The Role of the Professional Doctorate in Developing Professional Practice in STEM Subjects

The Role of the Professional Doctorate in Developing Professional Practice in STEM Subjects

Peter Smith (University of Sunderland, UK), John Fulton (University of Sunderland, UK), Alastair Irons (University of Sunderland, UK) and Gail Sanders (University of Sunderland, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9471-2.ch001
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This chapter presents a study into the impact of the professional doctorate as a learning opportunity for STEM professionals including engineers, pharmacists, nurses, STEM teachers, healthcare professionals, and computing professionals. The professional doctorate is a relatively new approach to doctoral study, which has much to offer to STEM. This form of doctoral study encourages the candidate to undertake project work which is based in, and contributes to, their professional practice. The candidates are experienced practitioners, who wish to raise their practice to doctoral level. This chapter presents a mixed methods study, which has collected and analyzed quantitative data obtained from a survey, qualitative data obtained from focus group sessions, and in-depth narrative accounts. Analysis of these data revealed a number of themes including the importance of trans-professional working, reflection, and development of “authentic” professional voice.
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This chapter presents a case study of one Professional Doctorate programme. The Professional Doctorate (DProf) scheme under study has been running since 2007, and currently has over 70 students drawn from a range of professional backgrounds (Smith et al., 2011). The scheme was designed to meet the growing demand for a doctoral level qualification which enables candidates from business, industry and the professions to build an individual research programme based upon work which they are undertaking within the workplace (Smith, Walker-Gleaves, Fulton, & Candlish, 2009a; Smith et al., 2011).

The scheme enables a student to build up a doctoral submission based on a study situated within their own workplace. The candidate is required to undertake formal assessed coursework in the areas of reflective practice, research methodology and contextualization and planning, and to ultimately produce a doctoral thesis which demonstrates the contribution made to knowledge and the impact which they have made on their profession.

Each student is supported by two internal supervisors. The students follow similar enrolment, registration and annual monitoring processes as are followed by MPhil and PhD students. The students on the programme came from a variety of professional backgrounds, covering several STEM subjects. They include:

  • Senior pharmacists, working on a variety of projects relating to professional pharmacy practice,

  • Senior engineering and computing staff working on projects involving the acceptance and application of technology, and,

  • Senior managers from business and finance; working on projects which involve the management of significant change within their professional context.

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