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Reimaging Doctoral Education as Adult Education (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, Number 147)
Date Reviewed: October 18, 2017
This book answers the question “Why not?” to Robert Smith’s (professor of adult education in the doctoral program at Northern Illinois University) statement, “Higher education is not adult education” (1). There are nine chapters by contributors who place importance on adult education as a collaborative methodology within a doctoral program. Each contributor reflects on their own principles and practices for reimagining doctoral study for adult educators, faculty, and administrators within higher education. Many of the contributors give real life experiences either as faculty or students of a doctoral program at National Louis University.
Tom Heaney (Chapter 1) shares how the cohort-based program provides a space for doctoral students to critically reflect as a group, take control of their own learning, and assume ownership of the curriculum for which they can negotiate with faculty. He views democracy within a doctoral program as “unleashing the power of we” which allows the students see themselves as agents of change through the collective voice of intellectual discourse. Building a democratic forum is not an easy task, but it requires trust, discipline, and confidence among doctoral students and faculty (11).
Stephen Brookfield (Chapter 2) notes that there are four lenses through which practitioners within education view their thinking and actions: student’s eyes, colleagues’ perceptions, theory, and autobiographical experiences. He emphasizes that professors and instructors need to get into the habit of stating out loud the reasons why they are doing what they do: readings, participation in class, order of curriculum, and the evaluative process (17-18).
Nadira K. Charaniya and Jane West Walsh (Chapter 5) reflect on their experience as doctoral students and how collaborative learning partnerships were central to their peer relationships. They recall five outcomes: (1) deep trust and respect, (2) the conscious selection of one another as learning partners, (3) mutual striving toward common goals, (4) different but complementary personality traits, and (5) the development of synergy (49). They include a detailed case of their own journey as collaborative research partners where they created the Collaborative Inquiry Metaphor Creation and Analysis Method (CIMCAM) which involves the use of metaphor analysis as a research analysis. They share through a graphic representation the five steps to their research methodology (53) as well as focused group dialogue of the visual metaphor process. The outcome is the shift of power between research facilitators and participants as a means of collaborative co-construction of knowledge (56).
The volume is an easy read. Each chapter could provide insight for doctoral programs in any discipline. It could also be a useful resource within a school of theology even though the focus of the book is a doctoral program at a private non-profit higher education institution. The authors explore the question of why it is important to reimagine doctoral education as adult education. In the introduction the editor claims, “An obvious goal of adult learners is to find their own voice, to be heard in rational discourse with their peers, and to gain control over the day-to-day decisions that affect their lives” (5). The book underscores the point that collaborative learning within a doctoral program is central to adult education.
The Idea of the PhD: The Doctorate in the Twenty-First-Century Imagination
Date Reviewed: March 29, 2017
Understanding the concept, contours, and concerns of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) studies is the central focus of this book. It explores the world of PhD as it is imagined, experienced, and analyzed in various academic contexts. It unearths the relationship between the PhD of the past and of the present, and argues that there is a tension at the core of the idea of PhD in its twenty-first century understanding. Is the PhD undergoing a radical transformation? Where is it heading? In exploring and responding to these questions, the author, Frances Kelly of the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland, initiates a needed conversation within higher education.
The book consists of four chapters, each examining an aspect of the subject matter in focus: the nature of doctoral research, the idea of the doctoral researcher, PhD pedagogy, and the spaces of doctoral research. The introduction outlines the rationale and agenda of the book and briefly reflects on the themes of the PhD and university in general as they relate to culture, images, and stories. The author also claims the book is about critical analysis of contemporary discourse on the PhD.
Chapter 1 reflects on doctoral writing and with the help of illustrations and case studies argues for understanding the process of dissertation writing as work. This is a helpful perspective for graduate students working on or preparing for their dissertation writing. The second chapter explores the person, character, and identity of a “knowledge worker” and highlights five key attributes of the doctoral researcher: (1) specialist knowledge, (2) effective communication, (3) general intellectual skills and capacities, (4) independence, creativity, and learning, and (5) ethical and social understanding (45-46). This chapter contributes an important conversation on the struggle of the researcher in the context of university and society about his or her contribution as a doctoral researcher. Chapter 3 examines the nature and function of doctoral pedagogy in terms of supervision, socialization, and issues of gender, power roles, and their impacts. It begins with the study of the traditional pedagogical practice of private and dyadic supervision and proceeds with the ideas of doctoral pedagogy in groups and voices for the later. The fourth and final chapter takes up the discourse on the spatial realities of doctoral learning, which includes the university campus, the location and design of that campus, library and archives, the writing desk, and the imagined space (location) of the researcher. The significance of each of these in doctoral research are explored within a context of cultural imagination. In her conclusion, Kelly says that the cultural imagery of the PhD is tied to a Western idea and wonders about the nature of non-Western ideas of the PhD.
The book is rich in illustrations from a variety of researchers and their experiences with the PhD. However, it does not define or explore the concepts of imagination – Western or non-Western – or social and cultural domains, thus taking them for granted. Some contents of the book may disappoint the experts in the field. Yet it will make a helpful tool, especially for the emerging scholars of higher education.