Florida Atlantic University

The IDEAL Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership for School Leaders

A Synchronous Distributed eLearning Program



The Florida Atlantic University (FAU) College of Education’s (COE) Department of Educational Leadership and Research Methodology (ELRM) has as its mission to contribute to the personal and professional growth of current and potential leaders who serve educational agencies or individuals in a variety of settings. The Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership, which we have called IDEAL (for Inclusive Development of Educational Administrators and Leaders) has been designed to provide aspiring school leaders with the rigorous, research-based, and job-embedded preparation required of equity-driven, instructional and transformative leaders of public, charter, private, religious, and international schools. The IDEAL Program seeks also to develop and sustain a commitment to positive social change; excellence in both understanding the need for, and implementing, the expert decision making and people skills associated with leadership in education; a belief in the power of lifelong learning, inclusion and human dignity; and exemplary standards of ethical and professional behavior.

Completion of this degree, and passing the Florida Educational Leadership Exam (FELE), leads to Florida Educational Leadership Certification (Level I), which qualifies an individual to serve as a public school assistant principal, intern assistant principal, intern principal, or interim principal.

In addition to the leadership domains of knowledge and experiential learning considered as world class by the profession, the IDEAL Program includes learning the Florida Principal Leadership Standards which are measured through the FELE, and the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSEL). It also complies with the program reaccreditation requirements specified by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).

The IDEAL Program Educational Philosophy and Practice

In keeping with the transformative principles of adult learning (Knowles, Holton III, & Swanson, 2015) 1 , the IDEAL Program has been designed to meet the needs and aspirations of emerging school leaders who work full-time while they manage multiple personal commitments. In addition, the curriculum’s delivery model is designed for both local and distant learners and is therefore offered in a synchronous distributed eLearning format. This means that, while all classes require real-time attendance with their instructor (on Saturday mornings and week-day evenings), students can opt either to attend on-site classes with their instructor at the FAU Campus in Southeast Florida, and/or join remotely via the University video-conferencing platform. All classes, including the three-semester internship, are conducted using this delivery model. This is designed to provide opportunities for students to experience scenario-based learning through collaboration, in-depth discussion, and real-world application, and to share their professional experiences and build long-lasting networks. Finally, given our belief in the value of job-embedded, experiential learning, which is especially important in the preparation of effective educational leaders who can ‘hit the ground running’, students apply what they learn by conducting the majority of their assignments and competency assessments in their schools. The program is delivered using the Canvas Learning Management System, supported by the LiveText (Watermark) Data Management System. This is where students access readings and other resources, participate in discussion board activities, collaborative team projects and small group breakout sessions, and upload assignments and major assessments.

1 Knowles, M., Holton III, E., & Swanson, R. (2015). The Adult Learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. New York: Routledge.

Our faculty are dedicated to the success of each and every student by building strong relationships through personalized advising, coaching, and mentoring. They comprise full-time, qualified, experienced higher education professors, researchers, and top school administrators with a background in public and private education. We also require that each student be supported and mentored by a school administrator at their school for the duration of the program.

For more information on the program and applications process, please contact Dr. John Hardman, IDEAL Program Coordinator, at whardma1@fau.edu. or fill out our contact form at the top of the page.


Admission Requirements

The IDEAL Program has been designed for the self-motivated teacher leader seeking to strengthen their leadership effectiveness, whether as a grade level team leader, department chair, assistant principal, principal, or district official. While we welcome applicants with this profile, we require that they be endorsed by their current principal or other supervisor within their organization. One of the core principles of the IDEAL program is that mentorship is a key component in developing leaders. For that reason, the initial step in the admissions process is for candidates to ensure they will be endorsed by the school principal based on their demonstrated leadership characteristics. The specific requirements for admission are processed by the Graduate College and the Department of Educational Leadership and Research Methodology.

General Requirements

Applicants must hold a Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited college or university. Additional program requirements can be found at the Graduate College site page .

  • Undergraduate GPA of 2.5 in upper division coursework*
  • Three years’ teaching experience by program start
  • Resume
  • Letter of application with a statement of personal goals
  • Two letters of recommendation (one of these must be by the school administrator/mentor)
  • School Administrator Commitment Letter

*GRE not required

Additional Application Requirements

Applicants who satisfy the requirements listed above will be invited to complete the admissions process by participating in the following:

  1. Application Essay (One-week turnaround)
  2. Essay response to a case (24-hour turnaround)
  3. Interview: Acceptance to the program is not final until a formal interview has been conducted in person or by video-conference.

Applications are due in the Graduate College September 15 of each year. We enroll one cohort per year, starting each Spring. Learn more here.

