NIoE in Hong Kong

The Education Doctorate as a mechanism to influence and inform our future ….

It’s seems like the Nottingham Institute of Education is going global! Last week, our recently appointed Director – Dr Chris Rolph – updated us on the work he has been undertaking with our partners in Switzerland, exploring the motivations behind trainee teachers’ decisions to become teachers.

Today, I am coming to the end of a week spent with our partners in Hong Kong.   I have been undertaking two key tasks whilst being hosted in this beautiful part of the world.

Firstly, I have been spending time with our Education Doctorate students, supporting, guiding and advising them as they develop their research-informed, evidence-based practice, and work towards their Doctoral award in Education.

It is always a privilege, as an academic, to be part of any doctoral study.  As a doctoral supervisor, I have the opportunity to talk with students as they craft their study, but perhaps more stimulating is hearing about the ways in which the research being undertaken is contributing to – and developing – our knowledge of education at every level.

As a couple of examples, this week I have been working with an Assistant Principal of a large secondary school in Hong Kong who is trying to introduce an evidence-base to demonstrate the merits of Problem-Based Learning into the pedagogic practice of their school.  This is not without its own ‘problems’ in a culture which holds educational outcomes in the form of qualifications as the key benchmark of successful learning.  I have also been working with a colleague who is an academic leader in their Higher Education institution who is trying to reconfigure their curriculum offer to ensure the knowledge being taught has value and meaning to the potential career pathways of their undergraduate students.

Additionally, I have, by invitation, contributed a keynote speech to an international conference, on the role of the Professional Doctorates – in this case the Education Doctorate – to provide new knowledge and understanding to both academic and professional communities.

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Undertaking a doctorate of any kind is not a decision that is taken lightly.  This is particularly the case when people decide to study for an Education Doctorate (EdD). Individuals have to dedicate a significant amount of time – and probably money – over a substantial period, usually no less than four years, to the endeavour.  They will have to attend workshops, training events and supervision meetings; they will have to read material that some might say is ‘far too academic’ and when they do eventually write a piece of work in which they have invested a great deal of energy, they will have to submit it to their supervision team and wait – often with large degrees of fear and vulnerability – for feedback.  Furthermore, they will inevitably have to make compromises in all other parts of their life – and for what – to be called a Doctor!  There must be more to it than that!

Students of a Professional Doctorate can be described as ‘researching professionals’ (Burnard, et al, 2018), uniquely positioned in their career – often as  middle or senior leaders in their setting – to contribute new knowledge and understanding that will influence and inform the development of their profession. This is an important feature of any Professional Doctorate.

Reflecting on my own experiences of teaching, supervising and examining doctorates over the last 15 years, and speaking with past and present students; it is perhaps unsurprising that they can ‘reel off’ with ease a comprehensive list of the challenges they have faced in undertaking this significant – seemingly unending – piece of work.  However, when you ask them about why they have undertaken their work, given the challenges and compromises, their eyes light up and they speak passionately about the opportunity to provide better ways of ‘knowing’, ‘doing’ and ‘being’ – for their learners and/or their peers.

Studying for a Professional Doctorate clearly influences candidates personally and professionally; it is much more than just becoming a ‘Doctor’ – although that is a nice additional touch!

I want to extend my particular thanks to colleagues at the Hong Kong Open University for looking after me during my time here in Hong Kong and hosting some spectacular meals (see below!).

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But also, I want to let you know – if you currently are or are thinking about studying for an Education Doctorate – it is worth it; the profession and our students need you and are grateful to you for your contribution to new knowledge, and for moving our collective understanding forward.

Dr Anne O’Grady

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