Lockdown Learning in Postgraduate Research Degrees: Experience, Learning and Becoming

Jane Melvin, Mark Price, Alison Barnes, Dr Hyleen Mariaye, Tejwant Mohabeer, Shalini Ramasawmy, Gian Sandhaya

Research output: Book/ReportProject report

Abstract

This study considers the experience, learning and becoming, associated with postgraduate study in educational professional practice, re-situated through the shift to online learning that was necessitated by the 2020 onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study is further contextualised within an evolving transnational partnership between two contrasting institutions; one, a modern, civic university in the global north/west; and the other, a parastatal institution in the global south. It documents the personal and collective experiences and learning of students, tutors and programme and partnership leaders on the redesigned MA Education and Professional Doctorate in Education (EdD) remote learning programmes, during the first COVID-19 related lockdown, from April to July 2020.
The project is informed and led by two key questions:
What are the affordances and limitations of learning in an online environment for postgraduate education research students?
What can we learn from this in continuing to develop a transnational higher education partnership in postgraduate study?

Arising from these questions, the intention is that learning informs both future provision and pedagogy and future partnership leadership and development, in ours and others’ contexts.
The research is informed by Eckersley et al.’s (2016) aspects of postgraduate student experience, the King’s Fund model (Pratt et al., 1998) of co-evolutionary partnerships and Raelin’s (2016) re-imagined leadership as collaborative agency.
A descriptive case study approach is adopted, positioned within a broadly critical realist, constructivist, qualitative research paradigm. Narrative data was collected via online, semi-structured interviews with four Stage 1 EdD students and seven MA students. Participants self-selected via open invitation. All interviews were conducted in English and undertaken by academic tutors from within core MA and EdD partnership teams. The recorded interviews were transcribed and coded twice independently, both deductively and inductively. Reflective writings from individual programme team members were collected from both partner institutions, which informed further discussion and positioning. Thematic analysis of data focused predominantly on postgraduate experience, learning and becoming. This analysis reveals that students adapted quickly to the online learning process and welcomed the continuation of their studies during and emerging from lockdown despite connectivity issues at times being a significant disruption to engagement and learning for some.
Participants expressed their appreciation for the redesigned programmes, commenting on the thoughtfulness and care of the revisions. They identified affordances of online learning, particularly the opportunity for developing student-centred communities of learning that had not existed previously. However, they still reveal an appreciation of the value of face-to-face contact, arguing the affordances of online learning do not replace face-to-face teaching and learning at postgraduate higher education, but rather compliment and deepen it.
Participants also valued the collaborative leadership and evolutionary partnership development in facilitating transnational, postgraduate learning. The study also evidences and provides focus and impetus for continued transnational partnership learning and evolutionary development, as well as further blended and creative approaches to enhancing postgraduate experience, learning and becoming across the two institutions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages34
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021

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