The organisational impact of undertaking a professional doctorate: Forming critical leaders

Mariangela Lundgren‐Resenterra, Peter E. Kahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research on the impact of professional doctorates on students and their organisations has reported contested outcomes. We undertook a study to develop a causal explanation of how organisational change may, or may not, result from participation in a Doctor of Education programme (EdD). Drawing on critical realist perspectives, the research found that all the doctoral students shared professional concerns with their work colleagues. In some cases, however, this sharing fostered social relations that supported both collective meta-reflexivity and a performative collective reflexivity, and that resulted in organisational change. Variation in the students’ impact on their organisations was further connected to their organisational roles, and to the extent to which their agency aligned with organisational agendas or other external regulatory and normative systems. Strictly limited, or no, organisational change was, however, evident where collective reflexivity was seen to be restricted or to involve contestation. The article concludes that there is significant value to gain by conceiving learning on a professional doctorate not simply in terms of personal growth, but also in terms of mastering a discourse that crosses both research and professional practice and developing the capacity to draw others into that discourse in an organisationally relevant and yet critical fashion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-424
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jan 2019


  • critical realism
  • organisational change
  • professional doctorates
  • reflexivity


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