The Fall 2020 University of Lethbridge convocation honours Dr. Kevin Wood as the first graduate of the PhD program in Education. Although Wood (BEd ’99; MEd ’06) had never intended to seek a doctorate, his experience in the master’s program inspired him. “I had great instructors and very strong support,” he says. “I was encouraged to follow a methodology of research meant to transform the person applying it as they study. Knowing I could inquire into something that not only added a voice to education, but also allowed me a chance to broaden my horizons of thinking, hooked me into academic study.”

Since the UofL didn’t offer a PhD in Education at the time, Wood applied to, and was accepted, at another university, but he put his plans on hold to focus on a position as principal of Chinook High School. In the meantime, Dr. Richard Butt and other of Wood’s former professors were working hard to bring a doctoral program to Lethbridge. When Butt approached him about applying to the newly accredited program, Wood was excited.

I was so satisfied with my master’s program, that to have the same opportunity in a PhD was incredibly attractive."

“The PhD in Education was shaped to facilitate themes of collaborative inquiry and professional reflection, as well as more traditional approaches to PhD studies,” says Butt, noting that there was an emphasis on group support for the five students who comprised the first PhD cohort. “We wanted to employ experiential learning—learning by doing. Students started doing research right away, with each other, with faculty, with peers, and in their own workplaces.

“Kevin’s school was his lab,” adds Butt. “Every day that he went to work as principal of a high school everything he was thinking and doing was tested in his own reality. This made it very real, very personal and very professional.”

In many ways, Wood’s research reflected the learning-while-doing approach of the PhD program. While examining standards of practice that balance effective leadership skills with encouraging, growth-minded environments, he explored and advocated learning as a method of leading among school principals.

It’s important for new leaders to understand that learning and thinking are characteristics of an educational leader, rather than knowing or being the expert,” he says. “Much of a principal’s practice occurs within realms of the unknown. If having all the answers and feeling competent become the goal, it makes a learning mindset difficult and we end up hiding from learning.”

As the university’s first graduate of the PhD in Education, with a concentration in Formal and Distributive Leadership, Wood looks forward to continuing to research, write and present on learning as a way of being and a way of leadership.

Writer: Elizabeth McLachlan | Photographer: Rob Olson

Link to Dr. Kevin Wood's PhD dissertation:
Learning Leadership: A Dialogic Phenomenon of High School Principal Practice

Related story links to Faculty of Education Graduate Studies and Research:
Bridging Neuroscience and Education: Riley Kostek (BSc’09/BEd’11)
Teaching and Assessing for Life Beyond the Classroom: Dr. David Slomp
Five questions with Shining Graduate Rita Lal (BSc/BEd '01, MEd '20)
Teaching Multiple Literacies in Canadian Classrooms: Sarah Gagnon (BSc/BEd’11, MEd candidate)
Wellness is About Writing: Teri Hartman (BA/BEd '02, current MEd student)


For more information please contact:

Darcy Tamayose
Communications Officer
Dean's Office • Faculty of Education
University of Lethbridge
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