Educational Studies, Ed.D. and Ph.D.


Talbot School of Theology of Biola University offers graduate work leading to the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degrees in Educational Studies. Talbot's doctoral programs are accredited by the Association of Theological Schools and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The doctoral degree, established in 1984, is offered within the Department of Christian Education at Talbot School of Theology.

The doctoral course of study is designed for men and women to enhance their leadership roles in a variety of educational ministries within God's Kingdom — the local church, educational institutions, parachurch, and ministry organizations throughout the world.

Students come to the programs already having completed a graduate degree and significant ministry experience in the field of educational ministry. In general, doctoral students are established within a particular ministry or educational organization and return following completion of the program. A few students are in transition in their career path. The curriculum particularly encourages critical thinking, integrative synthesis of Scripture and social science data, and original research. Courses typically follow a graduate seminar format requiring student initiative for significant participation in class discussion. Small class sizes of 5–12 students permit such a dialogical format, an important element for promoting critical and integrative thinking.

The mission of the doctoral programs in educational studies (Ph.D. and Ed.D.) of Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, is to mentor men and women with evident gifts of leadership and teaching in mind and character, within a Christian community of scholars and practitioners, to make contributions, from a distinctly Christian perspective, in scholarship for and in the practice of Christian educational studies and ministry within God's Kingdom — as faculty and administrators in educational institutions, as leaders in ministry organizations, and as pastoral staff in local churches, throughout the world — in order to nurture the faith and maturity of children, youth and adults.


An important component of the Talbot doctoral program is the integrative synthesis of social science data within a Christian worldview perspective. Since both education and theology address the human condition, the doctoral faculty believe there is a great deal to be gained by an interdisciplinary study of biblical and theological knowledge, philosophical issues, human development, the teaching-learning process, and issues of leadership. Consequently, students are expected to come to the program with a sufficient background of theological training. (A minimum of 18 graduate credits of Bible and theology is required. For those lacking these prerequisites, distance learning courses are available from Talbot School of Theology. Contact the Graduate Admissions office for further information.) In addition, elective courses in theology may be included in one's program to study further the relationship of educational and theological conceptions.

As members of a Christian university community, program faculty believe that relating one's faith to an academic discipline goes beyond the theoretical and cognitive. Opportunities for fellowship, dialogue and worship are seen as vital parts of the total educational process. Talbot School of Theology sponsors a weekly chapel service. Various discussion times over meals, retreats, symposiums, and other social activities provide an opportunity for informal, out-of-class interaction with faculty and students. Students are also encouraged to become involved in one of the many local churches in the Southern California area.

Degrees Offered

Doctor of Education and Doctor of Philosophy

The Ed.D. and the Ph.D. programs generally share a common foundation of required program courses. Students selecting Talbot's Ed.D. in Educational Studies are generally focused on improving their educational leadership and teaching in their practice of ministry leadership, while also developing knowledge and skills of research. Those choosing Talbot's Ph.D. in Educational Studies degree are interested in combining educational ministry leadership and teaching with a strong emphasis in developing a competency in research and the contribution of theory to the practice of educational ministry. Research training in the Ph.D. program is primarily empirical with some opportunity for conceptual research as well.

Both degree programs are offered in the residential format and in the hybrid distance format. For both formats, program courses are taught as one-week on campus modules in early November (Fall Semester) and in early March (Spring Semester) with pre-class preparation and post-class assignments. Elective courses in the Fall and Spring semesters are usually offered as weekly on campus class sessions (residential format) and Livestream class sessions (hybrid distance format) that permit face-to-face instruction. In early June, a one-week on campus elective module is also scheduled. A few electives are available as online courses.

Hybrid Distance Format Option

For those who cannot locally access a doctoral program in educational studies with Christian perspectives, we offer both of our doctoral degree programs in an accessible format. The use of a hybrid distance format makes it possible for students to remain in their current locale and to continue ministering with their current organizations while completing their Ph.D. or Ed.D. in Educational Studies. This hybrid distance format is available for each degree.

