Benefits of Doctoral Candidates Participating in the EDP

The EDP’s focus on offering particularly promising doctoral candidates (DC’s) the opportunity of becoming the spearhead of CGC-related research and higher education in Europe suggests that the program needs to be particularly attractive for highly motivated and well-prepared individuals. The program can only become sustainable and live up to its aspiration of becoming a central source of innovation and expertise in our field, if such DC’s may expect great benefits from participating in the EDP – instead of investing in individualized programs only.
This requires the program to encompass credited activities (ECTS) which optimally support DC’s in developing their careers – related to roles in research, but also to leadership roles in higher education, management and policy-making. The following cornerstones are suggested:
A primary focus of the program will be to develop the research competences of participants, for example by introducing, experimenting with, and developing new research methods. Through relevant measures (e.g. colloquia and workshops), both the quality of DCs’ research, and the speed of finalizing their research, may be supported. Additionally, doctoral candidates shall be supported in gaining a high level of knowledge in our entire field – instead of “knowing practically everything about nearly nothing” (González et al, 2008, 9), i.e. becoming isolated specialists. For this reason, among others, the EDP will be embedded in a well defined European Research Program (ERP, see section 1.6). The doctoral candidates should be involved in research related to these questions and work closely with the most advanced research centres in Europe.
Part of the program shall be dedicated to questions of leadership and teaching/training in HEI. Participants should not only become highly competent researchers in our field and develop innovative knowledge, but also develop their teaching, management, communication and networking competences. As is suggested by González et al (2008), the development of such competences – and the attractiveness of the EDP – requires actual practice and relevant challenges: It won’t be sufficient to offer lectures on these topics, but will make sense to embed action learning in the program, e.g. during summer schools or through short projects.
Due to the practice-orientation of our field, it might also make sense to support the participants in the development of their own competences in career guidance and counselling.
Of course, the credited components of the EDP don’t get to go over board: If too much time and energy needs to be invested by DC’s for participating in the program, the EDP risks being perceived as a threat to completing one’s doctorate, more than as a benefit. González et al (2008) propose offering 40 ECTS points in credited activities within a doctoral programme , accumulating to roughly 1200 hours of work (approximately 150 days!). Considering this immense investment of time, and the fact that many of the relevant DC’s we seek to involve in our program are already working, it becomes obvious that flexibility and congruence with the DC’s actual professional challenges are pivotal.
This said the EDP should be set up in the form of modules which can be accomplished both during a full-time doctorate (3 years) and a part-time doctorate (6 years). Additionally, the sequence of the modules should be held flexible: New DC’s should be able to join the program every year, with the groups being relatively open.

Supporting Activities of the EDP

The activities of the EDP need to be tested and developed with the multilateral project. They should be diverse and focus on the development of DC’s competences. Any activity within the program should be clearly specified regarding its goals, its relation to the modules of the program, and the reasoning of the chosen approaches. The following activities should definitely be tested:
Summer Schools: Intensive, regular and well structured meetings of DC’s with each and with mentors and teachers from various countries and with a wide range of research projects should play a central role in the EDP. On the one hand, such summer schools should incorporate the traditional instrument of colloquia where DC’s introduce and discuss their doctoral research with each other and a range of mentors. Additionally, the summer schools should embrace methodological seminars/ workshops, where leaders of research programs and DC’s enable an active experimentation with research methods and approaches. Both instruments shall serve to widen participants’ horizons and strengthen their research competences. On the other hand, the summer schools should involve activities fostering the development of significant competence clusters. An option would be to have a cycle of three years, with a different central topic each year: (1) Teaching/Training and Counselling, (2) Leadership and Management, (3) Communication and Networking. An alternative option could be to embed each of these three themes into each of the summer schools. Ideally, DC’s should gain and reflect practical experience regarding these three competence clusters in parallel to their work on doctoral dissertations, e.g. through projects undertaken within their work contexts, or during summer schools (e.g. DC’s could be engaged in organising the summer schools, moderating workshops and sessions, and so forth).
Publications & Stages: Many successful doctoral schools embrace mechanisms which guide participants towards an increased level of autonomy and direct them towards the finalization of their dissertations through the identification of stages or “signposts”. (González et al, 2008, 15). In many countries, it is already common practice for DC’s to publish first parts of their dissertations in the process of writing – a strategy which is prone to ease the long stretch of writing a doctoral thesis, provide direction and increase the motivation/drive to finalize parts of the overall paper. Presenting parts of dissertations at summer schools can boost the research process. It may well be assumed that the publication of research papers, e.g. in an annual yearbook of the EDP, could provide further motivation, especially if this was expected of the candidates at least once during their participation in the program. Finally, joint publications of DC’s and the leaders of particular research clusters (see ERP) on topics of transversal interest could strengthen the fundament of the individual theses, encourage networking and the development of competences in multidisciplinary team-work and research, directly add to the participants’ list of publication, and greatly benefit research on the broad themes.
International Mentoring: It can be understood as a good practice for DC’s to have at least two supervisors “in order to ensure active input on a range of issues, a variety of points of view and fields of expertise” (González et al, 2008, 15). We should test the approach of each DC having a mentor from another country, who acts as a second/third supervisor (in addition to the local supervisor of the DC). This would definitely strengthen international cooperation, transnational mobility, multidisciplinarity, and the integration of DC’s research projects into a larger European Research Program (ERP).

