Exploring the impact of a professional doctorate on higher education organizations: A critical realist perspective

Lundgren-Resenterra, M
(2017) Exploring the impact of a professional doctorate on higher education organizations: A critical realist perspective. Doctor of Education thesis, University of Liverpool.

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The impact of a professional doctorate on students and their organizations has become a recent topic of interest to researchers, however, there has been debate regarding the impact of a professional on his or her organization and whether this represents the straightforward manifestation of professional learning. As a doctoral student enrolled in the educational doctoral programme (EdD) offered by the University of Liverpool and a lecturer at one of the Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts (UAS) in Western Switzerland, I wanted to explore how the learning that occurs within such a programme can enhance organizational change. Consequently, this study investigated the interplay between agential and structural dimensions to develop causal explanations of how organizational change might – or might not – result from undertaking a Doctor of Education (EdD) programme based on the study of higher education. The critical realist paradigm offered a good basis to do this, grounded as it is in the stratified ontology of a layered reality contingent on context, people’s personal experience, and social structures. The study addressed the following research question: What are the mechanisms that influence the impact on a higher education professional’s organization through the learning that arises from undertaking a professional doctorate in higher education? This study has used a combination of grounded theory techniques with critical realist retroduction to explore causal explanation about mechanisms. Semi-directed interviews were conducted with 16 participants, five of whom were EdD students focused on the study of higher education offered by a UK university, and the remaining 11 participants were their work colleagues well placed to comment on organizational change. Data analysis identified individual meta-reflexivity as the key mechanism enhancing individual agency giving rise to professional concerns, in turn generating students’ projects that attempted to address these concerns. In terms of individual agency, transformational leadership was also identified as a key mechanism emerging from the sharing of professional concerns with work colleagues, thus fostering social relations between human agents. Another aspect of this mechanism was the emergence of social relations resulting from collective meta-reflexivity that engaged work colleagues with the students’ concerns, thereby leading to corporate agency. However, different expressions of collective reflexivity influenced how corporate agency unfolded, which in turn shaped the nature of organizational change. Indeed, the need to align human actions with existing social structures triggered countervailing mechanisms whose powers could either enable or constrain human actions and their capacity to impact on the student’s organization. Critical realism explicitly endorses the view that generative mechanisms will not always be triggered. The theory that ensued from this study is that doctoral learning needs to be conceived, not simply in relation to producing knowledge for one’s personal growth, but also in terms of mastering a discourse that crosses both research and professional practice and through one’s capacity to draw others into that discourse in an ecologically-relevant fashion. Keywords: corporate agency, critical realism, impact, knowledge economy, organizational morphogenesis, professional doctorate, reflexivity, social relations

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Education)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2017 11:17
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2023 06:53
DOI: 10.17638/03009806
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3009806