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  • 2019HastedPhD

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Humanities doctoral education for a relational future: a Change Laboratory research intervention

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Catherine Hasted
Publication date2019
Number of pages283
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Pressure to change the design of the doctorate is increasing, causing a tension between a politically driven emphasis to prepare PhD researchers for mobility beyond academia and current, scholarship-oriented, practices of traditional doctoral education. Research typically advocates that doctoral students need support to mobilise their expertise across boundaries, but there is a paucity of empirical studies investigating how such support could be provided and how different aspects of the required expertise might be developed. In this thesis, I therefore seek to understand and intervene in the development of boundary crossing collaborations, focusing on developing the forms of expertise required to prepare students for a relational future.
My analysis draws on data from an 8-month long Change Laboratory research-intervention, which brought humanities doctoral students from a university together with non-academic professionals working for a UK charity. Applying relational working as an analytical framework, I trace the extent to which common knowledge, relational expertise and relational agency developed over the course of the intervention and highlight aspects of the intervention design that were most influential on that development.
The findings suggest that incorporating additional practitioners, external but connected to the host organisation’s activity system, stimulated the development of common knowledge. Additionally, introducing the mediating stimulus of an activity system model, which participants perceived to be a ‘neutral’ focus for discussion, supported relational applications of individual expertise. Furthermore, the shared responsibility for producing data encouraged throughout the intervention seemingly fostered the internal and external verification of researcher expertise. Overall, I propose that interventions of this kind have the potential to become a new pedagogic medium, the Relational Change Laboratory (RCL), whose aim is to stimulate accelerated reciprocal learning within humanities doctoral education. Such an intervention, I argue, can alter the boundary crossing practices and outcomes for both students and host organisations.