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Components of the EdD Professional Doctorate Programme

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Tuesday, 21 Jun 2022, 17:38

This blog post aims to summarise aspects of the OU’s professional doctorate (EdD) programme, placing particular emphasis on the topic of education.

What has been presented here has been collated from a number of different resources. My primarily aim of preparing this post was to help me to get familiar with the new structure of the taught part of the programme. I’m also sharing it since it might be useful for either existing or prospective students, or for students who might also be studying for a disciplinary based PhD, since the EdD materials offer some helpful pointers

The programme that is roughly summarised here is different from previous years, since it contains a substantial and important taught component to help students prepare for their research that follows. Although the programme contains a number of really important residential schools, I’m highlighting the academic subjects that are explored.

Year 1

The programme guide introduces the first year as follows: “Year 1 … will focus on getting you started with your research, with a particular focus on contextual background of your research and the literature review. Year 1 includes an induction residential weekend, four modules of study with four accompanying online seminars, and the completion of two formative assignments and one summative assignment."

Module 1: Getting started

This first module is about setting the scene. Drawing on the module guide, this first module “will help you get started with your doctoral studies. The module covers what is involved in studying for a PD, time management, supervision, and the Researching Professional Development Framework.” It is intended to be studied within the first couple of weeks of starting the programme. The first section introduces the notion of the professional doctorate, and this is followed by a section about planning and managing your research project. A bit of advice (for students) that I’ve read was: “think about your doctoral studies as a project”.

Section 3 is entitled your development as a researching professional. It introduces the Researching Professional Development Framework (RPDF) (Vitae website), a tool designed to help your development during your doctoral studies.

This is followed by section about Professional Academic Communication in English (PACE), and introduces students to some useful some online resources, where students share their experiences of academic writing.

Supervision is an important element of an EdD programme, and also becoming familiar with the research process. The final section of this first module is entitled “Making the most of your supervision”. Students are directed to the Code of practice for supervisors and research students, and other resources such as the university’s research degrees handbook.

Module 2: Context for educational research

This second module will “guide you through exploring the specific context of your research, including the international, national, institutional and individual context within which your research is located. It also covers the importance of your professional identity, and the standards and principles for good quality research within your area” (EdD programme guide, p.9). 

This module is split into three sections. The first is further understanding the context for research. Students are asked to consider different perspectives of their research: macro-level, meso-level and micro-level. A further aim is to identify who the different stakeholders might be.

The next section, the professional as a researcher is all about “exploring the concepts of professional identity, agency, structure and reflexivity”. Reflection and reflexivity is explored as a key topic, which emphasises how important it is to relate our own position and identities to the research that is taking place.

The final section is entitled “standards for good practice in research”. This section is about ethics, the importance of ethical guidelines, power imbalances and how they might influence research, the student voice and co-research.

When a student has completed this section, it is roughly time to submit the first formative assessment. As well as introducing a research project, students are required to consider the context of the research, and the role of the researcher.

Module 3: Reviewing the literature

The literature review is one of the really important outcomes from doctoral research. This module, which is scheduled to begin in the new year “provides guidance to conducting and writing a literature review, including searching for literature, reviewing literature, referencing and reference management tools, and writing the literature review” (EdD programme guide, p.9). Key topics that are explored include what it means to searching for literature, review literature, reference literature, write a literature review, and to write critically. There is also a section that introduces the concept of a systematic literature review. Whilst carrying out reading within a subject, students may find a number of systematic literature review papers that offers a summary of a similar or related topic.

Module 4: Principles of research design

This final module of the first year introduces students to key terms and research concepts. It “aims to stimulate further thinking about your research design and covers topics such as ontology, epistemology and research paradigms, logics of enquiry and an introduction to quantitative and qualitative research” (EdD programme guide, p9).

Moving to year 2

During this first year, students will be required to carry out a number of assessments. During the time where there is no formal study scheduled, students will be expected to be carrying out reading and study.

Year 2

As well as having a taught section, students attend a residential weekend. In November 2021, this was hosted as an online event, where students were able to attend various sessions. Resources shared from this event, and earlier events are available online.

