Capturing the learning challenges faced by PhD students

Year: 2012

Author: Holbrook, Allyson, Scevak, Jill, Budd, Janene, Cantwell, Robert, Bourke, Sid

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This paper focuses on the interviews undertaken during the 'Metacognitive influences on success in doctoral candidature study'. In addition to outlining the method and how this element was accommodated in the mixed-methods design of the study, it focuses primarily on the challenges presented by the task of interpreting the student information collected in both telephone and email interviews.

The literature makes it very clear that it is difficult to clearly identify specific transition points or phases in student understanding of the doctoral task, and that most of this is not mapped, yet students strive to make such transitions and need to be able to articulate them as part of the process. The articulation is clearly an issue because students lack the frameworks, and in many instances, the language, to express where their thinking is situated and how they are learning and this can then carry-over into their future supervision practice.

The paper examines how students talk about areas such as: Coping, Doctoral Efficacy, Volitional Control, Metacognitive Awareness, Acquisition of Knowledge, Structure of Knowledge, Responsibility for learning, Need for Cognition, Procrastination, Persistence and Sense of Agency.  It also moves into the arena of linking problems identified in learning by students to issues of supervision.