May 20, 2024  
2023-2024 Academic Bulletin 
2023-2024 Academic Bulletin [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Discipleship in Lifespan Education PhD

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Discipleship in Lifespan Education (DSLE) is the study of individuals’ spiritual, cognitive, and affective development from infancy to old age. Studies in DSLE focus on the interconnected nature of the spiritual, cognitive, and affective elements as best practice for discipleship and transformation.

The DSLE (PhD) is a 64-credit interdisciplinary academic program that prepares ministry specialists, teacher-scholars, and educational leaders primarily - but not exclusively - for service in Seventh-day Adventist institutions of higher learning, the church, and the larger community. The core curriculum is structured around the competencies in Discipleship in Lifespan Education defined in the program framework. Students also select an area of specialization for intense study and research, generally using social science research methodologies. The focus areas are:

  • Christian Formation and Discipleship
  • Theological Curriculum and Instruction
  • Customized Option

The program completion estimate is 6 years. In order to fulfill the requirements for the degree,  students must complete 64 credits, including at least 48 of course work in lecture, seminar, independent study, and reading courses, pass comprehensive exams, complete a dissertation sequence of 16 credits, and successfully defend the dissertation.

Mission: The Discipleship in Lifespan Education PhD equips individuals for research, practice, and teaching in settings where faith formation and spiritual growth across the lifespan are primary concerns.

Vision: Discipleship in Lifespan Education PhD graduates fulfill the teaching and discipling mandates of the gospel commission, preparing a people who live victoriously in this world as followers of Jesus while eagerly anticipating the soon-return of their Savior.

Primary Goals: Discipleship in Lifespan Education is a field of study that seeks to integrate biblical foundations, educational research, and the educational philosophy and practice of Ellen G. White (Adventist pioneer). In particular, the PhD (Discipleship in Lifespan Education) is designed to prepare leaders to train other leaders to:

  1. Facilitate the process of personal discipleship, the life-long journey of learning to follow Jesus and become more like Him;
  2. Engage pastor-teacher skills for transformational teaching and discipling, including and understanding of psychology important to ministry;
  3. Engage pastor-teacher skills for teaching the theory and practice of discipleship in formal and non-formal ministry/educational settings;
  4. Develop social science research skills, and conduct and report research that informs theory and contributes to practice in a select field of discipleship in lifespan education or specialized ministry.

Total Credits - 64

Core - 28

Dissertation Sequence - 16

Focus Areas - 20

Choose one of the following focus areas:

  • Christian Formation and Discipleship 
  • Theological Curriculum and Instruction
  • Customized option (students design individualized courses of study)

Christian Formation and Discipleship - 20

Theological Curriculum and Instruction - 20

  • Language Prerequisite: Depending on the area of study, either complete NTST 552 Intermediate GreekOTST 552 Biblical Hebrew II, or pass a qualifying examination at the intermediate level in Greek or Hebrew.
  • Choose 9 credits from one of the following areas:
    • ANEA Biblical Archeology & History of Antiquity
    • CHIS Church History
    • MSSN Mission
    • NTST New Testament
    • OTST Old Testament
    • PATH Practical and Applied Theology
    • THST Theology or Christian Philosophy
  • Choose 5 credits from Curriculum & Instruction (DSLE, EDCI, EDFN, EDTE).
  • Choose 6 credits from Christian Formation & Discipleship focus.

Customized Option - 20

Students may design an individualized course of study if the following conditions are met:

  • Academic area must be appropriate to Discipleship in Lifespan Education.
  • Graduate courses on the topic must be available at Andrews University.
  • Andrews University faculty with expertise in the topic must be available for advising.
  • 6 credits need to be taken from Christian Formation & Discipleship focus.

Options for the customized course of study include, among others, such areas as:

  • Family life education
  • Youth, young adults, and adult research
  • Spiritual nurture of children
  • Spiritual nurture of youth and young adults
  • Campus ministry research
  • Campus spiritual leadership
  • History of education
  • Church music and worship
  • Educational philosophy
  • Formal/non-formal learning
  • Holistic education/physical education
  • Intercultural studies/world religions
  • Lifespan Education
  • Discipleship and transformation

The following are research methodologies that are available to be taken within the Customized option or as additional courses:

Additional Requirements

Course Plan. Upon acceptance into the program, the student is assigned an advisor by the director of the program. Normally within the first 16 credits of study the student and advisor prepare a course plan for completing the degree requirements. The course plan identifies the courses required to be completed prior to taking the comprehensive examination and receiving approval for advancement to candidacy.

