Professional Doctoral Culminating Experience – Professional Doctorate
To define the culminating experience required for a professional doctoral degree.
To ensure that professional doctoral students demonstrate expert application of knowledge in their chosen field through the completion of a culminating experience on a topic related to the graduate major program. Evaluation of the professional doctoral culminating experience is the final summative assessment in a professional doctoral program; acceptance of the culminating experience indicates the candidate should be awarded the doctoral degree.
All students enrolled in programs of study leading to a professional doctoral degree.
- Professional Doctoral Degree Program
- an integrated program of study combined with understanding of research literature to support application of knowledge to practice at the highest level, culminating in a project, portfolio, or performance that demonstrates expertise in professional practice. Students successfully completing a professional doctoral degree program are awarded the appropriate doctoral degree; professional doctoral degrees at Penn State include D.Ed., D.M.A., D.N.P., and Dr.P.H.
- Research Doctoral Degree Program
- an integrated program of study combined with investigation of a significant problem, question, or issue in the discipline, culminating in the completion of an original scholarly contribution (in the form of a dissertation) that expands the frontiers of knowledge. Students successfully completing a research doctoral degree program are awarded Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree.
- The culminating experience for a professional doctoral degree program must include:
- A written work (e.g., a description of a culminating project, a monograph, a portfolio, etc.1);
- A public presentation as appropriate to the graduate major, for example:
- The final oral examination based on the written work.
- A final performance.
- The format of the culminating experience is to be defined by the program and indicated in the program handbook.
- The culminating experience for professional doctoral candidates enrolled in a dual-title degree program must reflect both their graduate program and their dual-title program.
- The culminating experience is evaluated by the entire Professional Doctoral Committee and:
- must be approved by at least two-thirds of the professional doctoral committee.
- must be approved by the head of the student’s graduate program.
- The Public Presentation:
- Requires a favorable vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the committee to pass.
- If a candidate fails the examination, it is the responsibility of the Professional Doctoral Committee to determine whether the student will be granted a second opportunity to take the examination.
- If a candidate fails the examination, it is the responsibility of the Professional Doctoral Committee to determine whether the student may transfer to the corresponding professional master’s degree program.
The student’s major program, or program area in programs with distinct subdisciplines, must establish guidelines for the Final Oral Examination or Final Performance that are uniformly applied to all students in that program or within each subdiscipline. These guidelines and evaluation criteria must be presented in the graduate program’s handbook, which must be provided to the student upon matriculation. These guidelines must include:
- The timing and the format of the examination or performance.
- Clear criteria for evaluation.
- The program’s policy describing the student’s options in case of failure. The policy must include:
- If retaking the examination or performance after failure is allowed, and if so under what conditions.
- If retaking the examination or performance after failure is permitted whether there is a limit to the number of attempts and a timeline under which the retakes must be completed.
- If a candidate fails the examination or performance, it is the responsibility of the Professional Doctoral Committee, in consultation with the program head, to determine whether the student will be granted a second opportunity, provided it is allowed by the program.
- Requires a favorable vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the committee to pass.
- Final Oral Examination
- is administered, overseen, and evaluated by the entire Professional Doctoral Committee (see GCAC-702 and GCAC-703).
- shall consist of a public oral presentation of the professional doctoral culminating experience followed by a closed discussion between the student and the student's Professional Doctoral Committee.
- shall include evaluation of the accomplishments of the student relative to the program’s defined Learning Objectives, particularly with respect to the student’s mastery of the major, and if appropriate, dual-title and minor fields of study.
- will relate in large part to the professional doctoral culminating experience but may cover the candidate’s entire program of study. The specific approach is left to the committee members’ discretion.
- Final Performance
- The written portion of the professional doctoral culminating experience (non-performance-based programs) or the final performance (performance-based programs) must deposited for inclusion in the University Libraries.
- The work must be made available to the public through inclusion in the University Libraries.
1The culminating project in a professional doctoral degree is not referred to as a dissertation. Due to long-standing practice, the use of the term “dissertation” is allowed as an exception solely for the Doctor of Education (D.Ed.) degree. D.Ed. dissertations must conform to policy GCAC-607 Dissertation - Research Doctorates.
- It is the responsibility of the doctoral candidate and Professional Doctoral Culminating Experience Chair to comply with all policies concerning the completion, distribution, and consultation requirements for the professional doctoral culminating experience. See GCAC-703 Professional Doctoral Committee Responsibilities for more information.
- The graduate student must be in good academic standing and must be registered as a full-time or part-time graduate degree student for the semester in which the culminating experience is presented and the final oral examination is administered. At the time of the presentation and examination, the graduate student:
- must have a minimum grade-point average of 3.00 for work done at the University as a graduate student.
- must not have deferred or missing grades.
- Both the adviser and the student are responsible for providing a copy of the written component of the professional doctoral culminating experience to the student’s professional doctoral committee at least two weeks prior to the scheduled date of the final oral examination.
- The written component of the professional doctoral culminating experience should be complete, with correct and polished content and style, appropriate notes, bibliography, tables, etc., at the time it is distributed to the committee members.
- If any committee member finds that the draft submitted to them is not correct and polished with respect to content and style, it is their responsibility to notify the Professional Doctoral Committee Chair at least one week in advance of the final oral examination date. The committee member should indicate their concerns regarding the draft and recommend consideration of postponement of the examination to the adviser and chair.
- The chair, in consultation with committee members, is responsible for notifying the student and assessing whether the student can make the necessary revisions to the draft before the examination date.
- If it is determined that revisions cannot be made in time, the examination must be postponed.
- If differences of opinion on this matter exist among committee members, and these cannot be resolved within the committee itself, the head of the graduate program must be consulted to hear the expressed concerns and determine whether the examination should be postponed.
- The professional doctoral committee may require revisions to the written portion of professional doctoral culminating experience after the Final Oral Examination or Final Performance. If they approve the professional doctoral culminating experience, professional doctoral committee members indicate that approval only after all final revisions have been made.
- The responsibility for scheduling the Final Oral Examination or Final Performance rests with the student and their Professional Doctoral Committee chair.
- The Final Oral Examination or Final Performance may not be scheduled until at least three months have elapsed since the comprehensive examination was passed unless an alternative timing is approved through the Graduate Council’s curricular review process.
- Final Examination or Final Performance Attendance
- The Final Oral Examination or Final Performance must be scheduled at least two weeks prior to the date of the examination.
- The Final Oral Examination or Final Performance may be given in person at the campus location of the graduate center offering the program, via interactive, synchronous videoconferencing, or with some participants in person and some via interactive video conferencing.
- Remote participants will use appropriately equipped University videoconferencing facilities or University-supported web-conferencing technology.
- Up to one committee member may participate by audio only; the student may not participate by audio only.
- Programs may restrict the conditions for attendance at the Final Oral Examination or Final Performance within the parameters listed here.
- The mode of participation for each participant will be indicated on the Examination Request form and will be included in the notification that the examination has been scheduled.
- In the case of emergencies where a committee member can no longer participate, programs should contact Graduate Enrollment Services.
- The results of all Final Oral Examinations, regardless of the outcome, must be reported to the Graduate Enrollment Services within five business days following the examination.
- Approved by Graduate Council, Dec. 16, 2020. Effective date: Fall 2021 (08/16/2021).
- New policy.