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To whom an EdD may concern: Pragmatic reflections and useful considerations

Ayman Hefnawi, Ministry of Education, United Arab Emirates Ashley Smith, EdD student, University of Bath

The purpose of this blog post is to share our experiences as part-time, remote Doctor of Education (EdD) candidates. We hope this will be enlightening for educational professionals who are considering enrolling in an EdD programme, educational settings that might benefit from encouraging their staff to engage with EdD research, and universities that already offer an EdD programme. It is noteworthy that EdD programmes are only provided by universities in specific countries such as the UK, US and Australia; many countries are yet to recognise the EdD’s status as equivalent to traditional PhDs. In this blog post, we discuss the reasons that have guided practitioners to enrol in an EdD programme along with the merits and the potential challenges of being an EdD student. Our discussion here is based on our own reflections and on the opinions of our EdD colleagues.

Our consultation with 25 colleagues revealed a consensus that enrolling on an EdD programme would provide opportunities for academic, professional and personal development. In completing the programme part-time, EdD students are still able to remain in their professional roles while enhancing their skills and knowledge. As active educational practitioners, EdD students can apply their new understandings and expertise to the setting in which they are employed. This encourages a cycle of reflection which leads to professional development and competence in their profession (Mathew et al., 2017). Moreover, the taught element of the programme allows EdD students to explore areas of education that they might be unfamiliar with and generates a breadth of understanding about the field, while through face-to-face group sessions, students have the opportunity to meet practitioners from different settings. Our colleagues felt that as a professional doctorate, an EdD could provide career longevity; for some, it was a natural part of their career progression. The completion of an EdD also provides a sense of personal achievement and enrichment.

‘The taught element of the programme allows EdD students to explore areas of education that they might be unfamiliar with and generates a breadth of understanding about the field.’

One of the greatest benefits of completing an EdD part-time is its flexibility, where studies can be adapted to suit the schedule of the individual student. In addition, our colleagues highlighted that the EdD encourages practitioners to apply theory to practice, where this can be tailored to specific working contexts or interests. We enjoy learning from the university staff in our department and having our views challenged. We also have the opportunity to conduct research that is both innovative and beneficial, improving our research skills and making a contribution to the field. EdD students begin with the taught modules and corresponding assessments which ensure that they can clearly evidence a progression of skills. This increases confidence in undertaking the final stage of the programme: the research enquiry (thesis).

However, it can be hard to stay motivated when studying remotely and it can be difficult to find the time to read, write and complete research while managing work commitments and family life. Being remote can lead to feelings of isolation, which makes the support group that we have formed pivotal to our motivation. Also, many EdD students return to academia after a hiatus (Tupling & Outhwaite, 2017) where relearning the skills required to be successful can also be time-consuming and create anxiety. We should also mention that the financial cost of completing an EdD is something to take into consideration. Lastly, while greatly needed, remote communication can present difficulties. Where supervisors are inundated with emails, often immediate responses are not possible. Any delay in contact between EdD student and supervisor can lead to stress and worry for the student. A positive supervisor–student relationship is fundamental to a doctoral student’s success (Mainhard et al., 2009); we recommend that university departments prioritise their support to part-time, remote students, especially at doctoral level.

We envision an increasing interest among educational professionals to enrol in an EdD. This interest reflects an increasing need for educator-researchers who maintain both field experience as well as research-based knowledge, both of which are necessary to improve the quality of education by making an original contribution to practice (Tupling & Outhwaite, 2017). Taking these educational benefits into consideration, university departments, as well as educational institutions, must ensure that EdD students are academically, emotionally and perhaps financially supported. An example of financial support would be creating a scheme between universities and other educational institutions that provides alternative funding mechanisms to facilitate the provision of EdD programmes. Internationally, more universities should consider providing EdD programmes to develop the profession and the working lives of professionals in their local context (Taylor, 2007).

To conclude, while the EdD certainly presents some challenges, it is professionally useful, academically rewarding and personally enriching.

References

Mainhard, T., Van Der Rijst, R., Van Tartwijk, J., & Wubbels, T. (2009). A model for the supervisor–doctoral student relationship. Higher Education, 58(3), 359–373.

Mathew, P., Mathew, P., & Peechattu, P. J. (2017). Reflective practices: A means to teacher development. APJCECT, 3(1), 126–131.

Taylor, A. (2007). Learning to become researching professionals: The case of the Doctorate of Education. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 19(2), 154–166.

Tupling, C. L., & Outhwaite, D. (2017). Developing an identity as an EdD leader: A reflexive narrative account. Management in Education, 31(4), 153–158.‏

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