Observations from a doctoral research forum

ASU’s EdD program students are great in describing problems of practice and focused in tackling them. That’s part of what I learned last Thursday night, when I welcomed dozens of ASU doctoral students, faculty, and several guests to the fall Doctoral Research Forum on the ASU West campus.

The doctoral research forum was a three-hour event where my college’s EdD and PhD students had the opportunity to explain their research to classmates and faculty and receive friendly feedback. Over the course of the evening, students were matched up to faculty and had about 15 minutes each to talk briefly about their current research project, answer questions from those at the table, and receive some feedback from the assigned faculty member at each table (and anyone else who volunteered comments).

This forum began as an EdD program tradition. The EdD in Leadership and Innovation has twice-yearly research forum evenings, roundtable format in the fall and poster sessions in the spring. All students are required to participate, and over the course of the three-year program, the students acquire more skill in presenting as they progress in the program. The second- and third-year students are polished and ready to run, and the fall roundtable format is a friendly way for first-year students to get their feet wet in presenting material.

On Thursday, we included PhD students for the first time, this time on a voluntary basis. We needed a larger ballroom for the event, and we recruited David Berliner (ASU emeritus) to round out the evening as our guest speaker. My first impression is that the EdD students knocked it out of the park.

I am enormously sympathetic for the PhD students, some of whom have more abstract and theoretical research topics that are not as easy to describe as the problems of practice that are the focus of the EdD. The EdD students conduct three cycles of action research during their program, research revolving around a problem of practice. That structure lends itself to story-telling. For students with a more abstract research focus, it often takes a trial-and-error process to discover the story to tell.

Having said that, I am certain that the PhD students will quickly catch up in time for the next research forum in the spring. For those PhD students who came dressed more casually or were presenting for the first time, they now know the standard their fellow doctoral students are setting.

For those curious about these programs: The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College PhD programs are two small, interdisciplinary research-intensive programs where students are fully-supported and full-time: Educational Policy and Evaluation and Learning, Literacies, and Technologies. (I’m a faculty member in the ed policy/evaluation program.) The EdD in Leadership and Innovation is for working professionals who want to change the world from the field, a three-year program that ends in an action-research dissertation project. ASU is a member of the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate, and this EdD has been a face-to-face program since 2008. In spring, we will also be opening up applications for an online cohort in fall 2015. (Guess what one of my major projects this year is?)

If you are interested in studying with my colleagues next year, the priority application deadline for the PhD programs (fall 2015 start) is December 15, 2014. The deadline for the summer 2015 EdD cohort is January 31, 2015.