Ph.D. The hybrid distance Ph.D. program is open only to full-time or regular adjunct faculty in Christian higher education who meet the regular qualifications for admission to our residential Ph.D. program. It serves the needs of faculty called to teach within the broad fields of Christian education and practical theology who cannot relocate to pursue a doctoral program.

Partnership with Your School: This track is designed to bring together resources and support from your school and from Talbot to help you complete your course of study. The application materials provide a full description of the support needed from your school for your participation in this program (e.g., a doctoral mentor, and reduction of workload during the coursework phase).

Ed.D. The hybrid distance Ed.D. program is open to any person who meets the regular qualifications for admission to the residential Ed.D. program and is currently involved in ministry leadership or teaching in higher education. This allows them to pursue doctoral studies without having to relocate to do so.

Hybrid Distance Design

Program courses are offered as a one-week module in early November (Fall semester) and two week modules in early March (Spring semester) each year. Preliminary and follow-up assignments are a part of each course. Courses are taken on the La Mirada campus, allowing face-to face instruction and interaction with faculty and fellow-students. Elective courses in the Fall and Spring semesters may be offered as weekly Livestream or online class sessions. In early June, a one-week on campus elective module is also scheduled. 

Livestream technology is required for many doctoral courses. Hybrid Distance applicants must have reliable access to the Internet with sufficient bandwidth to transmit and receive both visual image and audio on a computer permitting regular participation in weekly, three-hour long doctoral seminars that include frequent class discussion. Please contact the Ph.D. and Ed.D. Doctoral office for a web link to test internet and computer capabilities.

The coursework phase and candidacy exam are designed to be completed in three to four years. Course requirements, candidacy examination, and dissertation requirements are the same as for the respective residential Ph.D. or Ed.D. degree program.

Cohort Approach

New groups of students begin the program every year in the Fall semester. Students work through the program courses together, with some choice of elective options to fit their study interests. Contact the Ph.D. and Ed.D. Doctoral office for more information on the schedule.

Application for Admission

Contact the Graduate Admissions office at Biola University for a more detailed brochure and application materials. Be sure to ask for informational materials regarding the hybrid distance program.

Graduation Requirements

Ph.D. – While the doctorate is not awarded simply for completion of stated coursework, the Ph.D. degree requires 45-semester credits including 21 credits of program courses (including the Candidacy Examination Capstone course TTDE 8950, 3 credits), 24 credits of electives, and Dissertation.

Ed.D. – The Ed.D. degree requires 41-semester credits including 20 credits of program courses (including the Candidacy Examination Capstone course, TTDE 8950, 3 credits), 21 credits of electives, and Dissertation.

For both programs, the doctoral program director serves as the academic advisor for residential students, and the hybrid distance coordinator serves as the academic advisor for hybrid distance students. The respective academic advisor will assist students to develop a Program Course Plan consisting of a schedule of program and elective courses. Advisors will then supervise student progress throughout the coursework phase of doctoral studies. Once approved, this schedule serves as the projected course of study. A copy of the Program Course Plan is placed in the student's file. Modifications must have prior approval of the respective academic advisor.

All doctoral students must meet with their academic advisor and contact a Graduate Graduation Counselor in the Office of the Registrar one year prior to graduation to declare their intent to graduate. (See Graduate Graduation Check description in the Admission, Enrollment and Graduation Requirements section).

Candidacy Examination

Upon completion of all course work, or during the final semester of coursework, the student completes the TTDE 8950 course before requesting advancement to dissertation studies. The Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs use a portfolio process for the Candidacy Exam. The Candidacy Examination evaluates the student's attainment of program learning objectives. Detailed information about the Candidacy Examination is available from the Ph.D. and Ed.D. Doctoral Office.

Advancement to Candidacy

Official candidacy for the doctorate signifies an advanced stage in the student's progress and is characterized by self-directed research in the completion of a dissertation under the direction of a faculty dissertation advisor. The following criteria must be met by each doctoral student at the completion of the coursework phase of doctoral studies to be awarded Candidacy Status by the Program Committee. Then, the doctoral student is eligible to begin dissertation studies. For students not meeting these criteria, the program committee will review the matter and the student may be subject for dismissal from the doctoral program.