Module 5: Considering a research methodology

This first second year module “provides guidance about different research methodologies including experimental quantitative research, ethnography, grounded theory, case study research, action research, phenomenology and narrative inquiry”. There is a section for each of these methods, which also provides a set of resources, which can be useful to understand more about a particular method. If studying these materials, a suggestion is to only go digging for resources which you think are most appropriate for your particular project. A lot of resources are highlighted.

Module 6: Approaches to data collection

In some senses, this module follows on from the previous module about methodology, but it succinctly summarises the different approaches that could be adopted. From the programme guide, this module “will help you start thinking about the practical aspects of your research project by introducing common data collect methods and sources of data. Topics covered includes interviews, focus groups, observations, questionnaires, visual and creative methods, secondary data and documents and artefacts. As with the previous module, each section provides a very detailed references section that enables students to get a more detailed introduction and insight into different approaches.

Module 7: Professional conduct and research ethics

When it comes to EdD and PhD research, ethics is one of my favourite subjects. This module is said to “encourage your ethical thinking and assist you in developing a robust application for ethical approval for your planned research. Topics covered will include professional conduct, close to practice research, making an OU ethics application, …. and research data management.” Two sections are notable: there is a section about ethics and educational research, and ethics about health and social care research; students should choose whichever strand is most appropriate. One section that I must emphasise is the section that relates to academic and research conduct. There is also encouragement to carry out what is called a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA), if personal data is kept and retained.

Module 8: Qualitative data analysis and presenting results

Qualitative data is rich non-numeric data that can be interpreted to provide meanings and explanations. This module will introduce “methods of qualitative analysis, including thematic analysis, discourse analysis, document analysis and multimodal analysis.” If a student is interested in carrying out interviews with participants to gather interests and perspectives, this section offers a really helpful guidance about how to begin to make sense of data that is collected. Such data, of course, must be made sense of in light of the reading that has been carried out, and also the perspective of the researcher. During data analysis, a student might use a tool such as NVivo to organise qualitative data.

Module 9: Quantitative data analysis

Quantitative data is all about numerical data. This final module introduces “various methods of quantitative analysing including testing for differences between means, correlation analysis, linear regression and logistic regression.” Specifically, “this module will require you to use SPSS, and you will need to download this onto your computer before starting the module”. If a student is going to be carrying our survey research, or is to be carrying out experiments to test hypothesis, this section is going to be really important. It is also important to recognise that methods can be mixed. For example, an interview study could reveal themes that could be studied in greater depth through a survey. Conversely, a survey may reveal an unexpected situation that can only be further understood by asking questions.

Moving to year 3

Year 2 marks the end of the formal study part of the EdD. Students will be invited to make a poster presentation to outline their research plans, and move to the second stage.

Years 3 and 4

The EdD program guide summarises years 2 and 3 as follows: “during stage 2 you will follow a more independent and individual programme of work with the continuing support of your supervisors. During year 3 there will be formative assessments at spaced intervals in order to help you progress and to provide formal opportunities for feedback.” (p.11).

A number of useful resources are provided on the EdD websites (there is a site for year 3, and another site for year 4). Highlights include a document that attempts to answer the question “How many qualitative interviews is enough?”, which has been prepared by Baler and Edwards, and a couple of video resources that have the title “stories from the field”. 

Reflections

Many of the themes and topics mentioned within the taught aspect of the EdD programme reminded me of themes and topics that were explored within the OU’s MA in Education programme, which offers a “lead in” to this programme. Although MA students may find some of the material familiar, I hold the view that the taught section is really useful in terms of setting the groundwork for the detailed data gathering and analysis that takes place later during the later years of study and research.

I came to the EdD programme from the discipline of computing, where I completed my own doctoral studies in the late 90’s. One thing I’m struck by is the thoroughness of the EdD programme. It is only by having gone through the OU MA in Education, and having done my own doctoral research do I really appreciate the detailed discussions about epistemology, ontology and methodology. 

It is also really interesting that the softer side of computing applies many of the methods and approaches that Education does; the commonality lies with the adoption of methods from the social sciences. A lot of computing and education research is all about people, what they do, and what they learn.

At the same time as being a supervisor for a current EdD student, I’m also a supervisor for a disciplinary PhD student. The approaches are quite different, in the sense that although there is more supervision for the PhD candidate, there is less structure, in the sense that there isn’t the taught component. One of the things that I am going to do is direct my PhD student to look at some of the materials that are exposed through the EdD modules. The cross over between the two is, of course, people.

