The Professional Doctorate is a Research Degree and though it does not include a placement/work-based element, it has been designed to develop the individual’s capacity to work and progress in a professional context; it can also support the development of a research culture in the workplace (educational employers have been consulted in developing the course).
The Professional Doctorate in Education at the University of Wolverhampton embraces two philosophies simultaneously. On the one hand, it embodies traditional research-based purposes derived from the PhD model. From this perspective, the programme is designed to develop competent researchers through a programme of training in research methods and the production of a research-based thesis. The modules constitute a coherent research programme, with a considerable emphasis on professional development and practice.
Notwithstanding this traditional element, the programme has been designed for experienced educational practitioners rather than for academic student researchers. An explicit aim is to support researchers in professional practice through work-based research that focuses on their own professional needs and those of their employers/organisations. The course team thus recognise the value of the varied educational contexts and settings in which students are employed.
The modular approach allows the pathway to be flexible and responsive, and the design of modules allows some choice in study methods/approaches. The concept of being an ‘effective practitioner’ signifies more than an enhanced ability to practise; it implies a greater willingness to innovate, to manage change, and developing creative abilities to investigate ideas. The team are mindful of the need to maximise the opportunity for strategic thinking and provide a proactive educational experience that enables practitioners to adapt to change and become proponents and creators of new professional knowledge. Because the Doctorate will be closely integrated with existing work, it is seen as adding value to the workplace as well as enhancing and developing candidates’ individual abilities.
The academic rigour of the Doctorate is in part supported by the wide-ranging professional experience of the teaching team. The team have a wide research background and the programme capitalises on their strengths. Research expertise across the team includes such diverse areas as secondary school improvement, educational leadership, early years education, and policy and practice in further and higher education, to name but a few.
The first two years of the Doctoral stage focus on developing students’ understanding of research – in terms of overarching philosophies and practical approaches, but also with regard to shaping and articulating their research values and professional identity. The strong emphasis on reflexivity underpinning the course is a distinctive feature of the programme and aims to develop students’ understanding and confidence, thereby preparing them for educational enquiry at the thesis stage, and supporting their professional development. Student feedback has been central in shaping the programme. Participants on the course, including University staff members, have reported that the taught sessions are stimulating and immensely useful.
The educational aims of the course are to develop an individual’s professional practice and to support them in producing an original contribution to professional knowledge worthy of publication. The standard of this Doctorate is of the level and intellectual challenge equivalent to a PhD degree. The programme of study is underpinned by professional practice, and students will be required to show evidence that, through the course of their studies, they have made a significant contribution to working practice(s) within their professional area. By combining traditional taught sessions with virtual technologies, teaching becomes a more personalised experience and extends beyond the classroom. Examples of the strategies for blended learning within the programme include:
Participation in this programme will enhance the professional practice and educational expertise of all candidates. Through its focus on developing high-level research skills and applying these rigorously and systematically to real-world educational issues and topics, the course equips students with advanced skills that will be transferable to a range of senior-level employment contexts. The development of an ability to apply solutions-focused and creative research techniques to complex educational matters is central to the course’s rationale and supports the University’s framework for course design with regard to being enterprising and improving employability.
Successful graduates would thus be expected to take a leading role in developing excellence in educational management, learning, teaching, student development or advisory work in their own work place institutions as appropriate. The course will also supply the expertise, experience and academic credentials for those students aspiring to work on education-related Degree courses in Higher Education, as well as enhancing promotion opportunities in existing employment.
Visit the Professional Doctorate in Education page on the University of Wolverhampton website for more details!
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