Coursework Levels and Transfer Credits

  • All course work taken at the Seminary should be at the 800- or 900-levels; course work taken at the School of Education (College of Education & International Services) should be appropriate for doctoral level study.
  • At least 51% of the student’s course work should be designed specifically for doctoral students.
  • Up to 9 transfer credits at the 600 (Masters) level may be approved if the coursework is done at the doctoral level, the credits have not been applied to another degree, a grade of B or above is achieved, and the credits were taken within six years of the student’s first enrollment in the PhD program.
  • Transfer of credits may be considered for students having done post-master’s work in an approved institution if the work is appropriate to the program, carries grades of B or above, and was taken within six years of the students’ first enrollment in the PhD (Discipleship in Lifespan Education) program.
  • Credits earned toward completed MA or MDiv degrees are not considered for transfer. The director of the PhD (Discipleship in Lifespan Education) program in consultation with the student’s advisor determines the appropriateness, relevance, and currency of the work considered for the transfer of credits and authorizes such transfers. In no case is the minimum residence requirement reduced.

Academic Standards
A student must achieve grades of B (3.00) or better and/or S. Only such grades are credited toward the degree requirements. No more than 15 credits in courses with an S grade may be applied to the program requirements. If the student falls below the minimum GPA of 3.0, he/she is placed on probation and can regain regular standing only after having again reached the B (3.00) level. A student with grades below B may be terminated after review by the PhD/ThD Committee. A student who accumulates more than three grades of C or below (2.00 or below) is not allowed to continue in the doctoral program.

Seminary Worship. Attend seminary worships.

Residency. At least 33 credits (of the minimum 48 course work credits) must be taken in residence.

Time Limits. All degree requirements must be completed within ten years of first enrollment for Andrews University doctoral course work. All course work and the comprehensive examination must be completed within five years of first enrollment. The dissertation must be completed within five years of passing the comprehensive examination, but without extending beyond the 10-year limit.

If the student has not graduated by ten years from first enrollment, not counting any voted leave of absence, they must register for GSEM 888 Doctoral Degree Continuation, and pay the continuation fee, for fall and spring semesters every academic year until the dissertation has been defended and received post-defense approval. If a student misses two consecutive continuation fee payments they will be automatically dropped from the program.

Full-time Status. The full-time load for regular course work is 8 to 12 credits per semester. Students who are registered for GSEM 844, GSEM 880, GSEM 885, or GSEM 888 (zero-credit courses) are counted as full-time students. Students who register for DSLE 995 are also counted as full-time students.

Comprehensive Examination. Early in their program, students should obtain a copy of the PhD (Discipleship in Lifespan Education) Handbook from the Discipleship in Lifespan Education Program office.

All prerequisites and regular course requirements of 48 credits or more must be completed before the student sits for the comprehensive examination (exceptions are noted below). The comprehensive examination consists of five sections, one of which may be given in a take-home or oral format, one of which is a portfolio presentation, and at least three of which must be written in a supervised environment. Examination dates are arranged through the administrative assistant for the Discipleship and Lifespan Education Department. 

Formal application to take the comprehensive examination should be made by the beginning of the semester preceding the semester the student intends to take the examination.

For more detailed information regarding the comprehensive examination, see the Discipleship in Lifespan Education Doctoral Handbook.

Advancement to Candidacy. Students should apply for advancement to degree candidacy at the same time they apply to take comprehensive examinations and after they have

  • completed all prerequisites;
  • removed any English language deficiency;
  • completed all course requirements or are registered for them.

The student is advanced to degree candidacy after passing the comprehensive examination.

Dissertation Committee. Before the student registers for EDRM 880 - Dissertation Proposal Development or GSEM 854 - PhD-ThD Dissertation Proposal Seminar, the student in consultation with his/her advisor selects a tentative dissertation topic. The program director, in consultation with the student and advisor then appoints a faculty member knowledgeable about the tentative topic to chair the student’s dissertation committee. The student, the program director, and the doctoral committee chair collaborate in the selection of at least two other members to complete the student’s dissertation committee. All members of this dissertation committee must approve the proposal before it is presented to the Proposal Review Committee and the PhD/ThD committee. The appointment of the dissertation committee is subject to approval by the PhD/ThD committee, as are any changes to the committee.

Dissertation Proposal. No later than the last semester of course work, students must submit a proposal for review and approval to the Seminary Proposal Review Committee and the PhD/ThD Committee.

Two types of proposals are acceptable depending on the nature of the dissertation:

  • A 10–15 page overview of the major elements of the dissertation.
  • The first three chapters in draft or outline form.

Either format must include a clear statement of the problem, the research question/s, a preliminary survey of relevant literature, and the research methodology.

Dissertation Preparation. The dissertation prepared by the PhD candidate must

  • Make an original contribution to scholarship
  • Demonstrate the candidate’s competence for independent research
  • Reveal the candidate’s familiarity with and proficiency in handling the relevant literature
  • Present a logically organized, methodologically sound, and readable account of the investigation, findings, conclusions, and implications of the study.

