A Proposed Framework for Designing a Doctoral Program

A Proposed Framework for Designing a Doctoral Program

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2656-9.ch011

Abstract

This chapter expands on the original framework introduced in Chapter 1 with the purpose of developing a robust framework for developing and assessing doctoral programs in education. In addition to communities of practice and the basic elements of the doctoral program, the proposed framework adds both student goals and adaptive expertise to create a four-part framework.
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The Initial Discussions

When building a doctoral program, the initial doctoral faculty are the cornerstone. The coursework, professional experiences, assessments, and dissertation process will reflect the knowledge, beliefs, and practices of this group of professors. Whether they have been working together for years or a newly formed group, the doctoral program design process will cause them to form a new community of practice. The process will bring out the individual faculty member’s beliefs, experiences, and ways of thinking about doctoral programs. Even if the members have been together for many years, this new topic can bring out deeply held viewpoints that may seem extreme to the others in the group.

Fear not, for this is normal and healthy. The variety of experiences will become the strength of the program. The diversity in views will partially merge into shared views over time, but individuals will also maintain significant portions of their differing perspectives. Done well, this can be a strength. The respect afforded one another during the initial planning stage will set the tone for the program. As with any joint human endeavor, there must be give and take. Each faculty member must stand firm on some of their views and be willing to be flexible or even give up some of their views for the greater good. If two heads are better than one, a room full of experienced professors has immense potential to generate something great.

Typically, the group will begin to examine the structure of the program and the coursework. The historical elements will be discussed as well as the current expectations of accrediting bodies as well as the specialization niche within the community of educational researchers.

I strongly recommend that this discourse occur in a later discussion. The starting point should be your future students.

The first fundamental key is to always focus on the future doctoral students, including:

  • What are their goals as they enter the program? Why will they enroll?

  • What are their needs on the way into the program?

  • What are their needs as people with jobs and lives outside of the program?

  • How might their goals change as they complete the program?

The second stage should be to purposefully choose a set of communities of practice in which those students will gradually participate as outcomes of the program:

  • How will they participate in the broad community of educational researchers given the various roles they will take after graduation?

  • Which professional organization should they participate in as they move through the program and graduate?

  • What kinds of communities of practice will they participate in the possible jobs within their chosen career paths?

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Expertise And Adaptive Expertise As The Main Goals Of Every Doctoral Program

Can one doctoral program prepare a graduate to fill any of the possible career choices? Can one doctoral program prepare a graduate to become members of any possible professional communities of practice? My answer to both questions is a firm yes. Embedded in this answer is an understanding that we cannot prepare them for every detail of every job of every community. I answer yes, because our main goals lie in the following two statements about the expertise developed in high quality doctoral programs:

  • The doctoral graduate will become an expert in one tiny area within one small niche of educational research. This is reified in the dissertation.

  • The doctoral graduate will develop adaptive expertise especially in the area of participation in professional communities, including those of whom they are not yet aware.

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