Let me summarize elements of my research design, especially as my audience will want to know more about this given the subject matter and to assist in consideration:
While programs in doctoral higher education (HE) are increasingly moving online and are being supported via distance, blended, or technology-enhanced learning , faculty members need to support these learners while attending to the changing pedagogical landscape notable for its increasing reliance on technology with decreasing face-to-face class time. Mindful of the work of Meyer and Land (2008), it seems the more we can understand where threshold concepts exist, the more doctoral faculty can help their distance students through the doctoral research process while these learners develop as new researchers. By threshold concepts, I mean those (inter)disciplinary concepts that have the power to fundamentally change the perspective of the learner, and which can preclude advancing in the field unless they are understood. Examples of these in my own experience as a student in educational research (with influences of cultural, sociological, and communications theories) include concepts such as hegemony, Freirian pedagogy, Lyotard’s framework of postmodernism, and Richardson’s work on the power and role of writing as a method of inquiry; they have all shifted my perspective on my field and have in turn enabled my own advances in my understanding of and implications for my work.
The purpose of this research is to better understand the experiences of faculty members who work with doctoral students via distance or technology-enhanced learning who have identified threshold concepts (or trouble spots, breakthrough areas, or defining moments of epistemological or ontological shift that may be pivotal in one’s identity development) for their students and who have found success with helping these learners through this troublesome knowledge.
What can we learn about how faculty support their doctoral students, studying from a distance, through areas of disciplinary challenge or threshold concepts?
Methodology and Method
I am hoping to identify and interview 3 social science doctoral faculty members who work with students using TEL or Network Learning methods. I will conduct and record one Skype or phone interview, of approximately an hour, and will then engage in grounded theory (cf. Kathy Charmaz) to develop a theory to explain this phenomenon.
These are my open-ended, semi-structured interview questions:
- Tell me about your experiences identifying (inter)disciplinary areas that your doctoral students commonly struggle with as they pursue their studies from a distance.
- How have you helped your doctoral students through these areas?
- As a result of these experiences, what did you learn about:
- your students
- your discipline
- your role as a doctoral tutor / mentor
Please let me know if you or anybody you know may be interested in learning more about or participating in this study. I have a tight time line for this work, and need to have the interviews completed by June 26.
I appreciate the help, support, suggestions, and challenges I have already received on this work by such bright, giving, generous, and inquisitive colleagues around the world. Thank you.