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Supporting a non-modular professional doctorate

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posted on 2023-08-30, 13:57 authored by Ian Frame
Purpose: This research considers the design and operation of a non-modular professional doctorate to meet the needs of professionals working in the built environment who wish to obtain a doctoral qualification. It seeks to identify the essential components and support mechanisms to provide an alternative to other forms of doctorate which draws on their strengths while addressing some of their shortcomings. It answers questions regarding the suitability of a programme which can successfully operate within a reasonable timeframe. Research Design: The research is set in a real-life phenomenological paradigm concerning the experience and development of candidates registered for a professional doctorate. The conceptual framework governed both the design of the research and the design of a two-stage curriculum. Regular intervention and evaluation using action research methodology was used to improve practice. The research produced findings through multiple sources of evidence. Data were collected from course documentation, online discussion forums, focus groups, individual reflections and interviews. Findings: The work found that a community of practice consisting of candidates and staff, specifically focused on learning and the continuous development of candidates, provides a suitable vehicle for professional doctorate work. Candidates benefit from engaging in carefully constructed summative and formative assessment with prompt feedback. The assessment informed regular workshops containing an active learning format supplemented through additional support from a virtual learning environment. Crucially, all three components are required to support each other by drawing on their individual strengths. Conclusion: This action research project made a modest but significant contribution to curriculum development at doctoral level. The research developed a model which enabled academic practice to help candidates improve their professional practice. Self-motivated candidates with appropriate supervisory support can complete a professional doctorate within a realistic timeframe when there is carefully constructed synergy between their doctorate, its supporting mechanisms and their own professional practice.



Anglia Ruskin University

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