Antioch University (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Pages: 3534-3543
ISBN: 978-84-614-2439-9
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 15-17 November, 2010
Location: Madrid, Spain
The Carnegie Foundation has reported that: most recipients of the PhD are inadequately prepared for the settings in which they will work; women and ethnic minorities are inadequately represented; and program attrition often exceeds 50%. In 2002 Antioch University inaugurated a PhD in Leadership & Change, with a vision of doctoral study that would be both highly innovative and grounded in research on student learning. The program has been acclaimed as “groundbreaking” and “a model for other universities in the United States and abroad.” The purpose of the session is to share the Antioch experiment and to suggest how the Antioch model might be applied to other doctoral programs.

The program was designed for experienced professionals who are leading change in their respective fields of practice. Traditional “courses” have been replaced by structured “learning achievements” which students accomplish at their own pace. Students enter the program in cohorts of approximately 25-30, attracted - to date - from 27 states and Canada, and countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Cohorts have highly diverse backgrounds, with approximately equal proportions of students from education, business, and nonprofits and government. Many are also from the arts. The program is an example of “blended” learning, with four face-to-face residencies per year, attended by all faculty and students, and technology-mediated distance learning in between. The program culminates with a traditional dissertation. Approximately 135 students are actively enrolled in the program, and it has 63 alumni.

An external program review in 2010 demonstrated that the program has addressed successfully each of the criticisms contained in the Carnegie report. 1) Because the program is practice-based, students learn to make meaning of practice and to become scholars of leadership and organizational change. Our students’ dissertations are downloaded more than 1500 times per month by scholars and practitioners from all over the world; four have won international awards. 2) Not only do our students hail from a wide variety of professional settings, the student body is also highly diverse demographically: more than half of our students are women, and nearly 40% are persons of color. This extraordinary diversity creates an environment that promotes a level of collaborative learning that is rare in doctoral study. 3) Unlike traditional doctoral curricula, retention is high: nearly 75% of entering students earn their PhDs in six years or fewer. Two factors account for this. First, learning experiences are structured so that each builds on the others, thus generating a strong sense of momentum. Second, the program relies on strong personal support by cohort members and faculty advisors. This combination of an integrated curriculum and group cohesiveness help allay the “imposter syndrome” that has plagued doctoral students for generations.

Several qualities of the Antioch PhD deserve emulation by other doctoral programs both in the US and abroad: a culture of collaborative learning on the part of both students and faculty; library support services customized for each student; proactive advising by faculty and detailed feedback on student work; and a pervasive culture of continuous improvement - clearl learning outcomes, detailed assessment, periodic critical reflection by faculty, and consistent use of assessment data to improve pedagogical practice.