Doctoral students’ program non-completion continues to be a worldwide phenomenon. Given the challenges across the globe following the 2020-22 pandemic, we need scholarly and skilled PhD and education (EdD) doctoral program graduates. A place to look for retention improvement is by studying what students learn and how they are taught in their university doctoral programs. One purpose of this case study was to describe how 12 EdD students in a program seminar responded to instruction in research and writing strategies during their first year of a four-year program. The second purpose was to examine student responses to formative assessments and describe and explain ongoing instructional adjustments using a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) framework within our own faculty community of practice. Analysis of surveys and student work indicated that writing and research strategies were instructive, engaging, and useful in building research and writing foundations. Analysis of multiple formative assessments helped us refine our instructional strategies during the year. Because all students completed the first high stakes program milestone (comprehensive paper) in year two, our findings suggested that the seminar’s instructional strategies established a foundation for student success and timely program progress. Using multiple formative assessments over time was critical in strengthening our teaching practice as well. We recommended instructional practices associated with student research and writing skill development as well as student progress and retention.