Proof of Residency and Immunization

To qualify for in-state tuition, you must provide proof that you have been a Florida resident for the past 12 months. Check the Registrar’s Office for information on the required documentation.

As an FAU student, you are required to submit proof of immunization before beginning your program. Feel free to contact Student Health Services. If you are requesting an exemption from immunizations, the process is detailed under the link as well.

Program costs: For information on tuition costs and financial aid please click on the links below.


Masters Program Description

The IDEAL School Leaders Masters Program is built on the four major domains that the ELRM requires for leadership learning; Leadership Foundations, Research Foundations, Professional Knowledge, and Experiential Learning. It is centered on providing effective leadership in areas of research, service and teaching at the local, state, national and international levels.

The IDEAL curriculum combines rigorous coursework with job-embedded clinical practice conducted at the student’s school throughout the program. Course content includes topics such as adult learning, systems thinking, instructional leadership, leadership for social justice, family and community engagement, school operations management, educational governance, law and policy, research methods, and many more. To ensure the effective completion of the school-based tasks included in the program’s three-semester internship, students are required to establish a strong working relationship with their Principal or other school administrator, who must agree to act as their mentor for the duration of the program*. Students in Florida graduate after completing state licensure requirements by taking the Florida Educational Leadership Examination (FELE). Students elsewhere should become informed as to the licensure requirements in their state.

* Administrator mentors are required to complete mentor training provided by the Department.

Students successfully completing the Masters Degree will have mastered the subject matter needed for the profession and understand the need to engage in lifelong learning to maintain effectiveness in a changing environment.

The first domain, Leadership Foundations, provides the student with learning specifically about leadership. Leadership is a relationship between leaders and followers who work together toward common goals to effect change in an ethical way. Leaders continually organize to ensure that goals are accomplished. They (a) set and seek to achieve goals, (b) find resources, (c) adapt to their environment, (d) maintain cohesiveness within the system, and (e) preserve a unique system of values and work flow. Leaders must develop their own minds in systems terms and see their organizations holistically, so they may transfer knowledge from one setting to another. They must develop skills and a capacity to envision the future and be able to find opportunities within and without their organizations. Informed reflective decision-makers need leadership foundational knowledge. The theory, learning, and application of leadership are provided through the three core courses that are required for all EDL programs.

The remaining three domains are Research Foundations, Professional Knowledge, and Experiential Learning. These domains have a core group of courses that provide the student with the opportunity to learn the most important elements contained within each.

Research Foundations. School leaders today must be adept at using current research methods and tools, as well as be able to interpret findings and analyze data thereby revealing answers to questions and problems encountered in practice. In the era of accountability, data-based decision making, and scientifically-based educational programs and practices, school leaders’ learning and knowledge in this area is critical to professional success.

Professional Knowledge. Ethical reflective decision-makers understand why they are given discretion in their roles and use that ability only for the student’s or client’s benefit. Students learn about specialized fields of school leadership including school operations and management, governance, law, instructional leadership, and school community in the component courses of this domain.

Experiential Learning. This domain implies the concept that elements of a professional’s education will be gained from a practical approach in a real-world situation. It is based on the belief that insights gained through a job, internship, volunteer work, or course field work will enhance academic studies and the professional’s critical reflection skills in thinking and acting upon his/her talents, aspirations, and the needs of the work setting. This domain also helps the professional in setting academic, career and personal goals. In Experiential Learning, students take internship courses with curricula that are built to practice assistant principal-level activities. These internships are semester-specific (Fall, Spring, and Summer). Each internship course presents different knowledge and skills applications. The curriculum of each internship is centered on the activities occurring during each of the Fall, Spring, and Summer school administrative calendar time frames.


Plan of Study

The IDEAL Program Plan of Study comprises 15 courses, including three internships that are conducted at the student’s school with the guidance of their instructor and the support of their school administrator mentor. The program is mandated in terms of coursework – you don’t have elective classes, and courses are scheduled on a pre-established rotation. The following table lists the coursework that you need to take for your degree:

Leadership Foundations Coursework
ADE 6381 Leadership 1 - Adult Learning & Assessment 3
EDS 6100 Leadership 2 - Theory & Assessment 3
EDA 6103 Leadership 3 - Administrative Processes 3
Education Foundations Coursework
STA 6113 Statistical Methods in Education 3
EDF 6481 Educational Research Methods (pre- or co-requisite: Stat. Methods) 3
Professional Knowledge Coursework
EDA 6207 School Operations 3
EDF 6786 Policy and Politics 3
EDS 6050 Instructional Leadership 1 3
EDS 6052 Instructional Leadership 2 (prerequisite: Instructional Leadership 1) 3
EDA 6232 Law and Policy (prerequisite: Policy and Politics) 3
EDA 6300 Systems and Community 3
EDA 6191 Leadership for Social Justice 3
Experiential Coursework
EDA 6945 Fall Internship 2
EDA 6946 Spring Internship 2
EDA 6947 Summer Internship 2

