The learner identities of older adults engaged in higher degree programmes

Poulter, Grace D. (2017) The learner identities of older adults engaged in higher degree programmes. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Doctoral students are often popularly portrayed as early career researchers and/or academics, engaged single mindedly in esoteric research projects; in other words, they are perceived as boffins. However much this may have been true (or not) in the past, this is certainly not the case in the 21st century. New routes to doctoral qualification have proliferated in recent years and with this growth and diversification the learner identities of the participants engaged in doctoral programmes has also broadened and diversified.
Adopting a case study approach, based upon the narratives of 15 professional doctorate students who entered the programme over the age of 40, this study aimed to critically explore the reality of learner identities of these older adults engaged in higher degree study.
This qualitative study has explored in depth and detail, the motivational factors driving this student group to embark upon a professional doctorate in mid- to later-life. The identities of these candidates have also been explored through the rich, qualitative data collected in the one-to-one semi-structured interviews that formed the basis of the project.
Five significant findings resulted from the analysis and discussion of the qualitative data. The first was that a strength of the particular doctoral programme examined in the case study was that it offered people in mid- to later-life educational opportunities that may have been denied to the, for various reasons, at an earlier stage in the life-cycle. A second finding was that the professional doctorate was attractive to professional people because it provided a staged entry into academia and allowed the professional experience and competences of the candidates to become an integral part of the admissions procedures. The third finding related to the diverse learner identities of the participants. The fourth finding suggests that postgraduate study in general, and doctoral study in particular, can be life enhancing and provide measures of inclusion and social justice that may have been denied to people in earlier life. The study concluded on the fifth finding, that the professional doctorate would be improved by being embedded more firmly in a work-based or workplace learning approach which would further support the strong professional identities of the project participants.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Learner identities, older adult learners, doctoral study.
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Osborne, Professor Michael and Houston, Dr. Muir
Date of Award: 2017
Depositing User: Grace D Poulter
Unique ID: glathesis:2017-8847
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2018 10:28
Last Modified: 19 Apr 2018 16:01

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