OU blog

Personal Blogs

Components of the EdD Professional Doctorate Programme

Visible to anyone in the world
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.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Supporting EdD/PhD students through the thesis and the viva

Visible to anyone in the world

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.

Permalink
Share post

Finding research time

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Christopher Douce, Monday, 1 Feb 2021, 17:43

After about two years of working at the former OU London regional centre in Camden, I remember a presentation for someone; a fellow staff tutor who worked in the Arts Faculty.

“He’s been given a chair!” my colleague whispered. I must have looked confused, since this assertion was immediately followed by a further explanation: “he’s become a professor!”

I had discovered that much of my role of a staff tutor was constantly spent facilitating, co-ordinating and administrating (if that is a word). I didn’t have any time to carry out any substantial or significant research. I was way too busy with “getting things done” to do any in depth thinking and reading about and into my discipline, which was originally computer science – or, more specifically, computer programming and software engineering.

“They do things differently in Arts; they have a role called a senior faculty manager” my colleague explained. “The faculty manager does a lot of the administrative work that a staff tutor does, such as organising the timetables and carrying out CDSA appraisals”.

If we had help with carrying out some of the admin work, I could see how someone who was doing my role might be potentially able to carry out research, and potentially step onto the trajectory that may lead to a chair. 

I could see it working within the Arts faculty, but I couldn’t see how that would be possible in the Faculty of Maths Computing and Technology, as it was called then.

I remember some celebrations. I remember some speeches. I’m pretty sure there would have been some prosecco.

After the celebration and the speeches, I would have returned to my email inbox to continue with whatever admin I needed to complete.

Finding the time

The School of Computing and Computing has a number of research groups. 

There’s the next generation multimedia and networking research group, the critical information studies group, an interaction design group, an AI and natural language processing group, a software engineering and design group, and a Technology and Education group (group website). 

My research ‘home’ within the school lies within the Technology and Education group, for the simple reason that I thought it easier to carve out a research niche if I allied aspects of my work (which is within education planning and organisation) to computing technology (which is a field that I used to work in). This said, my research interests also cross the interaction design group (which I used to tutor), and software engineering (where I’ve done a bit of research into, particularly theories of software comprehension and software metrics).

Earlier this month, there was a meeting which was about how staff tutors in TERG might increase their opportunities to carry out research (if this is something that they are interested in doing). Essentially, it all boils down to how to “craft out time” from our day job. This may mean thinking about accompanying issues, such as how to gain help with important elements such as writing, or research design, or statistical analysis. It also means finding ways to set boundaries.

I remember a talk by a former colleague who used to work in the School of Maths. He allocated a day per week to carry out research. I tried that for a while, trying to allocate every Friday as a research day, but it broke down; meetings kept sneaking into my diary – the need to administrate intruded in my plans.

One way to increase research capacity is to combine it with other related activities. One activity is co-supervising PhD students. This means identifying projects, and recruiting potentially interested students. Doctoral students might mean full time students based in the school, or part time students who are studying away from the university, or even EdD students (if their research area has a significant or substantial educational focus). A point to bear in mind in that a staff tutor must network to find potential co-supervisors.

An important suggestion was that it might be possible to plan what could be termed an ‘internally supported sabbatical’, perhaps in collaboration with other staff tutors or assistant staff tutors. Perhaps time could be ‘chunked’ together. Perhaps my day a week didn’t work out, since I didn’t have enough concentrated time to work dedicate to a problem. It took time and energy to get into research, and there’s an overhead in trying to repeat that same activity every week. Momentum is important.

A related theme is the importance of buddying; perhaps sharing some responsibilities maybe one approach to gain some of the important ‘headspace’ needed to facilitate the development of research capacity.

Other points that have been discussed have included the need to be completely honest about how our time is allocated and reported to the university (using something called the Academic Workload Modelling tool). Maybe there are clever ways to gain administrative support, but effective admin support needs consistency, since that too is all about understanding and solving problems.

Since I haven’t been able to carry out any disciplinary research for quite a while, I feel I would benefit from knowing how others do research. Perhaps there’s opportunity for mentoring, or the development of practical support and guidance about how to bid for projects. Again, it comes down to knowing who is good and doing what, and who might be able to help.

During our meeting, something called PACE was mentioned, which is an abbreviation for Professional academic communication in English. PACE happens in another faculty, called WELS, the Faculty of Wellbeing Education and Language Studies. The programme looks interesting, and doing a bit more digging, I’m taken to a further set of pages about face to face doctoral training.

Director of research

Following on from our TERG specific meeting, our current director of research, Robin Laney attended one of our staff tutor meeting. I noted down four important points:

  1. Make sure you find the time to network widely across the school (but also outside of the school too). Find others who share your research interests.
  2. Do you have a research agenda? If not, try to write one. If you don’t, go to different research group meetings. See point 1; networking.
  3. When it comes to finding research students, make sure that you advertise projects not only through the school website, but also through various mailing lists and other communities. See point 1; networking.
  4. Go speak with the director of research. Our director may be able to put you in contact with other colleagues in the school with similar research interests, and support activities that could lead to research, such as conference attendance or funding of pilot project. See point 1; networking.

Reflections

I’m faced with a dilemma. 

I really enjoy research, but I also enjoy seeing the end result of what some might see as ‘admin’, such as making sure that a module timetable is set up and ready to go, or the development or co-facilitation of a tutor development conference. In some respects, I’ve tried to find a middle way, which has meant carrying out some scholarship through the STEM faculty scholarship centre, called eSTEeM.

The one thing that is common to both research and scholarship is, of course, time. It may be possible to carve and craft time from an existing work plan, but there are two other common elements that are important: collaboration and planning.

This blog can be linked to two other blogs, one which is about C&C research groups and another post which offers some pointers about research funding.

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Janet Hughes who set up a meeting to discuss research amongst the staff tutors from the TERG research group. Janet kindly reviewed an earlier version of this blog. Thanks are also extended to Robin Laney, C&C Director of Research. Acknowledgements are also extended to Karen Kear, who leads the technology and education research group.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

This blog might contain posts that are only visible to logged-in users, or where only logged-in users can comment. If you have an account on the system, please log in for full access.

Total visits to this blog: 1545346