Supervision of Professional doctoral students: investigating pedagogy for supporting critical voice and theorisation: Research Project Report

Julie Shaughnessy, Nick Pratt

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review


The research sought to understand more fully doctoral supervisory processes; specifically, how supervisors can support the development of critical voice and theorisation with Professional Doctorate in Education (EdD) students. The study was based on interviews with supervisors, a documentary analysis of programmes and group interviews with students from five EdD programmes around the UK. An inductive thematic analysis (after Miles, Huberman and Saldana, 2013) was undertaken of data, informed by literature.
The research illustrates the complexity of supervisors’ pedagogical approaches and doctoral practices. Specifically it exposes the complexity of supervisors’ pedagogical approaches in supporting EdD students developing critical voice, theory and theorisation. Using Bernstein’s notion of ‘pedagogic relations’, it considers the influence of competing discourses, place and space, relationships and physical/conceptual resources that operate to shape practice (Bernstein and Solomon, 1999). This sheds light on the tensions and embedded assumptions that are largely taken for granted in the literature and in institutional practices.
The findings consider four themes arising from the research.
• Epistemological shift offers an explanatory framework to understand how students negotiate shifts in epistemology and practice.
• Theory and theorizing reveals three ways of distinguishing how supervisor’s tacit practices are enacted.
• Identity illuminates the complexity of supervisors’ identity construction.
• Research gaze reveals the pressure and issues emerging from the tensions at large in doctoral education where excellence and diversity run concurrently within the supervisory process.
The research invites the reader to engage with questions that we hope prompt EdD participants – both staff and students – to further discuss the nature and practice of doctoral education within, and beyond, their own institutional settings.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherSociety for Research in Higher Education
Commissioning bodySociety for Research in Higher Education
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2018


  • Doctoral Pedagogy Theorisation Supervision

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