  1. Successfully completed all Candidacy Exam Portfolio items in a timely manner.
  2. Successfully completed the necessary courses and number of units for the particular degree program.
  3. Has attained a GPA of 3.25 for all coursework completed for the doctoral degree.
  4. Has established evidence of Christian life and character during his or her course of studies.


After passing the Candidacy Examination and being awarded Candidacy Status, the dissertation student will enroll in TTDE 8960 (3 credits) for up to five semesters with full-time status. A student must be enrolled during the semester of graduation. Students who require more time must receive approval to enroll in TTDE 8970 (3 credits). If needed, enrollment in TTDE 8970 does not constitute full-time status. Doctoral students must submit a dissertation evidencing high attainment in scholarship. Detailed information may be found in the Dissertation Guidelines Handbook.

Final Dissertation Defense and Graduation

The final examination is an oral defense of the dissertation before the student's dissertation committee and other invited guests. Detailed information regarding the defense and final submission deadlines for graduation may be found in The Dissertation Guidelines Handbook.

All students must:

  1. Present an acceptable dissertation,
  2. Satisfactorily pass their candidacy examinations, and
  3. Complete all coursework with a minimum 3.25 GPA to qualify for graduation.

Beyond completion of academic requirements,

  1. Doctoral Program faculty must also recommend that the student is eligible for conferral of the degree on the basis of evidence of Christian life and character established during his or her course of studies, and
  2. All financial obligations must be settled.

Attendance at commencement ceremonies is required when the degree is granted unless approval has been received from the Dean to graduate in absentia (see the Doctoral Program Handbook for further details).

Admission Requirements

The doctoral program seeks to admit applicants whose background clearly demonstrate scholarly aptitude, a commitment to the historic Christian faith, personal character and integrity, a service-oriented motivation toward endeavors of educational ministry and a deepening relationship with God. Biola University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, ethnic group identification, gender, age or physical disability.

Persons interested in attending should request the doctoral application form (the same form for both degree programs) for Talbot School of Theology from the Graduate Admissions office at Biola University. As in many graduate programs, enrollment is limited. In order to be admitted to full graduate standing, the applicant must comply with the following:

  1. Have completed at least three years of full-time vocational experience in educational ministry with evidence of leadership gifts and abilities.
  2. Have earned a Masters degree in Christian or Religious Education (MACE or MRE) or its equivalent from an accredited educational institution. Equivalence is defined as an earned master's degree of at least 36 semester credits of graduate study in areas related to the Christian education ministry, including 18 credits of graduate Bible and theology.
    At least one course in each of the following areas should have been completed: Philosophy or History of Christian Education, Human Development or Educational Psychology, Educational Administration or Leadership, Interpersonal Communication/Group Dynamics or Counseling, Curriculum Design and/or Methods of Teaching. A minimum GPA of 3.25 on a 4.0 scale in all previous graduate work is required.
    Students whose formal educational preparation does not include all of the required prerequisite coursework must make arrangements to satisfactorily complete them prior to beginning doctoral studies. See the Graduate Admissions Counselor for recommendations on options for completing the needed prerequisite courses.
  3. Submit a completed Talbot School of Theology doctoral application form and application fee. The form will provide a place to indicate the degree program for which application is being made, either the Ph.D. or Ed.D., and which format for completing the degree, either residential or hybrid distance.
  4. a. For U.S. applicants, submit scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) (expected verbal score of 153 and analytic writing score of 4.5). Information regarding GRE testing dates and location may be obtained by writing to the:
    Educational Testing Service
    Box 955
    Princeton, New Jersey 08591
    or online or call 1-800-473-2255 to register.
    b. International applicants for whom English is not a primary language are required instead to submit scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language, Internet-based Test (TOEFL iBT). Preference in admission will be given to those with an overall score of at least 100 on the TOEFL iBT, with expected minimum scores for the four sections as follows: Writing (25), Reading (25), Speaking (25), Listening (25). The TOEFL iBT is available on-line through the Educational Testing Service. For more information, go to the TOEFL website.
    Students should consult the general Biola University guidelines (see the Admission of English Language Learners section as well as the Admissions of International Students section at the beginning of the Talbot catalog section). Since doctoral seminars involve regular student discussion, it is expected that international students have the requisite ability with spoken English to be contributing members of such discussions.
  5. Present evidence of potential for original academic research at the doctoral level by submitting a sample of scholarly writing (with citations and bibliography), preferably related to education, of at least 10 pages.
  6. Applicants may be asked to be interviewed by the program director or the Doctoral Program committee as a requirement for admission.

