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Identity positioning of doctoral students in networked learning environments

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Marguerite Koole
Publication date2013
Number of pages192
Awarding Institution
Award date28/02/2013
Place of PublicationLancaster
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


As the highest degree awarded, successful completion of a doctorate demands
that learners work at a conceptual level. The demands of independent,
original research intended to extend knowledge in a field can lead to
oscillating feelings of confidence, acceptance, and belonging—intellectually
and socially. Exposure to new ideas, norms, and ethics can cause learners to
question their position within their various social contexts. The descriptions
of doctoral experiences of identity positioning in networked learning
environments is the focus of this thesis. I set out to examine to what extent
doctoral students in two NL programs experience identity positioning; how
they describe this process; and whether or not positioning might be described
differently by students in different fields.
This investigation took place at a distance university in Canada in which the
learners used networking technologies to exchange information and discuss
ideas. Participants were solicited from doctoral courses offered via networked
learning in education and business. The main method of data collection was
semi-structured interviews. The interviews were transcribed and coded
through qualitative open coding in which I sought themes indicative of social
positioning. Discourse analysis was also used to aid in the analysis of
interview transcripts, allowing deeper interrogation of the meanings of and
relationships between specific utterances appearing within the transcripts.
The results indicate that doctoral students experience identity positioning
across multiple aspects of their lives including, but not limited to their social,
intimate, professional, and academic contexts.
The importance of this work is partially directed towards the concerns of
governments and funding agencies that may pass over the intangible benefits
of doctoral studies in search of direct and measureable economic and social
outcomes. More importantly, this work is intended to draw attention to the
variety of social contexts that may impact doctoral students’ experiences, and
how these influences might influence learners’ persistence, completion, and
enjoyment of doctoral studies.