Friday, November 18, 2005

Developing a conceptual framework

While conducting my initial review of the literature on doctoral education, I developed a conceptual framework to help steer my research. I refer to it as a tri-focal lens that enables me to view or approach the phenomenon of the contemporary doctoral experience. It has provided a focus for my research, and helped address the problem of being overwhelmed by the sheer volume and breadth of published material on doctoral education.

Virtually from day one, my principal supervisor pushed me to establish a theoretical construct that would help frame my work. Entries in my 2004 personal journal are littered with phrases like “explain what’s going on from a strong theoretical perspective”; “make sure I have a clearly articulated conceptual framework on which to base my research—rather than being wedded to a particular theory”; and “data doesn’t speak for itself—use theory to help explain it”. The three pillars of my framework can be summarised as follows.

Three issues identified in the literature include the contexts, practices and support mechanisms associated with the learning environments of doctoral candidates. I am particularly interested in theories of work-based learning (e.g. Boud & Griffin, 1987); cognitive apprenticeship (e.g. Brown, 1989); situated learning (e.g. Lave & Wenger, 1991); pedagogic continuity (e.g. Delamont et al, 1997); communities of practice (e.g. Wenger, 1998); doctoral pedagogy (e.g. Lee & Green, 2004); and e-learning (e.g. Hendrick & Omberg 2004).


Some of the theories which I have explored include adult socialisation (Miller & Wager, 1971); academic socialisation (Becher, 1989) organisational socialisation (Tierney, 1997); professional socialisation (e.g. Green, 1991); and doctoral student socialisation (Antony, 2002). I am interested in the different ways socialisation has been constructed (e.g. as a rational, linear event; as a developmental, interactive process).

Issues of knowledge production, generic capabilities and creative capital identified in the literature have captured my attention. I have found the following theories worthy of further exploration: knowledge worker (e.g. Drucker, 1974); reflective practitioner (Schon, 1983); mode 1 & mode 2 research (e.g. Gibbons et al, 1994); the triple helix (e.g. Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff, 2000); computer-mediated communication (e.g. Usher & Edwards, 2000); creative class (e.g. Florida, 2002); skilful performer (Pearson & Brew, 2002); enterprising self (e.g. Tennant, 2004); and self-organising agent (Boud & Lee, 2005).