References

The Open University (2020) Doctorate in Education (EdD) Programme Guide.

Acknowledgements

All these sections have been summarised from different resources from the EdD programme. Acknowledgements are specifically extended to Dr Carol Azumah Dennis, EdD Programme Leader and Dr Philippa Waterhouse, DHSC Programme Leader.

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Supporting EdD/PhD students through the thesis and the viva

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On 14 June 22, I attended a CPD session about helping students through their doctoral studies. I attended this session since I support a couple of doctoral students; one through a PhD programme, and another through the EdD programme. More information about the EdD programme that if offered through the Well-being Education and Language Studies (WELS) faculty are be available through this blog.

This session was facilitated by Dr Sara Spencer (Head of Research Degrees, Graduate School) and Dr Sarah Sherlock (School of Physical Sciences, chair of research degrees committee). It seemed to be a relatively popular event, with 23 delegates.

The key headings for the event were: the thesis, mock viva, and post-viva support. I noted down the words, “at this session we will look at common concerns that student’s voice about thesis submission and the viva voce examination and consider possible strategies for overcoming these concerns.”

From the event description, the session had the following objectives:

  • To explore students’ expectations and concerns about completing their doctoral thesis and how they will perform during their viva voce examination
  • To share ideas and practices that can be used to support students during the writing-up phase
  • To share ideas and practices that can support students to prepare for their viva
  • To identify sources of help and support offered by the Graduate School Network and the OU Library that can support students during the writing-up phase 

The Thesis

‘Write up’ is a HESA status as well as a university status; a status that applies for one year only, which is available to students during their fourth year of study. This means that students pay a lower fee during a ‘write up’ year. If they go over the write up year, they may be liable for full fees.  An important difference is that students on Professional Doctorates (such as the EdD programme) are not eligible for writing-up fees.

During the session, I made a few notes from some of the slides.  A key point was that the thesis must meet the requirements of the research degree regulations. Interestingly, things have changed since I submitted my own thesis. Students no longer need to submit a paper copy; it can be submitted electronically. (I remember having to get mine bound by a book binder who worked in the town of Chichester!)

A key point is that a thesis is a monograph. In other words, it presents a single coherent narrative. Also, students can make their own decision about whether they wish to submit. A student doesn’t have to expressly seek permission from the supervisor (but, it is probably a good idea to check with them, just to make sure they think that a student is likely to make a worthy submission). Another important point is that if a student is funded to carry out their research, and to write their thesis, a student will no longer receive a stipend when they make their submission.

One interesting point that I did learn (which was something that I already probably implicitly knew about, but didn’t really know what it was called, since I haven’t needed to think about it) was that a thesis can also include a ‘non-book’ component. In addition to submitting a textual monograph, a student may send in other forms of material to accompany a piece of research. In computing, this might be a software artifact. In design or engineering, this might be some architectural drawings. In the arts, this might even be a video of a performance. 

Mock Viva

The assessment of a thesis was described as taking place in three phases: 1) a preliminary assessment, 2) defence of the thesis at the viva, 3) re-examination of the thesis following revision. Some students have the opportunity to take part in a mock viva which is set up by the supervision team. 

The aim of the mock is, of course, to enable students to be as prepared as they can be to be robustly questioned when they defend their work. Since the viva can be a stressful exercise, a mock can help a student get a sense of what happens in the real thing. I remember when I participated in one: the different supervisors took on different roles. One asked question about the big picture, and the other supervisor asked very specific questions about the details of the text.

An important point was made, which was that examiners can get nervous too! Mocks are also helpful for the supervisors as they are for students.

Exam Panel Nomination

A request was shared to all delegates: please think about the exam panel to ensure that nominations are submitted in good time. This suggested reminded me of something. Whilst my student was carrying out their literature review, I remember saying the following: “do look for people who are doing similar research to what you are doing; they might well become potential examiners”.

The exam panel must be approved by the research degrees committee. It was also said that allocating examiners is one of the most important things that the university does (in terms of the doctoral research process). It was noted that there needs to be a minimum of two examiners. Usually, this should be one internal, and the other should be external (in some cases, they can be both external, if there isn’t the internal knowledge within the school or department). The make-up of the whole panel is important. The experience should be distributed across the panel.

