Curriculum & Courses

Graduate Studies Courses

Regular semester-long courses–lecture, group work, discussion, library research, etc. These courses are taught in a more-or-less traditional graduate seminar format in which students read and discuss both common and individual readings and pursue a research project under the direction of a professor/mentor.

EDU 501 Educational Leadership and Societal Change: A Comparative Perspective and EDU 502 Ethnographies in Educational Leadership are both taught in a three-week block period. Students take these courses exclusively; they meet for a required three hours per day in what is essentially a workshop/colloquium consisting of lecture, student presentation, writing-intensive group discussion, and case study development.

EDU 512 Leadership and Societal Change: The Distinguished Practitioners Series also takes place in the block and is designed to expose students to former and current senior teachers, administrators, research scientists, and other individuals with a proven record of leadership in the reform of schools and society. Students work with a master change agent to develop their own reform models, testing these models against real problems and controversies in the world of education, especially as they affect the larger society.

EDU 520 MA Thesis–independent research combined with library and field research.

A month-long summer research grant introduces students to the meaning-making practices of those who inhabit “educational” spaces, drawing upon primary and secondary sources to yield insight into the dynamic interplay of educational leadership and societal change. Occurring between the first and second year of the MA Program, the grant is designed to enable graduate students to travel to and conduct pre-MA thesis research at one or more discrete locations either in the United States or abroad. Under the supervision of a principal professor, students integrate their fieldwork and educational research to produce a master’s thesis for graduation.

A Story of Personal Courage

Where is she now? Fifth grade bilingual teacher at Back Elementary School, Dallas, Texas.

Image of Stephanie Samaniego.

Soka’s small class sizes were intimidating at the start but … I have been able to transform my shy and timid personality into a confident and outspoken young woman.

Stephanie Samaniego
Class of 2016 | Dallas, Texas

Year 1 Course Sequence & Descriptions

Fall Block | 2 Credits | Required

EDU 501 introduces first-year students to the main themes of the MA program, beginning with a critical inquiry into the dialectical relations between school and society. Permanently taught by visiting distinguished professors each Fall Block, the course examines social forces of change and persistence as the structural constraints and opportunities within which schools, teachers, and administrators operate.

Fall Semester | 3 Credits | Required

EDU 503 examines the social, historical and philosophical foundations of contemporary schooling. The course explores the metaphysical, epistemological, moral, and political problems that educational philosophers have grappled with for centuries in their effort to answer the question: What knowledge is most worth having?

Fall Semester | 3 Credits | Required

EDU 505 explores the theory and practice of leadership across a variety of cultures, genres, perspectives, and individual cases, where the kind and degree of leadership is essential for achieving educational objectives that promote peaceful human development.

Fall Semester | 3 Credits | Required

EDU 515 explores the psychology of learning with a focus on how empirical knowledge about human cognition, emotion, and attitudes can be applied in schools and other educational settings. Students gain an understanding of key concepts in the areas of human development, learning theory, and motivation; explore applications of concepts in contemporary educational settings through case studies and other activities; and consider contemporary issues in the field from various individual perspectives and cultural contexts.

Winter Block | 3 Credits | Required

EDU 502 examines research methods that are descriptive, field-based, interpretive, and discovery-focused. Students analyze case studies of educational administration that inform and reflect a variety of surrounding cultures. This course is taught by a visiting distinguished professor over Winter Block.

Spring Semester | 3 Credits | Required

EDU 504 introduces students to the theoretical, conceptual, and methodological questions and concerns that have animated scholarship and practice in the field of comparative and international education from its mid-twentieth century beginnings.

Spring Semester | 3 Credits | Required

EDU 506 examines movements of democratic change, historical as well as contemporary, that have resulted over time in new institutional and organizational forms that in turn contribute to shaping the educational process. Students study the process of organizational change under conditions of democratic rule, in which in theory decision-making is a transaction among and between competing group, institutional, and individual interests.

Spring Semester | 3 Credits | Required

EDU 508 is a first-year graduate-level survey of quantitative and mixed (qualitative and quantitative) research methods commonly found in educational studies. The general content base of this course is two-fold: 1) research planning and design and 2) data analysis and reporting. Through reading published empirical research, as well as class activities and discussion, students will recognize the theoretical, practical, and sociocultural constraints on all parts of educational research, from questions and design to analysis and interpretation.

