Collaborative Design of Professional Graduate Programs in Education

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Sharon Friesen
Michele Jacobsen


Faculties of Education in North America are experiencing an increase in demand for professional graduate programs that provide flexible and accessible research pathways for working professionals. Our School of Education offers high quality professional graduate programs that increase access and respond directly to complex needs and problems of practice in education. We describe the design and design thinking approach our faculty collectively undertook to redesign our professional graduate programs. The design was guided by a commitment to research informed and research active learning experiences that enable professionals to develop expertise, draw upon evidence, and act with integrity as they lead innovation and change in educational organizations. The program design provides professionals with opportunities to complete their graduate program in both blended and online formats. Degree programs are cohort based, discipline focused, and coherently structured. Many of our specialized topics are developed in partnership with the professions we serve, and each of our graduate programs is grounded in current research and engages students in active research-based learning. Participatory, collaborative, and interdisciplinary learning experiences are characterized by signature pedagogies. Our professional graduate programs create scholars of the profession through strong connections with the disciplines, communities, and professions we serve. Results of the redesign include improved results in student satisfaction, time to completion, increased retention, and have yielded high completion rates. Design knowledge and insights gained after eight years of evaluation document the strength and quality of our graduates and an increased proportion of international students in all of our graduate program areas.


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How to Cite
Friesen, S., & Jacobsen, M. (2021). Collaborative Design of Professional Graduate Programs in Education. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 12(1), 64–76.
Author Biographies

Sharon Friesen, University of Calgary

Sharon Friesen is a Professor of Learning Sciences in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. As the former Associate Dean of Graduate Programs in Education and the Vice Dean, Sharon provided academic leadership to the Werklund School of Education. Sharon draws upon design-based, case study, and hermeneutic approaches to study the ways in which educational structures, curriculum, learning, and leadership need to be reinvented/redesigned for a contemporary society. Her program of research has generated over 80 scholarly publications, over 30 invited keynote presentations at academic conferences and to community and government organizations, and more than 30 research reports to ministries of education. Sharon’s current research focuses on quality teaching and leading in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions. She has received 19 awards recognizing her research and scholarly accomplishments.

Michele Jacobsen, University of Calgary

Michele Jacobsen is a Professor of Learning Sciences in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. As the former Associate Dean of Graduate Programs in Education, Michele provided academic leadership for graduate programs in educational research and educational psychology. Michele studies complex learners, learning systems and learning technologies in education using action, case study and design-based research. She evaluates innovative designs for learning that shift instruction from standardized delivery and testing towards open learning designs and participatory pedagogies that sponsor knowledge building and intellectual engagement. Her current research focuses on online faculty development for quality graduate supervision, peer mentorship for graduate students and post-doctorate scholars, and research-based learning in graduate school. Her program of research has generated over 80 scholarly publications, and she has received multiple awards for excellence in leadership, graduate supervision and teaching practices.