IMPORTANT: Additional Graduation Requirements

  • ESOL Endorsement -- Candidates in public schools who have not met their ESOL/ELL requirement of sixty (60) hours of ESOL district in-service points, or three (3) credit hours in a survey type ESOL course, must take TSL 4324 ESOL Strategies for Content Area Teachers prior to program completion. All other candidates must provide proof of ESOL Endorsement or Certification or may opt to take TSL 4324 ESOL Strategies for Content Area Teachers.
  • The Florida Educational Leadership Exam (FELE) must be taken and passed before graduation.
  • There is no thesis requirement for this program.

All candidates must provide evidence to the Department of Educational Leadership that these requirements have been satisfied.


Program Schedule

As described previously, both in-person and remote students will be attending classes following the schedule indicated below. The real-time classes are complemented by online readings, resources, assignments, and assessments.

Schedule of all courses:

Six-week fast-track courses (2 per semester):

  • Saturdays 8:30 – 12:30 pm
  • Thursdays 4:20 – 6:50 pm

Semester long courses, including the three-semester internship:

  • Tuesdays 4:20 – 6:50 pm
IDEAL Curriculum Schedule

As mentioned, coursework is complemented asynchronously through online readings, journals, and assignments. The latter consist of directed research and tasks students conduct at their place of work. Using this rotation, students can complete the program in six semesters (see IDEAL Curriculum Schedule above). Please note that the program requires full-time attendance. Exceptions due to major life circumstances will be considered on a case-by-case basis.


Leadership Standards

The IDEAL Program is aligned with the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSEL), as developed by the National Policy Board for Educational Administration (NPBEA, 2015) 2 . As stated by board, the Standards embody a research- and practice-based understanding of the relationship between educational leadership and student learning. Improving student learning takes a holistic view of leadership. In all realms of their work, educational leaders must focus on how they are promoting the learning, achievement, development, and well-being of each student. The Standards reflect interdependent domains, qualities and values of leadership work that research and practice suggest are integral to student success:

  1. Mission, Vision, and Core Values
  2. Ethics and Professional Norms
  3. Equity and Cultural Responsiveness
  4. Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment
  5. Community of Care and Support for Students
  6. Professional Capacity of School Personnel
  7. Professional Community for Teachers and Staff
  8. Meaningful Engagement of Families and Community
  9. Operations and Management
  10. School Improvement

2 National Policy Board for Educational Administration (2015). Professional Standards for Educational Leaders 2015. Reston, VA: Author.

IDEAL Program Core Values and Beliefs

The program is guided by the following foundational statement of intent and core values and beliefs.


We will be widely recognized as a leading school leadership professional learning program locally, nationally, and internationally, developing the strongest school leaders and leadership teams to lead and transform schools into model learning organizations.

The IDEAL School Leader Profile

The program is grounded in five core values and beliefs about educational leadership, expressed as the IDEAL School Leader Profile:

Leaders of Leaders

School leaders who are committed to a vision of leadership that is collaborative, distributed, data-informed, research-based, ethical, entrepreneurial, reflective, developmental, complementary, innovative, and courageous. They understand that leadership is most effective when it is shared and focused on developing leadership capacity within schools and school systems. They are lead learners whose leadership requires the ability to use pedagogy and andragogy in facilitating the learning of everyone in the school and its community.

Reflective Practitioners

School leaders who are reflective practitioners with a world view to create dynamic learning environments as well as organizational and operational systems where everyone engages in on-going reflective and critical inquiry to inform action. They accept critical feedback to develop the personal insight necessary to increase their leadership skills. They are strategic and systems thinkers with a growth mindset.

Transformative Decision Makers

School leaders who recognize that their leadership is a transformative and political process to bring about positive change in the pursuit of a better society and world. They understand and demonstrate the capability to evaluate the moral and legal consequences of decisions and make their choices based on the goal of maximizing student learning through the values of social justice and democratic community.

Relationship Builders

School leaders who are adept at building positive relationships with individuals and through teamwork. They are culturally competent leaders who treat each individual with civility, empathy, respect, and forthrightness while holding high expectations for everyone who contributes to the learning organization they strive to constantly improve. They build external relationships with families, community members, and community organizations to strengthen the school programs they lead.

Visionaries with High Expectations

School leaders who communicate and create shared vision that inspires high expectations for their own performance, as well as for the performance of all others in the school. They embrace accountability as a tool for continuous improvement while remaining focused on student learning as a priority. They are passionate and perseverant transformational leaders who challenge the status quo.