Something that I didn’t (formally) know is that a doctoral examiner works according to a contract; there needs to be an offer, this needed to be accepted, and there needs to be consideration (which means that they are paid for their work). The contract is there to avoid ambiguities, and to enable a route to resolve difficulties if they were to arise.

When an exam panel has been chosen, a good tip (for a student who is going to be examined) is to read the papers that have been written by the examiner. This may give a student some insight about what perspective they might be coming from. For example, they might prefer one set of methods over another.

The Viva

The viva begins with a pre-viva meeting with the chair and the examiners. Observers may only be asked to the pre-viva meeting if there is a specific question that the examiners may wish to ask. In the meeting, the examiners may have a discussion about what the approach is going to be, and what questions to ask.

During the viva, some candidates may be encouraged to give a short presentation of the work to the chair, the examiners, and the observers. The viva may, generally, last between 2 and 3 hours, but will depend on the subject that is being examined. A viva will go on for as long as is needed. Breaks can be requested via the chair. Different examiners may take different approaches. Some may go through a thesis a line at a time; others may take a different approach, asking more broad questions. 

A bit of advice I once gained from a colleague in terms of examining a viva was, obviously, to look to the research questions, and then look to the methodology to learn how a student had tackled a question, and justify their choices.

A comment made during this part of the event was: questions to students might explore their knowledge from across the discipline of study, not just the very specific detail of the text that is being the focus of the exam.

The next step is the post-viva meeting, which takes place between the chair and the examiners. This is where the student has to be left on their own whilst the deliberations take place. If this meeting takes a while, this may not necessarily mean a bad outcome. There is also a bit of administration to complete, such as, the completion of forms, which also includes the agreeing of corrections, and what the panel needs the student to do to pass. All this admin can take a bit of time.

The outcome from the panel is a recommendation that goes to a committee. It is also important to note that a recommendation is different from an outcome.

Post-viva support

There are a range of outcomes from a viva (which are based on the quality of a submission) ranging from student being awarded the degree, resubmission, and re-examination, getting an alternative award (such as an MPhil), through to a student not being awarded the degree and not being able to resubmit (and a couple of other options in between).

Extensions to the correction period are not possible, and students who do not submit by the deadline will fail, unless there are clear mitigating circumstances. To repeat, students are not allowed extensions, as otherwise they will fail. Corrections have to be done on time.

Reflections

Having been through this process from beginning until the end, a lot that was presented within this session that was familiar to me. I was familiar with the various phases, but I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the finer detail, such as the roles of the committees, and what observers can and cannot do. Although I think I had once heard that students are not permitted to submit their corrections late, it was good to be reminded of this!

During the discussions at the end of the session, a really helpful comment was “it [the thesis] doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be good enough”. This has reminded me of another bit of advice that I was given about doctoral study. I once thought a PhD was gained by uncovering ground-breaking new bits of knowledge, but this was a misunderstanding about how knowledge generation works. The aim of doctoral research is to add to the sum of human knowledge in some form, and it is certainly okay if a contribution is a small one. Contributions are built on.

Another perspective is that doctoral study represents an extended form of academic apprenticeship. It demonstrates that you can do research, and that you are capable of creating something that is original. Reflecting the above comment, research also builds on the work of others.

Acknowledgements

Very many of these words have been summarised from comments from Sara and Sarah, and the slides that they shared during their really helpful CPD session.

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Second EdD residential school

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Thursday, 4 Jun 2020, 15:19

On 2 November 2019 I attended a couple of seminars from the second EdD residential school programme which took place in Milton Keynes. I’ve made these notes for the student that I am co-supervising, my co-supervisor, and for any other EdD student who might (potentially) find them useful. I have previously blogged about the first EdD residential school I attended.

At this point in their studies EdD students would have completed an initial study and have submitted some reports. A study and a research project should now be starting to take shape. It was suggested, however, that things are going to get tougher, and students will continue to refine and develop their ideas, plans and projects.

To support students who begin the second year, the EdD group offers a number of online seminars for the second year. Topics include: explaining your ethical approach to your research, demonstrating criticality (which sounds really useful), interviews (and interviewing), and being systematic in your literature review. These sessions are to help students clarify their theoretical approach, understand research methods, reflect on ethics, practice academic writing and to reflect on their development as researchers.

