Educational Specialist

Coordinator: Dr. Stephen Laws


Off-Campus Option

This program is also available at several off-campus locations and online. Click Here for more information.



The Educational Specialist Degree (Ed.S.) in Executive Leadership at Gardner-Webb University is designed for potential and practicing educational leaders who aspire to develop and refine their leadership skills in complex organizations especially at the central office level. The Educational Specialist Degree program aims to equip candidates with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, and beliefs that will enable them to function effectively as leaders in complex, and dynamic educational environments. The Gardner-Webb University Executive Leadership Program utilizes a non-traditional approach to curriculum design and implementation with the incorporation of integrated modules as opposed to individual courses. The program's vision is to provide a response to the ever-changing economic, political, social, and technological environments present in today's schools that are not isolated entities.



  1. To engage candidates to critical analysis of educational theory and practice;
  2. To engage candidates in disciplined inquiry in the field of education;
  3. To prepare candidates for making contributions to educational theory and practice;
  4. To prepare candidates to become leaders in educational institutions; and
  5. To meet proficiency levels in licensure requirements.


Course Requirements

ESEL 611: Executive Leadership at the District Level (6 hrs.)

ESEL 612: Fiscal Management and Leadership (6 hrs.)

ESEL 613: Research Methods and Program Evaluation (6 hrs.)

ESEL 614: Policy Analysis in Executive Leadership (6 hrs.)

ESEL 615: Leading Change for Educational Transformation (6 hrs.)

ESEL 616: Organizational Communications and Technology Systems (6 hrs.)

ESEL 697: Six hours of Internship (6 hrs.)


ESEL 611: Executive Leadership at the District Level (6 hours)

This module examines the historical context of central office leadership and organizational structure. In addition to the historical emphasis, the course facilitates investigation of current and anticipated future theories associated with organizational change and curriculum reform from a systematic approach. An integrated approach is used in the study of common theories and philosophies. 


ESEL 612: Fiscal Management and Leadership (6 hours)

This module examines finances and facilitates from the perspective of educational leaders who must determine the needs and functions of the fiscal operations. An integrated approach is used to establish the necessary leadership skills in order to create a cooperative working environment. The module also emphasizes a business management appreciation of the complexity and magnitude of education as an important resource in the public sector. A thorough examination includes an understanding of how the American economy provides funding for education, how funds are administered, and trends toward the efficient utilization of resources.


ESEL 613: Research Methods and Program Evaluation (6 hours)

Schools and school systems function as professional learning communities, thus entering into decision-making processes that are inquiry and collaboratively based. This module develops the skills for individual and organizational inquiry.


ESEL 614: Policy Analysis in Executive Leadership (6 hours)

This module surveys historical and contemporary works in ethics and legal issues as they relate to the educational setting. The module explores managerial and governance roles of the school leader who creates a positive environment for an educational organization.


ESEL 615: Leading Change for Educational Transformation (6 hours)

This module examines the historical background of school reform and the impact upon change in the educational environment. In addition, emphasis will be placed on effectiveness, reform models, and the leadership implications of managing change efforts enhancing the opportunity for organizational transformation.


ESEL 616: Organizational Communications and Technology Systems (6 hours)

This module examines the use of data systems used by school systems for key decisions pertaining to operations and assessment. Communicating these data and decisions is key to the planning and operational needs of the organizational system. This module will provide experiences and practical applications of the principles associated with effective and efficient communications through technological advances.


ESEL 697: Six hours of Internship (6 hours)

The six one-hour internships will be part of each of the six semesters. The focus of the internship will be to create experiences for the candidate to demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary to lead a complex school system. The experience will offer the candidate the time and environment to complete artifacts to be stored in an electronic portfolio currently required by NCDPI for licensure.


For more details on the program, please download the Information Packet. 



Dr. Stephen Laws

Phone: (704) 406-4403



Off-Campus Option


Earn your Education Specialist in a local cohort or online.


See Available Locations >>