Note: Official documents presented for admission or evaluation become part of the student's academic file and normally cannot be returned or copied for distribution.

Application Deadlines

The application deadline for both the residential and hybrid distance program is January 31. Students are generally admitted in the Fall semester only. Contact Graduate Admissions regarding exceptions to this policy. 

Since enrollment for both degree programs is limited and admission is on a selective basis, applications should be made as early as possible. In particular, international students who need additional time to raise financial support for their studies should submit their applications well ahead of the January 31 deadline. Applications submitted after the deadline will usually be considered for the following year. Financial scholarship applications are available in the Doctoral Program office (application deadline: January 31). Private sources of scholarships may also be found online.

Admission of International Students and Resident Aliens

See Admission, Registration and Graduation Requirements section at the beginning of the catalog.

Special Study Status

Students actively enrolled in an accredited doctoral program in education may be eligible to take an elective course either for enrichment purposes or transfer credit. An abbreviated application for such purposes would include a completed short special sessions form, a letter from the Registrar of the school indicating good standing and a completed pastoral reference form.

Those wishing to explore the possibility of entering doctoral studies at Talbot, or who have already earned a doctoral degree and wish to pursue further study for personal enrichment, and who generally meet the doctoral admission requirements, may be able to enroll in one elective course as a special student. Contact the Graduate Admissions office at Biola University for more information.

General Academic Information

Classification of Students

Doctoral students meeting all entrance requirements will be classified as regular graduate students. Students who do not fulfill all entrance requirements may be admitted with the provisional status of Admissions Probation until they compensate for any deficiency. Normally all prerequisites must be satisfied before beginning doctoral study. Full-time study is defined as 6 credits per semester.

Research Competence

Specific research skills appropriate for proposed dissertation study are to be demonstrated. The doctoral program committee will validate competence through review of examinations, completed research, or coursework. Appropriate research tools and methods include biblical languages, modern languages, statistical analysis and qualitative research methodologies applicable to educational problems and issues. Deficiencies in research competence may result in additional program specialization components.

Grading System

Students wishing to obtain a doctoral degree must maintain a consistently high academic performance throughout their program. An overall grade point average of 3.25 on a 4.0 scale, is required. Only grades of "A," "B," "C" earn graduate credit, although the course grade of "B-" or lower will trigger a review of the student's qualification to remain in the program, as noted below under Academic Probation and Dismissal. Grades of all students are recorded in the Office of the Registrar.

Academic Probation and Dismissal

Cumulative Grade Point Average: A student failing to maintain the minimum GPA of 3.25 will be placed on academic probation. The following semester, should the student not meet the minimum cumulative GPA (3.25), the Doctoral Program committee will review the matter and the student is subject to dismissal from the doctoral program. Students who receive one course grade of "B-" or lower will be reviewed by the Doctoral Program committee and are subject to Academic Probation. For a second course grade of "B-" or lower, the Doctoral Program committee will review the matter and the student is subject to dismissal from the doctoral program.


Candidacy Examination Portfolio — Revision of Items: When students do not successfully complete a course-related Candidacy Exam portfolio item during the coursework phase of doctoral study, they must then revise and successfully pass the item within the following semester. The student will be placed on Academic Probation until that item has been satisfactorily revised and passed within that following semester. If a student does not successfully complete the item within that time period, then the program committee will review the matter and the student may be subject for dismissal from the doctoral program. Should any student receive a notice that a third course-related Candidacy Exam portfolio item was not successfully passed and must be revised, then at that time the program committee will review the matter and the student may be subject for dismissal from the doctoral program.