See the Discipleship in Lifespan Education Doctoral Handbook for more information on dissertation preparation.

Oral Defense of the Dissertation. The candidate must orally defend his/her dissertation. At least six weeks before the dissertation defense, the director, in consultation with the dean of the Seminary, appoints an external examiner. The defense date is set and announced by the director of the Discipleship in Lifespan Education Program at least two weeks before the defense. No defenses are scheduled during the final two weeks of a term or during the interim between semesters.

See the Discipleship in Lifespan Education Doctoral Handbook for more information on the oral defense of the dissertation.

Admission Requirements

Admission to the PhD (Discipleship in Lifespan Education) program is granted by the Seminary PhD-ThD Committee.

In addition to meeting the general admission requirements listed in the Graduate Programs Admission section and in the Seminary Admission Requirements, applicants must:

  • Hold an MA (Discipleship in Lifespan Education); an MDiv; an MA (Religion); or an MA degree in fields related to religion, education, or appropriate areas of social science.
  • Have 28 credits in religion (16 of which may be on the undergraduate level).
  • Have 16 undergraduate or graduate credits in education or discipleship in lifespan education.
  • Address all deficiencies. (Deficiencies will be identified at the time of admission based on evaluation of degree transcripts to ensure adequate coverage of significant areas of religion and education. These deficiencies will be addressed by including prerequisites in the student’s course plan. See Specific Prerequisites below.)
  • Show promise of future usefulness to church and society.
  • Demonstrate the ability to handle doctoral-level work in English. For regular admission, a TOEFL score of 80 for iBT TOEFL exam (equivalent to a paper based ITP TOEFL exam score of 550) is required of all PhD (Discipleship in Lifespan Education) program applicants whose native language is other than English, and who have not completed a bachelors or masters degree in an English based program.
    • For an iBT TOEFL score below 80 (equivalent to a paper based ITP TOEFL score below 550), the applicant may be eligible to enter the AU ESL Pathway program.
    • For further details regarding the Bridge program and its policies, see the ESL website and the Academic Policies in the Bulletin.

Time to Apply. While early applications are recommended, the deadlines for application to the PhD (Discipleship in Lifespan Education) program are as follows:

  • For North American students: three months prior to the anticipated starting date.
  • For non-North American students: six months prior to the anticipated starting date.

Items to Submit. In addition to submitting the items required of all graduate students, applicants to the PhD (Discipleship in Lifespan Education) must also submit

  • A 600-word statement of purpose, which includes their mission statement, a description of the journey that created a desire to pursue doctoral studies, and a vision of the professional accomplishments they foresee.
  • A 200-300 word description of their tentative area of interest for dissertation research and an explanation of this choice.
  • A current Curriculum Vitae.
  • A significant research paper (term paper, thesis, or research report), normally written during the master’s level studies. This paper should give evidence of the applicant’s ability to carry out research and to present the results and conclusions of such work in standard English and in an acceptable style.

Bulletin Requirements. A student may choose to meet the requirements of any bulletin in force after acceptance into the doctoral program, as long as he/she maintains active status. If a break of enrollment occurs and the student is placed on inactive status, he/she must meet the requirements of a bulletin in effect after enrollment resumes.

Specific Prerequisites. Students entering the PhD (Discipleship in Lifespan Education) program must have basic skills in biblical exegetical research as evidenced in GSEM 520 Methods in Biblical and Theological Research or its equivalent. They must also have basic skills in educational research methodologies as evidenced by EDRM 505 - Research Methods or its equivalent, and completion of DSLE 605 - Foundations in Discipleship & Lifespan Education, DSLE 606 - Philosophical Foundations for Professionals, and DSLE 541 - Foundations of Biblical Spirituality. These courses must be completed before the student is advanced from provisional to regular status in the program. Students taking the Theological Curriculum and Instruction focus must meet specified biblical language requirements.

Program Learning Outcomes

The Conceptual Framework for the PhD (Discipleship in Lifespan Education) identifies six (6) areas of competency, each focused on a major program learning outcome. The competencies identify a range of skills that can be used in scholarship and ministry in the candidate’s chosen area of emphasis.

The PhD (Discipleship in Lifespan Education) Graduate will be:

  • An Apologist who develops and effectively articulates a Christian philosophy of education and discipleship.
  • A Pastor-Teacher who uses and teaches appropriate methodologies for discipling across the lifespan.
  • A Servant-Leader who models the principles of servant leadership in the church, school, and broader community.
  • An Evaluator/Researcher who conducts research and analyzes and reports findings.
  • A Maturing Christian who exhibits a growing maturity in understanding and portraying the love of Christ.
  • A Lifelong Learner who demonstrates personal and professional development.
  • An Area Expert who synthesizes all relevant core competencies, making them applicable to the focus area and teaches others to do likewise.

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