Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Themes of Tension Surrounding Research Methodologies Education in an Accelerated, Cohort-Based Doctoral Program

Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Themes of Tension Surrounding Research Methodologies Education in an Accelerated, Cohort-Based Doctoral Program

Article excerpt

Introduction

Executive-type doctoral programs like the one described here, are becoming more commonplace in the United States due primarily to student needs and expectations. As noted in Full-time Leaders, Part-time leaders by Erickson, Howard, Borland, and Baker (2004), "the traditional doctoral student is disappearing in today's educational leadership programs--a trend that is emerging in other professional disciplines as well" (p. ix). Presently, Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania offer three year fast-tracked doctoral programs in educational leadership that meet the demands of working educational professionals. Given that this development in doctoral programs is relatively new, it becomes somewhat difficult to evaluate these programs in terms of their value compared to traditional programs. Most of the faculty in the Instructional Management/Leadership Program (IMLP) at Robert Morris University (the university discussed in this paper) are products of the more traditional programs and consequently they have had to make modifications in their teaching approaches when working with doctoral students in the accelerated program. In the IMLP, faculty find it necessary to meet frequently as a part of a continuous improvement model to address student and program needs, and these frequent interactions have helped establish more collegial and collaborative relationships. In fact, many of the faculty who helped design and write the program are currently teaching and advising in the program. The idea of frontloading methodology courses was the collective effort of the faculty who wanted to prepare doctoral students to begin the dissertation process at the start of the second year of formal study. In addition to the methodology courses, a curriculum course and dissertation seminars also provide students with the exposure and opportunity to examine possible topics for their research study. Within the content of each methodology course, there is a concentrated effort among faculty to solicit ideas and illustrate examples of how student topics might match to different paradigms, research designs, and data collection methods. In addition, student writing is shared among faculty to support and guide them to research problems that are worthy of further research. This collegial relationship among faculty is considered a fundamental strength of the IMLP where the doctoral faculty are an integral part of the decision-making process.

Like similar executive type, compressed or accelerated doctoral programs (Metz, 2001; Page, 2001; Shulman, Golde, Bueschel, & Garabedian, 2006), the Ph.D. program in Educational Leadership at Robert Morris University has wrestled with the issue of methodology education. Although this program is housed within the School of Education and Social Sciences, cohorts have been comprised of students from the fields of nursing, business, higher education, elementary and secondary education, and the military. In addition, while students in the initial cohorts were exclusively from the USA, the most recent five cohorts have had students from Cameroon and Saudi Arabia with applicants now pending from additional countries. As more accelerated doctoral level programs incorporate expected three-year completion dates, doctoral students have less time to investigate, use, and reflect upon the various research methodologies. Yet, these students are expected to attain "educational research literacy" (Lin, Wang, Spalding, Klecka, & Odell, 2011) and to then employ research methods effectively for their dissertations and degree completion. Since the program we describe is primarily an educational leadership program, a greater emphasis is on research related to higher education and Pre-12 schooling. However, there have also been students in every cohort from the corporate and non-profit sectors so leadership issues are also addressed in these areas. Hence, many students elect to choose topics related to the program concentrations that include leadership/management, curriculum, and technology. …

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