions of higher education and their external constituencies.

The 32-point Master of Arts (M.A.) degree develops knowledgeable practitioners in three domains of higher and postsecondary education: (1) its educational core (teaching and learning, student and professional development); (2) its organizational and institutional framework (institutional planning, organizational development, policymaking and implementation); and (3) its social positioning and comparative potential (e.g. civic engagement, philanthropy, benefits of higher education in a diverse society). Though students entering the M.A. Program will be exposed to each of these domains, they will specialize in one. Specialization occurs through the selection of one of three sequences: (1) Academic and Developmental Analysis, (2) Organizational and Institutional Analysis, or (3) Social/Cultural and Civic Analysis.

Students who pursue the M.A. degree will build on the program’s historic positioning in the study of student development through the college years and its current strengths in studies of academic learning and development. They will also build on the program's growing capacities in higher/postsecondary education policy, social thought, and comparative analysis, as well as on the department's offerings in organizational studies. As such, students earning the M.A. degree will be positioned to serve in a variety of academic and student support positions, as well as in various administrative roles.

The 60-point Master of Education (Ed.M.) degree develops breadth of understanding of higher and postsecondary education, though emphasizing particular domains of study and practice, among them academic learning and development, organizational and institutional processes, and social/cultural and civic perspectives. Students who pursue the Ed.M. in Higher and Postsecondary Education typically bring to their studies well developed understandings of particular facets of the enterprise, often from their own participation in the professional practices that define it (teaching, administration, etc.). The Ed.M. Program helps them situate their practice-based knowledge and their emerging intellectual interests within the broader span of higher and postsecondary education, thereby providing expanded intellectual resources for their scholarly and professional efforts. The program also introduces Ed.M. students to the field of higher education as a scholarly community and a body of developing knowledge. There are two tracks offered for the Ed.M.: (1) the Professional Practices in Higher Education track and (2) the Practices of Research in Higher Education track.

The 90-point Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree develops breadth of understanding about higher and postsecondary education with a focus on an intellectual issue or professional activity (concentration or emphasis area). Breadth is assured through study within three curricular domains: (1) academic and developmental analysis, (2) organizational and institutional analysis, and (3) social/cultural and civic analysis of higher and postsecondary education. As they engage in study across these domains and beyond them (through related out-of-program courses), students will work with faculty advisors to develop emphasis areas, among them studies in teaching and learning, institutional assessment, administration and leadership, diversity and access, student learning and development, and scholarly learning and careers. The Ed.D. requires in-depth study in processes/methods of inquiry appropriate to the area of concentration or emphasis, as well as a substantial theoretical understanding of the area and approaches to inquiry within it. 

Students who pursue the Ed.D. explore and question the range of perspectives for understanding the higher education enterprise, its educational and intellectual core, its institutional/organizational rubrics, and its social/cultural and civic contextualizations. Thus, through their own research (situated within an emphasis area), students participate in reshaping current understandings of postsecondary education. Ed.D. students conclude their programs by writing a dissertation that, though focused on a particular research problem within higher and postsecondary education, reflects the tripartite aims of the curriculum, as well as deep understanding of knowledge structures underpinning their area of inquiry. They are positioned then to scrutinize prevailing views of what it means to engage in “higher learning,” and to improve and develop the settings in which that learning occurs.

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