Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Potential for Vygotskian Sociocultural Perspective in Researching Researcher Development

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Potential for Vygotskian Sociocultural Perspective in Researching Researcher Development

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper builds on the recently emerged scholarship of researcher development and considers a potential conceptual framework to inform methodology in research on researcher development. Specifically, I begin by examining the knowledge base of researcher development and discussing a recently proposed agenda for research in the field. I then argue that there is a particular need for a conceptual framework to underpin research on researcher development and consider the potential of a framework that draws upon Vygotskian sociocultural and activity theory. At the end of the paper, I present analysis of qualitative data from existing researcher development literature to illustrate how this framework can be applied empirically.

Keywords: researcher development, sociocultural and activity theory, conceptual framework, research agenda, methodology

1. Introduction

Researcher development is a recently emerged field of scholarship. Its knowledge base is scant in conceptual analyses and debates, and empirically it is heavily dependent on the findings about the development of doctoral researchers. This knowledge base is to be enriched both conceptually and empirically for the field to move forward. In a recent article entitled "The scholarship of researcher development: mapping the terrain and pushing back boundaries" by Linda Evans, published in International Journal for Researcher Development (Evans, 2011a), Evans makes the first attempt to conceptualize researcher development as a field of research and scholarship and proposes a research agenda for the field. Echoing Evans's urge to take the field forward, the present paper builds on the recently emerged scholarship of researcher development and considers a potential conceptual framework in informing methodology in research on researcher development. Specifically, I begin by examining the knowledge base of researcher development and discussing Evans's proposed agenda for research in the field. I then argue that there is a particular need for a conceptual framework to underpin research on researcher development and consider the potential of a framework that draws upon Vygotskian sociocultural and activity theory. At the end of the paper, I present analysis of qualitative data from existing researcher development literature to illustrate how this framework can be applied empirically.

2. The Knowledge Base of Researcher Development

There are two main strands in the current knowledge base of researcher development: the bulk of empirical studies and the scant scholarship body that addresses the theoretical and conceptual issues in the field. The empirical research base is heavily dependent on studies of doctoral education and their focus on doctoral researchers' experiences (e.g. Golde, 2000; Grover, 2007; Jazvac-Martek, Chen, & McAlpine, 2011; Lundell & Beach, 2003; McAlpine, Jazvac-Martek, & Hopwood, 2009; Robinson, 2008). There has been a lack of focus on the development of other sub-groups such as practitioner-researchers, research staff, academics, early career researchers, and other constituencies contributing to the development of people as or into researchers. There are accounts of how some other groups of researchers and potential researchers develop (e.g. Geiblinger, 2010; Guerin & Ranasinghe, 2010; Zavros, 2010), but they tend to be personal narratives rather than empirical research. Although the field benefits much from these accounts, it also needs empirical data from multiple perspectives to enrich its research base. Commenting on this uneven coverage of research on researcher development, Evans (2011a) wrote,

How researchers develop during their doctoral education seems currently to constitute the greatest volume of research and scholarship within what may broadly be considered to represent the literature relating to how people develop as or into researchers, or, expressed slightly differently, what the researcher development process involves. …

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