chapter  6
12 Pages

What does doctoral pedagogy bring to practitioner research?

Increasingly, doctoral training in the UK is tending towards the model established in North America and Australia, where doctoral researchers progress through taught elements before embarking on the main thesis. These elements usually consist of some face-to-face group meetings, some individual tutorial or supervision sessions and using a virtual learning environment such as WebCT, BlackBoard or Moodle to engage students in discussion between face-to-face events. Usually, this taught aspect is framed as ‘research training’. However, what this means varies considerably, and (Taylor, 2007) points to doctoral pedagogy being fraught with confusion. She identifies considerable diversity between tutor-led practice variously aiming to model research for students to mimic and approaches that intend doctoral researchers to learn from their experience of undertaking research; these various practices are all underpinned by an expectation that the doctoral researcher learns to integrate research with their own individual situation. Often, professional doctorate programmes consist of a period working with a cohort, attending workshops and seminars, followed by a period working individually on a research project. This second phase would normally be ‘supervised’ by a qualified member of staff through arrangements with the awarding university. The person on the earlier phase may also be supervised, but this also varies from institution to institution. In this chapter we argue that doctoral pedagogy is inextricably connected to ideologies of what it is understood to mean to undertake a doctoral degree. Thus, given that the development of practitioner research degrees has been haphazard and idiosyncratic, as explained in Chapter 2, it is not surprising that pedagogies for professional doctorates are also confused. This means that doctoral pedagogy can mean different things to readers, doctoral researchers, tutors and supervisors, and those who act as gatekeepers for the research degree such as examiners. We build on the position that insider doctoral research is undertaken successfully by those who are able to connect with and through relations

between higher education practices, that is, research practices, academic practices and practices of teaching and learning. From this stance we explore the place of taught elements in the context of emerging doctoral researcher identity. We argue that it is through two things – expanded learning at work and feedback on writing – from which the doctoral researcher learns the most, and so taught elements are useful to the extent that they provide the opportunity for the practitioner researcher to undertake some work that will generate feedback at doctoral level. Completing a practitioner doctorate through insider research means locating the workplace as the site of learning about research, and positioning oneself reflexively when undertaking doctoral ‘work’ with respect to all the domains in which this occurs. This means letting go of the idea of researcher and practitioner ‘roles’ for, as has been remarked, the idea of role ‘assumes that a person is always separable from the role taken up’ (Hajer, 1995: 53); and here we see that in fact the person cannot become separable from either researcher or practitioner, for each affects the other. We have suggested elsewhere in this volume (Chapter 8) that the impact of undertaking insider research at doctoral level is more on the person undertaking the research than on their workplace per se, and understanding the relations between the reflexive project and the workplace helps us to see why this might be. The practitioner researcher needs to negotiate the practices of higher education as part of the reflexive project. Reflexivity means recognising the part one plays in the research process, and as the research is judged by higher education this requires developing a sense of research-informed position. Because the insider project is conducted in the context of professional practice, this position must be with respect to the workplace. Professional norms help shape the position of practitioners with respect to practice – for example, teachers are required to teach the national curriculum, social workers must adhere to the Social Work and Social Care Guidelines, medical practitioners adhere to the Hippocratic Oath and so on. Thus any research undertaken by professionals in their field is shaped by these professional norms, and it is quite impossible for practitioners to stand outside them. This positioning gives a degree of subjectivity to research. Actually it has been named ‘subjective-objectivity’ in the field of journalism, (for example Donsbach & Klett, 1993), and means recognising that one’s professional self, the subject, is presenting a story or account in terms that, however fairly presented or impartial, is governed by this subjective position. This position has implications for pedagogy as the doctorate can from this standpoint no longer be considered to be ‘taught’ in the sense of doctoral material being provided and on which the doctoral researchers can be assessed as having ‘learned’.