Ph.D. in Educational Studies

Featured Faculty

Klaus D. Issler

Klaus D. Issler


The doctoral degree, established in 1984, is offered within the Department of Christian Education at Talbot School of Theology.

Those choosing Talbot's Ph.D. in Educational Studies degree are interested in combining educational ministry leadership and teaching with a strong emphasis in developing a competency in research and the contribution of theory to the practice of educational ministry. Research training in the Ph.D. program is strong in selected areas of ongoing faculty research.

Students come to the programs already having completed a graduate degree and significant ministry experience in the field of educational ministry. In general, doctoral students are established within a particular ministry organization and return following completion of the program. A few students are in transition in their career path. The curriculum particularly encourages critical thinking, integrative synthesis of Scripture and social science data, and original 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.

Format Options

The Ph.D. degree program is offered in the normal residential format, or with a hybrid distance format.


Courses are offered on campus in fall (late August to mid-December) and spring (February through May) semesters. A normal full-time load is three courses, or nine units of coursework. Residential students can also take elective hybrid courses offered in November and March. (Note: Students are counted as full-time at six units per semester)

Elective Courses in the Fall and Spring semesters are usually offered as weekly on-campus class sessions that permit face-to-face instruction. In early June, a one-week on-campus elective module is also scheduled. A few electives are available as online courses.

Hybrid Distance

For those who cannot locally access a doctoral program in education with Christian perspectives, we offer both of our doctoral degree programs in a special format. The use of blended online and residential coursework makes it possible for students to continue ministering with their current organizations while completing their Ph.D. in Educational Studies. Teaching in a Christian higher education setting is required to qualify for admission to the "Current Faculty Track" Ph.D. program. Others in educational ministry roles may qualify for the hybrid Ed.D. program. Both programs utilize blended courses for one week in November and one week in March for four years. Coursework precedes and follows class sessions.

Elective Courses in the Fall and Spring semesters are usually offered as weekly video-conference class sessions that permit face-to-face instruction. In early June, a one-week on campus elective module is also scheduled. A few electives are available as online courses.

Cohort Approach

New groups of students begin the program every year in the Fall semester. Students work through the core courses together, with some choice of elective options to fit their study interests. Contact the Graduate Admissions office for more information about the schedule.


As a result of successfully completing the Ph.D. program in Educational Studies, the student will:

  1. Demonstrate competence and ethical practices in designing and carrying out sound original empirical research to extend knowledge in the field of educational studies.  (ULOs: Truth Transformation, Testimony)

  2. Locate, analyze, critically evaluate, synthesize, and apply knowledge from the literature of the broad field of educational studies to address the needs of educational and ministry settings.  (ULOs: Truth, Testimony)

  3. Demonstrate proficiency in carrying out biblical and theological research, integrating theological and social science data to inform and guide educational and ministry research, theory development, and practice.  (ULOs: Truth, Testimony)

  4. Demonstrate teaching abilities and skills suitable for higher educational settings.  (ULO: Testimony)

  5. Demonstrate the needed writing skills to communicate with academic audiences.  (ULO: Testimony)

  6. Give evidence of ongoing personal openness and spiritual responsiveness to God and a desire to continue to grow in relationship with God.  (ULO: Transformation)


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 units 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.)

As members of a Christian university community, program faculty believe that relating one's faith to an academic discipline goes beyond the theoretical and cognitive. Opportunities for fellowship, dialogue and worship are seen as vital parts of the total educational process. Talbot School of Theology sponsors a weekly chapel service. Various discussion times over meals, a student retreat and other social activities provide an opportunity for informal, out-of-class interaction with faculty and students. Students are also encouraged to become involved in one of the many local churches in the Southern California area.

Admissions Requirements

Are you an international student? Please view the international admissions requirements

Enrollment is limited and admission is on a selective basis, therefore applications should be made as early as possible. Applications submitted after the deadline will usually be considered for the following year (residential program) or the next cohort (hybrid program).

The doctoral program seeks to admit applicants whose background clearly demonstrate scholarly aptitude, a commitment to the historic Christian faith, personal character and integrity, a service-oriented motivation toward endeavors of educational ministry 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.

In order to be admitted to full graduate standing, the applicant must comply with the following:

  • Have completed at least three years of full-time vocational experience in educational ministry with evidence of leadership gifts and abilities.
  • Have earned a Master's degree in Christian or Religious Education (MACE or MRE) or its equivalent from an accredited educational institution. Equivalence is defined as an earned master's degree of 36 semester units of graduate study in areas related to the Christian education ministry, including 18 units of graduate Bible and theology.
  • At least one course in each of the following areas should have been completed: Philosophy or History of Christian Education, Human Development or Educational Psychology, Educational Administration or Leadership, Interpersonal Communication/Group Dynamics or Counseling, 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. Students whose formal educational preparation does not include all of the required prerequisite coursework must complete them prior to enrollment.

  • Submit a completed Talbot School of Theology doctoral application online along with the $65 application fee. The application will provide a place to indicate either the residential or hybrid distance format.

  • Submit scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Information regarding GRE testing dates and location may be obtained by visiting:, or call 1-800-473-2255 to register.

  • 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. 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.

Graduation Requirements

The Ph.D. degree requires 45-semester units, including 21 units of core classes and a Candidacy Exam Capstone course and 24 units of electives, plus the dissertation. The student's advisor assists in planning the schedule of courses and supervises the student's progress in the program and the development of an elective program based on the two-year projected schedule of courses being offered. Up to 3 units of graduate course work directly related to the specialization may be taken in other departments at Biola University or transferred in from other accredited graduate institutions.

  • Doctoral Program Proposal
    During the first term of study and in consultation with the program director, students identify the 24-unit electives program they will complete, along with the remaining core courses, to meet the 45-semester unit minimum requirement. Once approved, this schedule serves as the projected course of study. A copy of the Program Proposal is placed in the student's file. Modifications must have prior approval of the student's advisor.

  • Candidacy Exam
    During the final semester of coursework, the student also enrolls in the TTDE 8950 Candidacy Exam Capstone course. The student completes the candidacy exam before engaging work on the dissertation. The candidacy exam evaluates the student's attainment of program study objectives.

  • 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 advisor. In order to be admitted to candidacy, the student must have successfully passed the candidacy exam.

  • Dissertation
    After passing the candidacy exam, the student will enroll in TTDE 8960 Dissertation (3 units) for up to five semesters. A student must enroll for a minimum of two terms of TTDE 8960 and must be enrolled in 8960 or 8970 Dissertation Extension the semester of graduation. Ph.D. dissertation students are considered full-time for a maximum of five semesters of TTDE 8960 only. Doctoral students must submit a dissertation evidencing high attainment in scholarship. Detailed information may be found in the Dissertation Guidelines Handbook.

  • Final Dissertation Defense
    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.

  • Graduation Requirements
    All students must present an acceptable dissertation, satisfactorily pass their candidacy exams, and complete all coursework with a minimum 3.25 GPA to qualify for graduation. Beyond completion of academic requirements, 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. 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).


Biola University
13800 Biola Ave. La Mirada, CA 90639