Timely Progress

Timely Progress in the Coursework Phase: During the coursework phase, doctoral students must complete a minimum of 12 credits toward the doctoral degree per academic year, except for the final year of coursework study. Following a second year in which a student does not complete the required minimum of 12 credits per academic year, then the program committee will review the matter and the student may be subject for dismissal from the doctoral program.

Timely Progress in the Dissertation Phase: Students in the dissertation phase of doctoral studies must make timely progress toward the completion of a dissertation. Timely progress is made by achieving the relevant semester-by-semester milestone requirements related to the particular degree program as specified in the Program Handbook. If the student misses the achievement of a dissertation semester milestone a second time, then the program committee will review the matter and the student may be subject for dismissal from the doctoral program.

Time Limit for Degrees

All course and academic requirements must be completed within seven years from the date of the student's first registration for graduate study in the doctoral program.

Failure to Register/Unofficial Withdrawal

Students who fail to register or pay the necessary portion of their tuition bill in any given semester without arranging for a leave of absence or formal withdrawal are dismissed from the program by default since official registration for that semester was never completed. It is the student's responsibility to be aware of course selection and registration procedures and deadlines, and program deadlines for paying tuition and fees.

Students who unofficially withdraw from the program and are later readmitted may be required to pay continuation fees for semesters during which they were not enrolled and are subject to doctoral program curriculum changes and graduation requirements implemented during their program inactivity.

Leave of Absence

Inactive students are those who have requested and been granted a Leave of Absence from the program. A Leave of Absence may be granted upon petition for change of status if there is deemed sufficient reason for interrupting the program and there is an intention to return to the program. A Leave of Absence must be renewed by petition each semester and may not exceed two consecutive semesters. A Leave of Absence longer than two semesters will require withdrawal from the program and a petition for readmission if the student later wishes to regain active status. Each Leave of Absence must receive the approval of the student's academic advisor and, if applicable, the final approval of the Doctoral Program Committee. Students on leave are required to register for TTDE 8891 each term (a 1-credit fee may be assessed).


A person who has withdrawn or been dismissed from the doctoral program may request and file a reapplication to the program a minimum of six months after termination. The reapplication should be in the form of a letter and include a new application form, at least two current references, and any desired supporting materials. The letter should be addressed to the Doctoral Program Committee, stating the reasons for requesting re-admittance as well as any other issues deemed relevant by the applicant. The letter should directly address the causes for dismissal, and present a realistic plan and time schedule for completion of the program, should readmission be granted. The application will be considered with the regular admissions pool.


The curriculum of the doctoral program is organized into two parts: a series of common program courses taken by all students and elective courses from which the student will select those appropriate for a program of study. Doctoral courses are numbered in the 8000 series.

Candidacy Examination

The Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs use a portfolio process for the Candidacy Exam. See the current Candidacy Exam Portfolio Instructions for a detailed explanation. The final part of the Candidacy Exam consists of successfully completing the following program course during the final semester of coursework studies: TTDE 8950.


Dissertation advisors are available to supervise dissertations during the regular Fall and Spring terms only. See the current Dissertation Guidelines for a detailed explanation.

Full-time Status for Government Loans and International Students

Students with government loans or with international student visas must maintain full-time student status each Fall and Spring semester while enrolled in doctoral studies (minimum 6 credits per Fall and Spring semesters). The following course and dissertation registrations count as full-time student status without needing to reach the 6-credit level.

Coursework students enrolled in TTDE 8950 Candidacy Exam Capstone are considered full-time students for that semester only.

Dissertation students are given full-time status for up to five semesters of TTDE 8960.

Director: Klaus Issler, Ph.D.
Professors: Eguizabal, Esqueda, Issler, Lawson
Associate Professors: Cunningham, Kim

Course Descriptions