What follows is a summary of the two sessions that I attended. During each talk, I tried to make some rough notes, which I’ve transcribed and edited. Since these are notes, there may well be errors and omissions. I also expect slides and handouts to be made available to students after the event.  This blog post complements an earlier post I made about the first EdD residential school that I attended.

Epistemology and Ontology in Educational Research 

The first seminar was by Kieron Sheehy, Professor of Education. Kieron’s presentation was said to draw on slides that were originally created by John Richardson, and a paper that had been written by Peter Twining, a former OU colleague.

Ontology is the study of beliefs about the nature of reality. This connects to the question of whether there can be an objective reality. Epistemology is the study of how we go about finding stuff out. Unpacking this further, this is about what can be known, and how we might come to find out about the world.  The question of ‘what counts for knowledge’ drives the research. 

When discussing these things, a really important point to take on board is that not everyone thinks the same way. To demonstrate this point, we were asked to complete a short exercise where we were asked to respond to a series of statements about how we viewed research and learning.

If we agreed with a statement, we were asked to put an outstretched hand up in the air. If we disagreed with the statement, we put a fist in the air. If we held a position that was in between, we could choose to present a number of fingers, depending on how we felt about something.

In terms of differences, on one hand there was a view where experiments are important (a positivist approach) versus a view where meaning is created through social interaction, and those meaning can be subjective and different. Another point was that your own epistemological beliefs can influence what you do as a researcher. A later point was that examiners also read a dissertation or research report using their own epistemological beliefs. 

A related question was: why is all this stuff important? From a very practical perspective of being a doctoral student, it is important since a common viva question might be “can you explain your position?” along with “why have you chosen the methods that you have chosen, and how do these relate to your beliefs?” Answering these questions enable you to do your research well and having a stance enables you to tackle issues. An epistemological position directly affects your methods. If you choose a qualitative method, different people may have different realities (understand things in different ways), and meaning can be culturally defined.

Kieron presented one of John’s slides that tried to cover all these different issues in one go.  There were a number of different approaches: positivist, interpretive, critical and pragmatic. A critical approach is where you consider injustices and try to enact change. A pragmatic approach is the application of whatever methods and approaches that may be useful to solve a problem or explore a subject. A positivist approach is where you hold the view that there is an objective reality (and you can observe things), whereas an interpretivist approach means that you try to interpret the subject perspectives and understandings of others. 

It was then onto another task. We were asked to work in pairs to answer the question: ‘what is your position?’ and ‘what are you doing in your research?’ During the discussions I noted down the point that a research design, choice of methods, and ethics must all align to each other. A further point was that if we’re carrying out research into a social world, a reflexive approach is important; we need to ask ourselves how our own position has influenced the research. Similarly, it’s important to be critical and ask: are there other explanations or counter examples? Different perspectives can also be used.

During the session, I examined my own epistemology. I’m a computer scientist who sometimes gets involved in social science and education research. My background means that I’m familiar with the idea of creating systems, or employing an engineering method to solve problems. I asked myself the question: how can an engineering approach fit into the view that knowledge can either be objective (explored using a positivist approach) or subjective (explored using an interpretive approach)?

There’s an answer for this. The engineered artefacts can be studied using a positivist (experimental) approach to answer the question of: ‘does it solve the problem it sets out to solve?’ If we’re thinking about computer software (or, for that matter, any engineered or created product), the produce is used by people, and has been created by people, and people start to use, build and interact with products, all starting with different perspectives. Both epistemological perspectives are necessary to understand the full picture (which is a point which connect to the subject of mixed methods).

Keeping your promises? A focus on anonymisation

The second seminar was about ethics and was presented by Alison Fox, Senior Lecturer in Teaching and Learning. Early on during Alison’s presentation she referred to the ethical protocols that were put in place during a study. An accompanying question was: can you always keep your promises (regarding anonymisation)? 

I made a note of the concept of internal versus external anonymisation. Consider the situation of where a study was described in an academic article or report, where the action of participants is described.  That paper could be read by different groups of people: those people who know nothing of the group that was a focus of the study, or it could be read by members of the group that was the focus of the study. In some cases, participants may be able to recognise both themselves and others from descriptions. It must be asked: would this be acceptable?

CERD is an ethical appraisal framework, which is an abbreviation for Consequential, Ecological, Relational and Deontological. 

