The Distinctiveness of the EdD in Producing and Transforming Knowledge

I’ve been asked to facilitate a discussion of our new EdD cohort on the subject of The Distinctiveness of the EdD in Producing and Transforming Knowledge by Alison Taysum (see So these are essentially the notes that I took on the article while I was reading it.

In essence the paper is asking what, if anything is distinctive about an EdD, from another kind of qualification (presumably largely the PhD).  However, it goes about answering this question in a fairly roundabout fashion.

So what did I learn from this paper

  • That the EdD is newer than I thought and actually only has a history going back to 1992.
  • That in 2007 when the article was written almost 40 UK universities were delivering EdD’s. 
  • The underpinning philosophy of the EdD is contested.

Taysum is interested in the following three main questions

  1. How do issues of social justice connect with the development of HE? 
  2. How do issues of social justice connect with the development of the EdD within HE? 
  3. Finally, what new insights and theories can be developed about the distinctiveness of the EdD in the university tradition?

To my mind this is a slightly odd place to start if we are thinking about the distinctiveness of the EdD. Which is not to say that I don’t believe that education shouldn’t be bound up with a drive for social justice. However it seems unlikely that it is possible to conclude that the EdD has a fundamentally different relationship with social justice than other qualifications.

Taysum goes on to trace the history of higher education. Noting that it has its roots in training an elite essentially to help them to maintain their hegemony. She does this with reference to Bordieu’s theory that there are four forms of capital (economic capital, cultural capital, social capital and symbolic capital). She argues that the widening of access to higher education enabled a widening of participation in the ruling class. I’m not sure I buy into this, it seems to me far more likely that it was the other way round. If I’m right this would mean that higher education remained as a privileged tool for the maintenance of (an admittedly expanded) ruling class hegemony, rather than being a tool through which emancipation was achieved.

Taysum then seeks to examine how the phenomenon of the EdD fits into this narrative around HE and capital. She positions the EdD as the manifestation of Praxis (the fusion between theory and practice) suggesting that it is this that makes it distinctive. However, she notes that not all EdD’s hold to this ideal of Praxis, with some seeing what they offer as research informed practice. This is a fine line, but one that I do agree with. It seems to me that knowledge that is created by doctoral students should be fundamentally involved with questions like “what is education”, “what is knowledge” and “is education actually valuable”, “could we do all of this very differently”. These questions are essentially the questions of theory and it seems to me that doctoral level study should take them on. If we end up with EdD’s churning out projects like “Blackboard or Whiteboard: An evidence based assessment of classroom visual aids” I think that we are probably missing the point.

However, my sense of what constitutes good doctoral level research may not be the same as other peoples. Taysum has a strong sense that doctoral level work should be involved in the transformation of educational practice but also in the transformation of society. This is the concept of Praxis that she advances.

She ultimately argues that the unique contribution of the EdD is in its ability to shift the identity of practitioners into that of critical theorists or critical practitioners. In other words it is not about people knowing more, but rather about them thinking differently. Why this is a distinctive role for the EdD I’m not sure as I hope (maybe foolishly) that this remains as a distinctive role for all university based education and even perhaps for all education.


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