A phenomenological study of doctoral student experiences in an educational leadership doctoral program



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The purpose of this study was to examine the experiences of doctoral students in two higher education doctoral programs in Educational Leadership. This research was conducted to learn the experiences and barriers faced during the dissertation phase of the doctoral program. Past research has shown that attrition rates are over 50% and there are several reasons why doctoral students do not finish their program and are considered ABD. Participants selected for this study were doctoral students from two different doctoral programs in Educational Leadership. These doctoral students completed all coursework required for the doctoral program except for the dissertation. These students were classified as ABD.
Data was collected through phone interviews and analyzed by the researcher once interviews were transcribed. Results from the study show three main themes which include outside support, competing demands, and program obstacles. Tinto’s Doctoral Theory of Persistence was used to frame this study as research has shown that academic and social factors impact doctoral success. The findings suggest that support from the cohort, chair, and the institution is effective in helping doctoral students overcome barriers faced during the dissertation phase. Recommendations for doctoral programs in Educational Leadership are provided. The study’s findings suggest further research is needed to investigate the gender differences in doctoral studies, chair perspectives in ABD status, and Latino ABD students’ experiences