Consequential relates to a utilitarian perspective, and this involves the importance of gathering of informed consent, and the avoidance of harm. I also noted down some questions, such as: what do you hope to get from a study? Also, what is the impact in practice? Put another way, what are the consequences of a study?

Ecological relates to all the people affected by the study. This requires the researcher to consider the ‘ecology’ of a group of people, and involves considering the power dynamics, sponsors, leaders and audiences.

Relational is about making ethical decisions to maintain harmonious relations with different people. Another note I made was the importance of showing respect to everyone.

Deontological is about not treating people as tools or subject. Another note I made was that this bit of the framework refers to “necessity of obligation”, or “duties and obligations”.  It’s also important to think about how to maximise benefits from a study, who to tell about your study, and how to report your data. This idea can link back to the earlier example where participants may potentially be identified within their own context.

During Alison’s talk, I also made down a note to dig out the British Educational Research Association, Ethical Guidelines for Educational research (website).

For students who are studying on the EdD programme, I also note that Alison has made a recorded of a tutorial entitled ‘A walk through the CERD ethical appraisal framework’ which is available through the EDD-PW online room.

A brief aside (and a further resource)

As well as being an EdD supervisor, I’m current also an MA Education student with the OU.

I decided to study education (specifically higher education management and leadership) for the reason that I thought that it might help me in my day job (as a middle manager). I’m currently towards the end of my studies, having enrolled in EE813 (module description), a dissertation module, where I’ve got to carry a small amount of educational research.

To prepare students to carry out the MA level research, like EdD students, MA students are also introduced to the ideas of ontology, epistemology, methodology and paradigm. During a recent tutorial, my MA tutor mentioned a really useful video that was contained within the module materials:  David James: How to get clear about method, methodology, epistemology and ontology, once and for all (YouTube).

If you’re interested in research methods and these different ‘ologies’ I do recommend the video. James presents everything through a simple iceberg metaphor. The tip of the iceberg are the methods that you use. Just below the surface (setting the foundation of the methods) is the methodology. The ‘ology’ means that there has been a study of the methods, i.e. choices have been made, leading towards giving an approach. Then there’s epistemology: “what is knowable and worth knowing”; the ‘ology’ of knowledge (or, the debate about what knowledge is).

An interesting example was given where different ways of finding things out can lead to different conclusions, since the research methods begin with different underlying assumptions. Whilst listening to the video, the following phrase struck me: “ontology is simply any debate about being; what it is to be; what it is to exist”. A point was made that this question exists, in different forms, within any discipline. 

I really like this video, since it breaks things down really simply and carefully.  Towards the end of the video there is a reference to the idea of “the position from which you speak” (which links to the idea of reflexivity and the activity which Kieron asked us to complete), and the term ‘paradigm’.

Reflections

Through repeated exposure to all these ‘ologies’ I’m developing a more nuanced view of research methods. One thing that really struck me was the commonalities between what was discussed in the higher level EdD programme residential school, and what was taught in in the MA in education programme. The MA programme seems to do a really good job at preparing students for the EdD. (My next task is to write about ontology and epistemology in my next MA assessment)

One thing that is coming up in my MA studies is a section on Ethics, but it’ll take me a couple of months to get there. It’ll be interesting to see whether the approach that Alison mentioned will also feature in the MA materials. I found Alison’s description of the CRED framework useful, since it clearly encourages students to ask some important and searching questions about how to approach ethics when carrying out research.

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EdD residential weekend, June 2018

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Thursday, 21 Nov 2019, 11:21

Between Friday 8 June and Sunday 10 June 2018 I attended an EdD residential weekend at the university campus in Milton Keynes. The EdD residential weekend was something that was new to me: I was attending in the capacity of a ‘co-supervisor’ (or ‘second supervisor’). 

The EdD qualification is a doctorate in education that is at the same level as a PhD, except for one fundamental difference: the research and contribution to knowledge carried out through an EdD is situated in the educational practice or context of the student who is carrying out the research. 

One of the things that I learnt from the weekend was that other institutions have their own EdD programmes. Since 1997 more than 370 students have been awarded an EdD through the OU’s EdD programme.

What follows is a transcription and summary of some of the notes that I made during the weekend. There are mostly from my perspective of a supervisor, but they might be of interest and use to EdD students or anyone who is interested in learning more about what EdD research and study entails.

