International Curriculum and Conceptual Approaches to Doctoral Programs in Leadership Studies

Petros G Malakyan
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 14  •  2019  •  pp. 325-350

This study explores the various teaching and learning approaches, curriculum design, and program requirements for 70 doctoral programs in leadership.

Early research indicates that few studies have addressed learner-centred and process-based approaches to leadership studies among doctoral programs in leadership worldwide. This study is the first complete review of programs in the interdisciplinary field of leadership.

A qualitative method approach through internet-mediated research was employed to identify explicit and implicit textual data on learning approaches of doctoral programs in leadership. The sample represents a list of 70 doctoral programs in leadership studies and organisational leadership (62 programs are in the United States and eight in Europe, Canada, Philippines, and South Africa).

This study provides an overview of doctoral program characteristics, delivery methods, coursework and research requirements, discipline-relevant teaching and learning approaches, and process-based approach to leadership. It may serve as a resource and a roadmap to assess teaching and learning approaches of doctoral programs in leadership for program reviews and improvement.

The significant findings of this study are:
(a) 91.4% of doctoral programs are coursework-driven, leaving little room for original research.
(b) 46% of programs show lack of evidence to context-based approaches to learning (learning as a social activity served outside of classroom environment where learning tools and the context intersect with human interactions).
(c) Various teaching and learning approaches, including those prescribed to constructivist, interactionist, situated, and action-based learning approaches.

Leadership cannot be understood or learned without social interactions in context. In order to produce experts and “stewards of the field,” a clearer learner-centred strategy to doctoral education, including context-based experiences, should be considered. This pedagogical approach needs to be explicitly articulated (on the public website) to enable students to make an informed decision about doctoral programs in leadership.

In order to produce theoreticians and “stewards of the discipline” (Golde & Walker, 2006), doctoral curricula design and implementation should seek a balance between coursework, independent research, and creation of collaborative learning environment between students and faculty. Further, due to the shift from the leader-centred to the process-based understanding of leadership, doctoral programs in leadership should consider the relationship process between leaders and followers as one academic inquiry or continuum.

Doctoral programs in leadership that utilise more learner-centred and context-based approaches for knowledge acquisition (epistemologies) as well as studying the leadership phenomenon as a relationship process are more likely to become more impactful and sustainable in society.

More research seems necessary to identify the extent to which learner-centred approaches within doctoral programs in leadership positively impact on doctoral students’ motivation for learning, program completion, retention, and personal and professional development.

teaching and learning approaches, doctoral programs, leadership, organisational leadership, learner-centred approach
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