Australian Doctoral Students Educational Institutions Term Paper

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¶ … Australian Doctoral Students

Educational institutions around the world have undertaken various benchmarking initiatives in recent years in which they compare themselves to other universities on various metrics in an effort to document their current levels of performance and to identify opportunities for continuous self-improvement. This study on the research experience of doctoral students will compare students enrolled in traditional PhD and taught/professional doctorate programs such as DBA, EdD, using the "Postgraduate research experience questionnaire"; in addition, the study uses a qualitative method for interviewing respondents to compare the interview data with the publications "Research training in doctoral programs: What can be learned from professional doctorates" and "The doctoral education experience: Diversity and complexity." An introduction to the issues involved is provided in the introductory chapter, followed by a critical review of the relevant peer-reviewed, scholarly and organizational literature in chapter two. Chapter three describes more fully the study's methodology and chapter four presents an analysis of the statistical data and the concluding chapter provides a summary of the research, salient conclusions and recommendations for policymakers and doctoral students alike.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Statement of the Problem

Purpose of Study

Importance of Study

Scope of Study

Rationale of Study

Overview of Study

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Chapter 2: Review of Related Literature

Chapter 3: Methodology

Description of the Study Approach

Data-gathering Method and Database of Study

Chapter 4: Data Analysis

Chapter 5: Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations

Table 1.

List of Figures

An Analysis of the Research Experience of Recent Australian Doctoral Students

Chapter 1: Introduction

Term Paper on Australian Doctoral Students Educational Institutions Around the Assignment

Universities throughout the world are undertaking benchmarking exercises in which they compare themselves to other universities on various metrics in an effort to document their current levels of performance and to identify opportunities for continuous self-improvement (Marsh, Rowe & Martin, 2002). To this end, graduates of Australian higher education institutions who have completed a doctoral or research masters degree are invited by their institution and Graduate Careers Australia (GCA) on an annual basis to respond to the Postgraduate Research Experience Questionnaire (PREQ), typically around four months following their graduation, and there have been six PREQ surveys conducted since 1999 (PREQ, 2007). The PREQ instrument was developed in 1999 by the Graduate Careers Council of Australia (GCCA, now GCA) and the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) (ACER 1999). The instrument focuses on dimensions central to the postgraduate research experience in most fields of education. The items were based on a review of the literature and discussions within focus groups of research higher degree students, and they were revised on the basis of item performance during two trials. The PREQ queries doctoral graduates concerning 28 statements about seven aspects of their research degree (PREQ, 2007). The responses from these graduates are used to identify potential areas for improvement in supervision, and to provide information concerning graduate students' perceptions of the resources and the climate for research in an academic work unit (Ramsden, 1998).

The first 27 statements of the PREQ instrument are designed to gauge the quality of supervision, the intellectual climate of the department in which the respondent studied, the development of generic skills, the quality of the infrastructure provided by the university, the thesis examination process, and the clarity of goals and expectations; a final 28th item asks that graduates indicate their overall level of satisfaction with their research experience. For this purpose, a five-point Likert-scaled response is provided for all items that ranges from 'strongly disagree' to 'strongly agree'; in addition, a neutral 'does not apply' option is also provided. The analyses of the results to date indicate that the PREQ scales provide valid and reliable measurement of the targeted constructs (the PREQ report also notes that, by convention, item and scale statistics are reported in a -100, -50, 0, 50 and 100 PREQ reporting metric that corresponds with the five-point 'strongly disagree', 'disagree', 'neither disagree nor agree', 'agree' and 'strongly agree' response scale) (PREQ, 2007).

Results pertaining to graduates' perceptions of research supervision are captured by six PREQ items. While only 60.0 per cent of respondents agreed that they received good guidance in their literature search, 83.6 per cent agreed that supervision was available when they needed it. A scale score was computed for the 2,998 graduates who responded to at least four of the six items about supervision. The mean percentage agreement for the scale was 73.8, up from 72.8 per cent in the 2004 survey and 69.1 per cent in 1999. These figures suggest that the quality of supervision has increased slowly but steadily over the last seven years.

