The concept of identity has received intense examination in the literature . It is a contested concept, drawing on multilayered models from various theoretical orientations: psychological, anthropological, sociolinguistics, symbolic interactionist and post structural. Postmodernists argued that a stable identity is an illusion and it may be pulled in different directions by contradictory identities (Hall 1992). Gee, supports this view and claims that people have multiple identities connected to their ‘performance in society’. The ‘kind of person’ one is recognized as ‘being’ at a given time and place, can change from situation to situation and from context to context (Gee 2006). Thus, identities are not fixed entities, but are constructed and reconstructed over time , influenced by social and cultural factors and by how a person is positioned and defined by others (Alsup 2006). It is a composite consisting of competing interactions between personal, professional and situational factors (Day et al. 2007), or ‘multiple I-positions’ (Akkerman & Meijer 2011: 315) in a continuous and reflexive process of ‘internal-external dialectic of identification’ (Jenkins 1996:20).
Identity is a manifest of ‘figured worlds (Holland et al. 1998). Identity manifests itself differently in these figured worlds depending on place, status and power in that world (Holland et al. 1998). Thus identity is a negotiated experience. We define who we are by the ways we experience ourselves through participation and by the ways we and others reify ourselves (Wenger 1998).
Identity has also been connected to the theories of ‘transformative learning’ (Mezirow 2006). Transformative learning is defined as the transformation of the learners’ meaning perspectives, frames of reference, and habits of mind. Identity formation in adults is influenced by either internal or external motivation but cannot be expected to occur without such motivation. Transformation may be regressive when they become too demanding so that the outcome is withdrawal. This in itself is a kind of transformative experience(Illeris 2014).
The doctorate is as much about identity formation as it is about producing knowledge (Green 2005). In the process of the doctoral journey doctoral students are at a transition phase of developing new roles (Cast 2003) and forming new identities. Identities derive from social interactions with others in combination with the internalized version of a particular identity (Stets & Harrod 2004). Thus internalized identity dictates changes to external behaviours and may affect the interaction between the supervisor and the doctoral student. Likewise, when two identities with contrasting expectations occur at the same time, the doctoral student might experience identity conflict (Colbeck 2008). Experiencing such negative emotions was termed ‘liminality’ (van Gennep 1960). It describes the experience of being unable to pass through a particular threshold to new understandings (Meyer & Land 2003). This echoes Bridge’s model of the ‘Neutral zone’, an in-between state of uncertainty where people might rush forward or retreat to the past.
In the doctoral journey it is essential that the student develops an identity as a professional independent scholar and researcher. Students enter the doctoral journey with well-established professional identities. Moving from possessing identity capital to a place where this capital might not be as valued is challenging (Hall & Burns 2009).
Studies on supervision report that socialization and a positive supervisor relationship drive retention (Barnes 2010) and contribute to time-to-candidacy, student well-being and satisfaction with the doctoral experience, (Ives & Rowley 2005). Thus mentoring in doctoral education is critical to students’ development as professional researchers (Cronon 2006).
The study aims at: 1. understanding how identities of doctoral students are negotiated and constructed during the doctoral journey and 2. how it affects supervisory relationships, by investigating students’ experiences on the route of becoming doctorate.
Alsup, J. 2006. Teacher identity discourses: Negotiating Personal and Professional Spaces. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Bridges, W. 1991. Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. Reading, MA: Addison- Wesley Publishing Company. Colbeck, C.L. 2008. “Professional Identity Development Theory and Doctoral Education.” New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 113: 9–16. Day, C., Sammons, P., Stobart, G., Kington, A., and Gu, Q. 2007. “Teachers Matter. Connecting Work, Lives and Effectiveness.” Berkshire: Open University Press. Erikson, E. H. 1968. Identity, Youth and crisis. New York, NY: W. W. Norton and Company. Gardner, S. K. 2008. “What’s Too Much and What’s Too Little?:The Process of Becoming an Independent Researcher in Doctoral Education.” The Journal of Higher Education, 79 (3): 326-350. Gee, J. P. 2001. “Identity as an Analytic Lens for Research in Education.” In Review of Research in Education, edited by W. G. Secada , 25: 99–125. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association. Green, B. 2005. “Unfinished Business: Subjectivity and Supervision.” Higher Education Research and Development 24 (2):151–163. Hall, L.A., and L.D. Burns. 2009. “Identity Development and Supervising in Doctoral Education.” Harvard Educational Review 79(1): 49–70. Henkel, M. 2005. “Academic Identity and Autonomy in a Changing Policy Environment.” Higher Education 49: 155–176. Holland, D., Lachicotte, W, Skinner, D. and Cain, C. 1998. Identity and Agency in Cultural Worlds. Cambridge, MA;Harvard Univeristy Press. Illeris, K. 2014. “Transformative Learning and Identity.” Journal of Transformative Education 12 ( 2): 148-163. Keefer,J. M. 2015. “Experiencing Doctoral Liminality as a Conceptual Threshold and How Supervisors Can Use It.” Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 52 (1):17–28 Leshem, S. 2007. “Thinking About Conceptual Frameworks in a Research Community of Practice: A Case of a Doctoral Programme.” Innovations in Education and Teaching International 44(3): 287–299. McAlpine, L., Jazvac-Martek, M., and Hopwood, N. 2009. “Doctoral Student Experience in Education: Activities and Difficulties Influencing Identity Development.” International Journal for Researcher Development 1: 97–109. Meyer, J. H. F., and Land, R. 2005. “Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge: Epistemological Considerations and a Conceptual Framework for Teaching and Learning.”Higher Education 49: 373–388. Mezirow, J. 2006. “An Overview Over Transformative Learning.” In Lifelong Learning: Concepts and Contexts edited by P. Sutherland, and J. Crowther, London, England: Routledge. Trafford, V., and Leshem, S. 2009. “Doctorateness as a Threshold Concept.” Innovations in Education and Teaching International 46: 305–316. Wenger, E. 1998. Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
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