Introduction

The event was introduced by Inma Alvarez, the university’s Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology EdD programme director. Inma emphasised that the EdD is a professional doctorate that enables students to gain skills in educational research and enquiry and be able to carry out a study that contributes to professional and practice knowledge.

The EdD takes at least 3 and a half years, with a maximum of 6 years. Students are provided with two supervisors; a lead supervisor and a co-supervisor. During the first year, students are required to design and carry out a preliminary study.

Progress on the EdD is not measured through tutor marked assignments (TMAs) but by a series of progress reports. At the end of the first year, students are required to produce a report which is assessed by an academic who is neither of their supervisors. Inma made an important point that a lot of the responsibility is down to the student; an EdD should take notes of their supervision meetings and actively manage their supervisors!

All the students were given a number of useful tips, including: treat the programme guide as your ‘bible’ and subscribe to the student forums, so students can get updates of when people post messages, updates and questions. 

The first year is all about becoming an independent researcher, which includes carrying out a literature review, carrying out that initial study, submitting 4 progress reports and the end of year progress report. The final report will contain an introduction to the project, a summary of the research questions, a literature review, a section about the methodology that is adopted, a description of an initial study, outcomes, and a detailed reference section.

In the second and third year students will ‘follow a more independent and individual programme supported by their supervisors’.

Students will have access to resources, which includes access to the OU graduate school network, the EdD programme website and online doctoral training resources. Another important message that was coming through was: ‘be responsible for your own development’, and a connected thought is to start a reflective diary. This diary can be used to keep notes about what is studied and what is learnt, help to develop academic writing and creativity.

Doctoral researchers and supervisors

The aim of this next session was to enable supervisors to meet their students and members of the EdD team. Some notes that I made from this session were about “gaining confidence in plans, getting used to critical feedback, getting some research training, understanding research ethics, talking to some EdD graduates and becoming a research professional”. 

I also made a note that there was a group discussion about the question: what is theory in education? I noted that there is the concept of ‘critical theory’, but there are other approaches and theoretical tools that could be used, such as critical pedagogy and activity theory. This said, I was also mindful that the educational research notion of ‘theory’ is slightly different to a scientific understanding of what a theory is.

Day 2: Doctorate in Education Literature Review

The second day began with a presentation by Ursula Stickler in a library seminar room. The aim of the session was to learn more about ‘how to approach a literature review, the criteria, and practical considerations, such as knowing when and where to stop’. 

We were given an activity, where we were asked the question: why are you doing a literature review? Answers included: looking at themes, examining ideas and methods, examining debates, learning about academic literacies and making sure you’re not duplicating your research. Other answers also included identifying key authors and researchers and uncovering your own view of the literature and what has been done before. I also noted down some key terms that were used in the REF, the Research Excellence Framework: originality, significance and rigour.

We were then guided to another activity, where we had to answer the question: how to best go about a literature review? Other questions that were asked included: where to start, where to finish, what to include and what to leave out. It was also important to ask the question: what are the key journals and writers? It’s also important to be clear about what the main argument (or arguments) are. Another note I made was: narrow your search, find your gap (within the research) and widen your implications (which I assume relates to the impact that your research can make).

The final activity asked the question: what are the strengths of a good literature review? I didn’t make too many notes during this part of the event, except that the discussions were focussed upon an article by Boote and Beile entitled ‘Scholars before researchers: On the centrality of the dissertation literature review in research preparation’.

Session: Ethics

Ethics are important. The first session on ethics was facilitated by Alison Fox and Kris Stutchbury. I made a note that “your entire project is an ethical task” with an accompanying comment that how students choose their research projects, carry out research tasks and disseminate their research results are all ethical tasks. In this session I was introduced to an new acronym: CURD, which stands for Consequence, Ecological, Relational and Deontological.

The next ethical session was all about case studies. Duncan Banks gave a presentation that had the title: an introduction to research ethics (PDF). We were introduced to the BPS, British Psychological Society, code of ethics of human participants. Some of the key points I noted down were: respect for the autonomy and dignity of persons, that the research must have scientific value, quality and integrity, and that it must maximise benefit and minimise harm. Another dimension of ethics relate to risks, both to research participants and also to the researcher.

