Contesting the culture of the doctoral degree: candidates' experiences of three doctoral degrees in the School of Education, RMIT University

Maxwell, J 2009, Contesting the culture of the doctoral degree: candidates' experiences of three doctoral degrees in the School of Education, RMIT University, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Education, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Contesting the culture of the doctoral degree: candidates' experiences of three doctoral degrees in the School of Education, RMIT University
Author(s) Maxwell, J
Year 2009
Abstract This study is situated within a context of the changing role and value of the university, particularly in terms of a renewed focus on the importance of 'practical' research. It seeks to explore candidates' experiences of the culture of three doctoral research degrees in the School of education, RMIT University. The degrees in question are the Doctor of Philosophy by thesis, the Doctor of Philosophy by project and the Doctor of Education. The research sought to problematise and contest current understandings of doctoral candidates' experiences by highlighting complexities in the process and identifying differences and similarities between each of the three degrees. The main research question is 'How do candidates perceive the respective cultures of traditional, practice-based and professional doctoral education?' A nested, multiple-case study of the three doctoral modes was used to address three sub-questions, which focused on the norms and practices of candidates; the extent to which their needs and expectations were met; and differences in their notions of research and practice. Differences and similarities between the degrees are analysed, leading to answers to the fourth sub-question which sought to identify what can be learned in terms of supervisor pedagogy and learning support. The research design was underpinned by a Bourdieuian epistemology and a critical theoretical perspective. Bourdieu's theory of practice with its conceptual tools of habitus, field, capital, agent and practice allowed analysis of candidates' experiences and the doctoral structures within which their practice resides through one critical lens. The data revealed many issues common to all doctoral programs. These include the importance of understanding the various habitus' and relative amounts of cultural capital of candidates, and the impact of a perceived lack of learning community. Other findings relate d to ambivalence regarding the types of cultural and social capital appropriate for doctoral candidates not aiming to work in an academic environment where these are in conflict with the workplace. Three meta-themes were developed: tensions between and within the field; challenges to autonomous principles; and the importance of habitus and cultural capital in doctoral study. The study added to the literature aimed at increasing understanding of candidates' trajectories toward success in the doctoral field, thereby informing supervisor and learning support pedagogy. Five recommendations were proposed, aimed at producing a vibrant doctoral learning community with a deeper understanding of candidates' issues.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Education
Keyword(s) Degrees, Academic Australia
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Created: Mon, 29 Nov 2010, 16:09:00 EST by Catalyst Administrator
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