Mothers undertaking part-time Doctoral study: Experiences, Perceptions and Implications
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AbstractThis thesis explores the lived experience of women with children, i.e. ‘mothers’ undertaking part-time doctoral study and considers the challenges and conflicts that arise from what Brown & Watson (2010) describe as ‘dual lives’, managing the doctoral student role with the roles of mother and worker. The research aimed to consider extant conceptualisations and understandings so that alternative discourses could emerge, viewing the part-time doctoral experience through the lens of mothers. This was undertaken through the analysis and application of conceptual frameworks that fuse Communities of Practice (Wenger 2008), Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan 1985), Self-Categorization Theory (Turner 1987) and Lived Experience (Manen 1990). The marginalized voices of ‘Mothers doing doctorates’ provide a new perspective on the ‘non-traditional’ PhD student experience, allowing a deeper understanding of the challenges facing this ‘community’ by identifying and analysing key themes of identity, motivation, feelings and beliefs within a framework of communities of practice. Identifying Wenger’s Communities of Practice as a framework for discussion, a model was developed in relation to the field data to understand the women’s experiences of part-time PhD study. This model focused on four key areas: learning as belonging, learning as becoming, learning as doing and learning as experience. Each area related to a major theme in the women’s experience, that of identity, motivation, the student experience and their own feelings and perceptions about themselves and the process. The findings determine the process of studying for a PhD provided the women with a means of identity expression that had previously been stifled through the adoption of the role of being a ‘mum’. Through part-time doctoral study, this sense of re-awakening both intellectually and personally provided women with a renewed sense of positivity and confidence, demonstrating a resistance against the dominant ideology that dictates women’s ‘natural’ place is in full-time motherhood (Hughes 2002). It provided them intellectual stimulus and allowed them a voice, that the mother role had smothered as it was not in-keeping with the in-group identities highlighted by the women as central to their public and private domain. The academic development of the women helped them to ii see themselves as ‘worthy’, strengthening their own identity as they developed a redefined sense of self. In securing data from thirty-five women, this research provides an original insight into the experiences of an obscured and marginalised group. The combination of narrative and autoethnographic methods has surfaced original data that highlights the experiences and impact of part-time PhD study on women with children. The contribution to current thinking around part-time PhDs is the critique of extant normative practice, this research illustrates and exemplifies how these existing processes marginalise mothers doing part-time doctorates and points to new approaches in practice.
CitationCronshaw, S. (2017). Mothers undertaking part-time doctoral study: experiences, perceptions and implications (Doctoral dissertation). University of Chester, United Kingdom.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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