Educational Studies, Ph.D. and Ed.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 Ministry and Leadership 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 theologically-oriented educational contexts within God's Kingdom — Christian higher education, the local church and parachurch organizations throughout the world.

Students come to the programs already having completed a graduate degree and significant experience in the field of education related contexts. In general, doctoral students are established within a particular educational setting and return following completion of the program. A few students are in transition in their career path. The curriculum particularly encourages conceptual thinking, integrative synthesis of Scripture and social science data, and original empirical 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 within God's Kingdom — as faculty and administrators in educational institutions, as leaders in parachurch organizations, and as pastoral staff in local churches, throughout the world — in order to nurture spiritual vitality, growth, and maturity.


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.) 

Degrees Offered

Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Education

The Ph.D. and the Ed.D. programs generally share a common foundation of required program courses. Students selecting Talbot's Ph.D. in Educational Studies degree are interested in combining educational leadership and teaching with a strong emphasis in developing a competency in empirical research and the contribution of theory in the practice of education-related studies.  Research training in the Ph.D. program is primarily empirical with some opportunity for conceptual research as well.

Those choosing Talbot's Ed.D. in Educational Studies are generally focused on improving their educational leadership and teaching in their practice within education-related contexts, while also developing knowledge and skills of literature and empirical research. 

Cohort Approach and Elective Emphases from Faculty Expertise

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.

Our doctoral faculty offer elective courses within two general emphases: “Educational Foundations and Christian Formation,” and “Christian Higher Education.” Some electives apply to both emphases. Students can include within their Program Course Plan courses from either or both emphases, based on availability as published in the projected course schedule. Contact the Ph.D. and Ed.D. Doctoral office for more information on the current schedule.

Course Design for Distance Students

The coursework phase and candidacy exam can be completed within four years for Ph.D., and three years for Ed.D. program. Designed for those living at a distance and who may be working full-time, program required courses are taught as one-week intensives on campus in early November (Fall semester) and in early March (Spring semester) that include both pre-intensive and post-intensive video conferences, readings, and assignments.

Elective courses in the fall and spring semesters are also offered as one-week intensives that provide face-to-face instruction and interaction (the week following the required intensive, permitting one trip to campus per semester). A few electives are available as online courses or as weekly online seminars.

All 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 periodic, three-hour long doctoral online 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.

Hybrid Distance Format Option

For those who cannot locally access a doctoral program in educational studies with Christian perspectives, we offer both of our Ph.D. and Ed.D. doctoral 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 engagement within their current institution or organization while completing their Ph.D. or Ed.D. in Educational Studies. 

Ph.D. "Current Faculty Track" The hybrid distance Ph.D. program is open only to full-time or regular adjunct faculty and leadership in Christian higher education. It serves the needs of leaders and faculty called to serve within the broad fields of education-related studies who cannot relocate to pursue a doctoral program. Local church and parachurch staff can qualify for this hybrid distance Ph.D. by securing an annual part-time adjunct teaching appointment from an accredited college or seminary, teaching at least one course each year during doctoral studies. This teaching practice provides an important opportunity for becoming familiar with the context of Christian higher education, particularly for those desiring to seek a full-time faculty or leadership position following graduation.

Partnership with Your School: The application materials provide a full description of the support needed from your school to help you complete your studies (e.g., a doctoral mentor, and potential reduction of workload during the coursework and dissertation phases).

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

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, 3 credits), 24 credits of electives, and Dissertation.

Ed.D. – The Ed.D. degree requires 36-semester credits including 21 credits of program courses (including the Candidacy Examination Capstone course, 3 credits), 15 credits of electives, and Dissertation.

For both programs, the Program Director serves as the academic advisor and will assist students to develop a Program Course Plan consisting of a schedule of program and elective courses. 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.

All dissertation students must 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

During the final semester of coursework, the student enrolls in and completes the TTDE 8950 Candidacy Exam Capstone course before requesting advancement to begin dissertation studies in the following semester. The Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs use a portfolio process for the Candidacy Exam. The Candidacy Examination Portfolio (CEP) provides the opportunity to evaluate the student's attainment of program learning outcomes. Detailed information about the CEP 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 Chair. 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 Doctoral Program Committee. Then, the doctoral student is eligible to begin dissertation studies. For students not meeting these criteria, the Doctoral 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 credits 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 TTDE 8950 Candidacy Examination Capstone course and being awarded Candidacy Status, the dissertation student will be approved to 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 and theological tradition, personal character and integrity, a service-oriented motivation toward endeavors of leadership and teaching 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 enrolling 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 focused, full-time paid work experience within an education-related context with evidence of leadership gifts and abilities.
  2. Have earned an accredited Master's degree with an emphasis in two areas of graduate study (a) 18 credits of graduate Bible and theology and (b) sufficient study in education-related areas (e.g., Philosophy or History or Christian Religious Education/Formation, Human Development or Educational Psychology, Educational Administration or Leadership, Counseling or Group Dynamics, 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.
    Applicants 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: (a) Graduate pre-requisite study in theology and Bible must be completed by coursework, which is available online through Talbot School of Theology. (b) Education-related graduate pre-requisite study may be completed by informal masters level independent readings courses, supervised by the Ph.D. and Ed.D. office.
  3. Submit a completed online 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 hybrid distance or residential format.
  4. Test Scores: (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; the math score is not considered). 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) For international applicants for whom English is not a primary language, 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 in listening to and speaking spoken English at a doctoral level so as 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, but not more than 20 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 Ph.D. and Ed.D. program degrees is January 31. A new cohort of students is admitted in the fall semester only. 

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. Any financial scholarship award will be included in the notice of acceptance (see Talbot Ph.D./Ed.D. website for information about scholarships). 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. 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, 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 Doctoral 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 Doctoral 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 a Ph.D. student is not able to successfully defend his or her dissertation proposal by the fourth semester of dissertation studies, or an Ed.D. student is not able to successfully defend his or her dissertation proposal by the second semester of dissertation studies,then the Doctoral 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 longer than one semester will require withdrawal from the program and later a petition for readmission if the student wishes to regain active status. A Leave of Absence request must receive the approval of the Program Director and, if applicable, the final approval of the Doctoral Program Committee. Students on leave are required to register for TTDE 8891 (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 one-time, following a minimum of six months after termination. The reapplication should include the following items: a cover letter, a short 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 of applicants.


The curriculum of the doctoral program is organized into two parts: a series of common required 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.

Course numbering

Elective Courses: (8100 - 8700 series). Elective courses are offered within two general emphases, based on faculty expertise. Some electives may apply to both emphases.

Educational Foundations and Christian Formation: (8100 - 8200, and 8500 series).

Christian Higher Education: 8300 - 8400 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 required program course during the final semester of coursework studies: TTDE 8950 Candidacy Exam Capstone.


Dissertation Chairs 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

F-1 Visa international doctoral students must physically come to campus each required fall and spring term for some period of time within that term (i.e. “physical seat-time”) to comply with U.S. immigration regulations.  This requirement is usually satisfied during the first five semesters of coursework study, since each required course involves a one-week intensive on campus.  For the following semesters of coursework, if an elective course does not require a one-week intensive on campus, then the student must travel to campus during the regularly required intensive week each fall and spring, until the coursework phase is completed.

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

Course Descriptions