Doctoral Learning Journeys

This National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS) project set out to investigate how doctoral students (PhD and Professional Doctorates) across the disciplines of Humanities, Social Sciences, Health, Education and Arts can be best supported to make ‘learning leaps’ - to recognise and cross conceptual and skills thresholds in their research.

This project responds to current national and international concerns about the nature of the doctorate and its purpose and value for different stakeholders.

The research aimed to (a) explore and conceptualise the nature of doctoral students’ learning during research and skill development; and (b) examine and enhance the practices of supervisors and examiners in order to support and assess students’ learning. Quantitative and qualitative approaches were combined in three research stages: Stage A comprised a survey of doctoral students, investigating their learning processes, experiences and development; Stage B mapped the individual learning journeys of over 20 doctoral students through in-depth interviews and journaling; and Stage C involved research interviews with doctoral supervisors and examiners.

Now that the research is complete, the final stage of the project involves the ongoing creation, development and dissemination of resources to ensure that the work is of maximum benefit to the sector. Current activities include the development of theoretical models and resource materials relating to supervisory strategies, alongside the creation of e-learning environments and written texts to support doctoral students’ learning and scholarly progression. These outcomes accompany academic presentations and publications aimed at advancing conceptual understanding of doctoral processes and student learning. At the time of this final report both the resource production and conference delivery and publications are well underway and will be continued beyond the funded stages of the project.

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