Day 3: Designing an initial case study

The third day of the event was organised slightly differently; we were all brought together for a plenary presentation, and then we were able to attend different parallel sessions. In some respects, the weekend turned into a mini conference! What follows is a polished and paraphrased version of the notes that I made during each of these sessions.

Opening plenary session

The opening session was presented by Felicity Fletcher-Campbell. 

Literature review

Felicity returned to one of the important topics of the weekend; the literature review. The literature review should take account of a theoretical position, the substantive area and a methodology. A literature review is ongoing, flexible, adaptable, malleable, reactive and proactive. During the literature review, students should add and remove papers, and also reconceptualise their work. It offers a means to inform your empirical work. A key phrase I noted down was “keep it slim and purposeful”, which I thought was great advice. 

The initial study

The initial study is important since students need to carry this out to complete an important assessment within the EdD. Students must write a report that must present a clearly structured framework for the whole study. In some ways, this initial study and accompanying report is used to ‘sort out’ any issues regarding theory or theoretical position. I noted that the “report shows your developing knowledge and experience of relevant theoretical traditions and literature”. It is used to critically assess where the different authors and researchers are coming from and their accompanying perspective. The report also allows students to relate the literature to their research questions. 

Felicity offered some really useful tips and pointers: “your theoretical position informs your methodology” and “buy yourself a very big box of quotation marks and inverted commas” and “be really boring and put quotes around everything and be obsessed with page numbers”. On the subject of ethics, students were told: “name your supervisors on consent forms, so they get blamed too”.

On the subject of time, “research time is different than normal time; time fills up, everything will take longer than you think they will take”. 

There’s also the need to balance everything; to balance the preparation and the doing, the data production and the data collection, and the analysis with the report writing. Also, when it comes to the writing, “the initial study will help you to explain the genesis of your main study”.

The main study

Some key points about main study were: “you need to tell a story” and to ask “what I need to tell the reader? What do they need to know? Why did you tell me this? Also, why didn’t you tell me this earlier?” From a personal perspective, I’ve internalised the point about the need to tell a story, and I’ve passed this message onto the TM470 Computing and IT project students that I help to support. The narrative that is presented to the examiner is really important. 

Parallel Session: Working with digital data

The first parallel session that I went to was by Carol Azumah who discussed the usage of digital data and resources, such as blogs and social media. Some resources, such as blogs, can be viewed as public documents. Two terms that I noted down were ‘discourse oriented online ethnography’ and ‘fast ethnography’. An important point is that ethics always need to be considered. We were directed to the Ethics pages of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR).

Parallel Session: Concept maps

Diane Harris’s session was about how to use concept maps in research. Concept maps were introduced as tools that can be used to hear the voice of participants and “for them to own what they have said to you”. Diane offered a specific example of how they were used to study music education in a school. Participants could own, add to and create maps. The resulting maps could then be analysed using thematic analysis or critical incident analysis. Regarding this second technique, Diane mentioned two researchers, Harrison and Lee (2011) (Taylor and Francis) who used the approach in medical education.

Closing session: the way ahead

After the parallel sessions, we returned to the plenary room, where we were offered some closing advice from Inma Alvarez. From what I remember and from what I’ve noted down, students were encouraged to work as and think of themselves as independent researchers. They should also think of their supervisors as critical friends. Students were encouraged to identify what skills are needed, reflecting earlier attention that was given to the importance of continuing professional development.

The concluding bits of advice were: “be open to the unexpected; you can modify the title of your study [if you need to]; work to deadlines and use frameworks to guide what you do, and be sure to manage your supervisors”.

Reflections

What really impressed me was how well the EdD weekend was planned. There were ample opportunities to speak with supervisors and fellow students between more formal events and activities. It struck me as being a really nice mix.

There were a couple of highlights. The first one was a presentation by a former EdD student who spoke of some of the challenges of doctoral study. The second was the talk by Felicity Fletcher-Campbell, which was packed filled with useful and practical advice and delivered in a thoroughly engaging way.

I never took place in a formal induction session when I embarked on my own doctoral studies. What really impressed me with the weekend was its emphasis on structure; the importance of the literature review, the importance of the initial study, the main study and how everything connects together. I think the weekend has also positively impacted on my own practice; only by writing this blog have I realised that I have started to pass on some of the tips mentioned during this weekend to some of the undergraduate project students that I support. 

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