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Educating researchers: New Zealand education PhDs 1948-1998

In some countries, educational researchers marked the new millennium by reviewing the history of "Education" as an academic discipline, mapping the research undertaken by its protagonists, and exploring their research experiences (Fisher et al., 1999). Around this time too, some of the national educational research associations that had been set up in the 1970s in various parts of the world commemorated their first 20 or 30 years. December 1999, when I completed the field-work for this project, marked 20 years since NZARE had held its inaugural annual conference at Victoria University of Wellington (McDonald, 1980). As I searched for the names and dates of local Education PhD graduates, I realised that it was 50 years since the first of these students had enrolled in their doctoral studies. By the early 1990s, 40 years after these pioneer students had graduated, the first New Zealand professional doctorates EdD degrees - had been introduced. In Australia, whole conferences were being held on professional doctorates specifically (Maxwell and Shanahan, 1998) and on doctoral education more generally (Kiley and Mullins, 2000). As new models for doctoral programmes were being debated, it seemed opportune to look back the first 50 years of thesis-only education PhDs in New Zealand. I found some local writing on the doctoral experience, including a few publications and ongoing projects on thesis supervision in general (Grant, 2000; Rountree and Laing, 1996). There were also some brief autobiographical essays on the experience of doing a PhD in education in New Zealand (e.g. Irwin, 1992; Smith, 1997). Several education books based on PhD thesis projects include reflective accounts by New Zealand authors on their PhD experiences (e.g. Jones, 1991; Middleton, 1993; Smith, 1999). However, little historical or empirical work had been done in this country on the PhD in Education. How many Education PhDs have there been and at which universities? Who were the students who have done Education PhDs and what brought them into doctoral studies? What were the topics, theories, methodologies and techniques employed in their thesis research? What were their experiences of supervision like? How did they organise time and create space for a thesis in their everyday domestic and working lives? And what can those who supervise and administer doctoral studies - or who are currently doctoral students - learn from these experiences? This study draws on historical writings, bibliographic resources and data from interviews I conducted with 57 of the 200 or so who have graduated from New Zealand universities with a PhD in Education. Before introducing the interviewees, it is important to have some understanding of the settings in which these students lived, worked, designed and carried out their research. This introductory chapter falls into three parts. The first identifies literature and concepts that have helped shape this project. The second outlines the origins of the PhD degree in New Zealand universities. In the third, I identify the first Education doctorates and explore the growth in their numbers up until the end of the twentieth century. I conclude by describing the interview process, and introduce the main themes that later chapters address.
Type of thesis
NZARE, Massey University
© 2001 NZARE. Used with permission.