The five PREQ items about 'intellectual climate' measure whether graduates felt that their department had made efforts to integrate them into the academic community. At the national level, only 50.8 per cent of respondents agreed that the research ambience in the department or faculty stimulated their work. The highest level of agreement in this scale was to the statement that 'The department provided opportunities for social contact with other postgraduate students'. Since 1999 there have been very slight increases in graduates' perceptions of the intellectual climate surrounding their research, but it remains the area in which they express the lowest levels of agreement. The mean percentage agreement score for the 2,808 graduates who responded to at least four of the five intellectual climate items was only 58.2 per cent. It appears that Australian universities have a long way to go in terms of enhancing this important aspect of the research degree experience.

The PREQ includes five items designed to assess graduates' perceptions of the extent to which their course helped develop their generic skills. Such skills include the ability to transfer knowledge, apply analytical techniques to new situations, solve problems, plan work, and communicate effectively in writing. Over the years, and again in the 2005 survey, skill development has been the area for which responding graduates have expressed the highest levels of agreement. Nationally, 85.8 per cent agreed that 'As a result of my research, I feel confident about tackling unfamiliar problems' and 94.2 per cent agreed that 'My research sharpened my analytic skills'. The scale mean for this quality was 90.7 per cent, reflecting the perceptions of 2,959 respondents; the national scale means have varied very little over time, ranging from a low of 89.5 per cent in 2000, to 91.0 per cent in the 2004 survey (PREQ, 2007).

Statement of the Problem

In order to use benchmarking exercises effectively, there is a need for a comprehensive set of benchmark indicators that focus on appropriate outcomes; measure functional effectiveness rather than superficial criteria (i.e., are selected because they are easily "countable"); are systematically developed to have good content (and "face") validity; and differentiate between universities to provide appropriate standards as a basis of measuring excellence and continuous improvement (Marsh et al., 2002). Within such a benchmarking framework, it is particularly difficult to establish appropriate outcomes to measure the effectiveness of programs for PhD and postgraduate research students. Even at the undergraduate teaching level where there is widespread use of students' evaluations of teaching effectiveness, there is a limited basis for making comparisons across universities or across similar academic departments from different universities. At the PhD level, though, there remains a paucity of research into the systematic use of student surveys to evaluate the quality of PhD research supervision and, apparently, no research that attempts to compare effectiveness across large numbers of different universities (Marsh et al., 2002). Within the broader context of a benchmarking exercise there is a need for the examination of substantive issues relevant to the evaluation of research student supervision, the development and evaluation of an appropriate survey instrument for collecting the data, and methodological issues associated with the appropriate analysis of such data (Marsh et al., 2002).

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this study was to compare students enrolled in traditional PhD and taught/professional doctorate programs such as DBA, EdD, using the "Postgraduate research experience questionnaire."

Importance of Study

While research degrees often almost by definition involve learners identifying, analysing and reporting patterns in knowledge and practice, it remains critical that supervisors and others frame learning with appropriate pedagogical structures and expectations (Marsh et al., 2002). Likewise, it is an academic leadership responsibility to ensure that support and supervision arrangements available to graduate students are clearly articulated, and to be certain that supervisors are fully competent to fulfill their duties (Ramsden, 1998). Moreover, as McWilliam and her colleagues (2002) emphasize, "The professional doctorate has been, and continues to be, a paradoxical area of activity in doctoral education. On the one hand, the current increase in number of professional doctorate programs in Australian universities would seem to indicate a burgeoning interest in, and knowledge of, this relatively new form of doctoral education. On the other hand, there are many signs that these programs sit somewhat awkwardly within the postgraduate offerings of Australian universities, an outsider to all but those who manage, teach and study within a particular professional doctorate program" (p. 1).

Scope of Study

The literature review includes… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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