Summer | 0 Credits | Optional

The Summer Research Program is a non-credit bearing instructional option designed to enable graduate students to conduct pre-MA thesis research at one or more discrete locations either in the United States or abroad. Students identify a field site(s) where they can obtain first-hand experience as well as pursue research in an area of scholarly interest. Through an application process, the Summer Research Travel Grant (SRTG), financial support is awarded by the Graduate School.

Year 2 Course Sequence & Descriptions

Fall Semester | 3 Credits | Required

EDU 507 examines key legal issues that govern daily and long-range decisions of educational leaders. The course focuses on understanding state and federal codes, case law, policies, and significant precedent and will emphasize analysis of key legal concepts and application to major areas including finance, personnel, risk management, curriculum, student services, teacher rights, torts, students’ rights, and access.

Fall Semester | 3 Credits | Required

EDU 511 is an independent study in which students work with their MA Thesis advisor to build on the knowledge base acquired in EDU 502 and EDU 508 to refine the research skills necessary to complete their thesis. Particular attention is paid to the critical reading of research and exploration of research design possibilities in order to help students finalize a thesis topic and draft a defensible research proposal and analysis plan.

Fall Semester | 3 Credits | Required

EDU 517 offers a critical review of types, purpose, procedures, uses, and limitations of assessment strategies and techniques. A focus of the class will be on the ethical implications of different assessment decisions and a recognition of how these decisions impact institutions, programs, and learners. An additional focus of the class will be an effective reporting of assessment results to different educational stakeholders.

Winter Block | 2 Credits | Required

This course takes advantage of the Winter Block to bring to campus a series of distinguished practitioners – leaders who have made a discernible difference in a school, a district, at the state and /or national level to advance humanistic, community-based education and learning – to explore with students the special themes and concerns of the MA program in Educational Leadership and Societal Change.

Spring Semester | 3 Credits | Required

EDU 513 examines the issues and trends surrounding what schools teach and why, tracing the struggle for control over the modern curriculum from the late 19th century to the present. By examining historical and current debate on what an educated citizen should look like, what a general education is for, and what kind of education is most worth having, students form and articulate their own views in these considerations.

Spring Semester | 4 Credits | Required

Students spend the last semester of the program preparing and completing their MA thesis under the supervision of a principle faculty advisor. Students are responsible for preparing a non-credit bearing public defense of their thesis as a prerequisite for successful graduation.

International Scope of Curriculum

  • Image of children in a colorful Cuban street.

    Transnational Contexts

    Given its location in the United States and its interest in preparing globally-minded leaders to better serve a multicultural, multiethnic America, the program focuses much of its curricular emphasis on US policy, politics, history, and psychology. This is not only to better prepare students for doctoral work in educational administration in the United States but also to place US policies and practices in a global, transnational context. At the same time, all students, domestic and international alike, come away with an understanding of schools and schooling within as well as above and beyond the country context in which they find themselves, including a deeper appreciation of the social and historical construction of school practices.

Summer Research Travel Grant

One of the unique features of the MA program, and a measure of its commitment to supporting international and comparative research, is a subsidized Summer Research Travel Grant (SRTG) that you may apply for between the first and second year of the program.

The SRTG provides hands-on opportunities to interview teachers and administrators, analyze organizational dynamics, and evaluate curriculum at home and abroad. The majority of students elect to conduct their research in a foreign country. Under the supervision of a principal faculty advisor, you will integrate your fieldwork and educational research to produce a Master’s thesis for graduation. Since the first such summer research projects in 2015, students have received funding to travel to dozens of countries around the world, across South America, Africa, Europe, and South and East Asia.

The MA in Educational Leadership and Societal Change at Soka is unique. I know of no US master’s level program that focuses on global leadership and world peace. This program is definitely one for the 21st century and is international in perspective. For a potential educational leader who wants to make a difference in the world Soka is the place where it happens.

Fenwick W. English
Professor and Chair, Department of Educational Leadership, Ball State University; guest professor in the Soka MA program

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