​Specialization in Educational Leadership for Innovation and Social Justice

The PhD in Leadership Studies with a specialization in Educational Leadership for Innovation and Social Justice is designed to prepare the next generation of educational innovators, public and private school and district leaders, educational researchers, teacher educators, and policy makers in K-12 education. The program blends a strong research and policy foundation with practical opportunities to engage in strengthening teaching and learning in local and global contexts. Throughout their coursework, research and field-based experiences, doctoral students will work alongside faculty from both the Department of Leadership Studies and the Department of Learning and Teaching with the expertise to motivate creativity and innovative thinking. Aligned with SOLES' core value to promote social justice, this program deepens leadership capacity and expands professional opportunities to address the needs of all students. Applicants for this specialization will be expected to demonstrate significant interest and substantial experience related to K-12 education.

Program Overview

The PhD in Leadership Studies in the Department of Leadership Studies offers students an outstanding foundation in leadership theory and practice, as well as in research methodology. Students also specialize in a particular area of leadership through elective coursework and research.

As with all specializations in the program, students will be required to complete and defend a dissertation. The focus of the dissertation for students in this specialization should address one or more aspects of K-12 education, teacher education, teacher professional growth, educational reform or education policy.

Distinguishing Features

  • Personalized faculty advising to tailor course selection to student needs
  • Opportunity for short-term coursework abroad, taught by Leadership Studies and/or Learning and Teaching faculty
  • Interaction with students in other leadership specializations, such as organizational leadership, higher education leadership, and nonprofit leadership, for a broader learning experience
  • Opportunity to build knowledge and expertise in conducting research, analyzing educational policy and practice, and developing innovative uses of educational technology
  • Examination of educational outcomes with focused attention on the racialized, class-based and gendered school experiences on a national and international level.


"The SOLES faculty make it their mission to provide doctoral candidates with a curriculum that is not only relevant, but also rooted in real world experience."

- Rich Newman '05

SOLES doctoral program empowers students to make a difference. Since graduating, Newman has worked on an education leadership initiative with the nationally recognized Wallace Foundation, served as principal of two elementary schools, and is currently Director of Learning Support Services at Poway Unified School District.

Other alumni job titles include:

  • Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum
  • Director of Assessment
  • Executive Director
  • Head of School
  • Principal
  • Professor
  • Superintendent
  • Teacher Education Department Chair
  • Educational Researcher


The specialization coursework is designed to address three major areas: Teacher education and professional learning, K-12 teaching and learning, and Education policy. These courses could include:

three areas addressed and courses required per area
Teacher Education and Professional Learning  Units
Research, Policy and Practice in Teacher Education and Professional Development 3
Teacher Education Lab 3
Professional Development Lab 3
K-12 Teaching and Learning Units 
Assessment and Evaluation of Teaching and Learning 3
Technology and Educational Innovation 3
Education Policy Units 
Educational Reform: Educational Systems in Post Conflict Environments 3
Sociology of Education Seminar 3

Students in the Teaching, Learning, and Leadership specialization will be required to take at least one course in each of these three areas above. The balance of the 21-unit specialization may be distributed across areas based on the candidate’s interests and goals with the approval of the student's academic advisor. In addition to the above courses, students, in consultation with their advisor, may select upto 9 units from 500 level courses listed below or other 600-level courses offered.

List of Course Code and Title
Course Code Course Title Graduate Units
EDUC 510 Cognition and Learning 3
EDUC 597 Historical Struggles for Educational Equity 3
LEAD 573 The Economics of Education 3

Students preparing for research careers are advised to take additional upper level research methodology courses.

The specialization is in addition to the core leadership and research courses included in the doctoral program of study.


For information on how to apply to the PhD in Leadership Studies with this specialization, visit the main PhD program page.