Impact of doctoral research and researcher identity
Publicity material for the practitioner research doctoral degrees is frequently couched in terms of the degree enabling, through research, participants to impact on their employing institutions. In this chapter this claim is examined. We consider ‘impact’ from the empirical perspective of our own studies. In our study there was no doubt that participants thought that undertaking practitioner research at doctoral level had an impact on their practice in the way people thought about their work. However, there was less evidence to suggest wider influence. In exploring questions of impact, we turn once again to activity theory of Engeström (2001), and discuss how this theory relates to theories of situated learning (Lave, 1988) and community of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998) that are frequently adopted to justify the professional doctorate as being a degree that relates to practice. Engeström shows that for learning to happen in a setting, relations between the setting, i.e. its history, cultural milieu, ambition and the learners – who they are, why they are there, what they think they are learning – are not just critical, but frame learning of the individual. He argues that these relations also affect the setting itself, in ways that cannot be anticipated, because the learning in these conditions forms new knowledge, not predicted in advance. Thus we suggest that this forms a very individual scenario for students, in which the notion of impact itself is problematic. We consider impact in relation to practice, to the research process, on the institutions involved and how these combine in helping to shape researcher identity.