Academic Rigor in the College of Doctoral Studies

By Jim Hadley, PhD
Program Chair, College of Doctoral Studies

Posted on November 17, 2016  in  [ Doctoral Journey ]

The topic of academic rigor in both traditional and online classrooms at colleges and universities has garnered much attention and discussion over the past couple of years.

This impetus includes national and state accrediting bodies’ diligence on ensuring academic guidelines and measurable graduate outcomes are met, the increasing number of traditional schools looking to gain access to the online space and the for-profit industry’s bad actors being challenged on their lack of curriculum oversight.

In the College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University, a collaborative effort between the college, curriculum development and subject matter experts provides a peer-reviewed approach in the development and refinement of core and emphasis courses throughout the programs of study. Faculty still has the academic freedom and flexibility to deliver curriculum in the best way of meeting course objectives, but oversight is necessary.

Everyone in the College of Doctoral Studies plays an integral part in ensuring that academic rigor is executed and monitored to benefit our learners in their pursuit of their terminal degree, but this can only be successful if our faculty fully understands their role. This includes holding learners accountable not just for assignment completion, but for also helping to foster the opportunity for learners to become independent researchers.

Providing open, honest and substantive feedback to learners and letting them know truthfully if they are not meeting doctoral-level expectations needs to become the norm. With establishing clear and consistent expectations through every class, academic rigor will become the guiding principle that will help us create the culture for which we strive in the College of Doctoral Studies.

Grand Canyon University’s College of Doctoral Studies allows students to grow and learn in their field. To learn more about GCU’s doctoral programs, visit our website or request more information by using the button at the top of the page.

More about Dr. Hadley:

Dr. Jim Hadley is currently the PhD program chair in the College of Doctoral Studies. He graduated from the University of Maryland (European Division) with a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology in 1979, and went on to complete his Master of Arts degree in marriage, family and child counseling with a clinical emphasis at Chapman University in 1983.

After serving in the Air Force for 22 years in the human resources field, he held positions as manager of leadership training and development for various large organizations in the Midwest. In 2003, Dr. Hadley completed his PhD in psychology from Saybrook University in San Francisco (formerly known as the Humanistic Psychology Institute).

He taught general psychology classes at the community college level, and moved into college administration, serving as an academic dean, as campus president at two different for-profit colleges and as a campus president at a small for-profit university. Dr. Hadley has taught doctoral students in various psychology and leadership courses during the past seven years, and was a full-time online faculty member at Grand Canyon University.

About College of Doctoral Studies

Grand Canyon University’s innovative doctoral degree programs prepare learners for leadership roles in their professions, communities and society. Our dynamic online learning community, integrated dissertation process, wealth of resources and collaborative environment support a successful and meaningful doctoral journey. We believe earning a doctoral degree is a journey and similar to climbing a mountain—challenging, invigorating and completely rewarding when you reach the top. Our goal is to help you conquer your own mountain and succeed on your doctoral journey. Readers of The Doctoral Journey blog, presented by the College of Doctoral Studies, will find resourceful and knowledgeable posts regarding the doctoral process, research best practices and dissertation tips among other topics from GCU’s doctoral faculty.


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