Structural Considerations of the EDP

Institutionalization and Accreditation: The ultimate goal is to establish a European consortium of universities which selects, teaches and certifies the participating DC’s. Towards this goal, the EDP shall be accredited at all the HEI which participate in the multilateral project in the course of setting up the program. Once the multilateral project has been finalized and the actual EDP is launched, we would try to have it accredited at further HEI. What’s out of scope? The EDP won’t offer primary advisors, nor will it act as a body which actually grants PhD’s. This is the sole right of particular HEI which can decide to accredit the EDP and/or accept ECTS which are granted to DC’s who participate in summer schools of the program.
Leadership and Involvement: A doctoral program requires active leadership and needs to be managed responsibly. While the program should be open to promising DC’s from all around Europe, and also involve post-doctoral researchers and teachers from all around Europe, such a program can obviously only be lead by a small team of highly involved people. A particular challenge will be for the team of program leaders to be effective and inclusive, i.e. to manage a high-quality program which is not restricted to its own vicinity, but which succeeds in involving the diversity of academic institutions and experts conducting research in our field. Our approach will be to organize the EDP around the development of a European Research Program (ERP), in which we want to directly involve a broad range of generally important fields of research (see section 1.6). To secure a broad involvement of different institutions, we also want to secure that many activities of the EDP are de-centralized and coordinated through actors that are not members of the central team. Particularly the different modules of the summer schools and the mentoring activities shall involve the most suitable people from around Europe.
European Dimension: A European Doctoral Program should strive to being authentically European, fostering exchange between all European regions and countries, honouring diversity, and offering mutual support (solidarity). While the program needs to be flexible in the participants it includes, it would be counterproductive if the program became monopolized through the members of its “inner circle”. A proposal is that a number of seats in the EDP should be reserved for participants who come from countries other than the members of the “inner circle”. While being highly performance-oriented, the EDP should also endorse capacity-building in countries where there are still no or not enough capacities to enable promising candidates an adequate and topic-related doctorate. To enable inclusiveness, such measures as scholarships for ‘participants in need’ should be considered, including the mediation of DC’s to primary supervisors, in the case that suitable professors shouldn’t be available in their home countries.
Online Platform & Blended-Learning Approach: For a doctoral program which is spread over all of Europe, and where joint activities such as summer schools are rather rare occasions, a joint online platform of the participating researchers and doctoral candidates will enhance networking and collaboration, as well as the representation of the EDP to the outer world. A platform for networking between academia involved in the field of career guidance and counselling will probably be developed soon through NICE which would offer various functions for collaboration, knowledge management (database) and networking, so an option would be for the program to participate in the development of this platform. Building such a link would benefit all people involved for various reasons. Additionally, the platform shall be used to use a blended learning approach for the summer schools, offering literature and preparation activities online, so that the activities during the summer schools can focus more strongly on conceptual, creative and hands-on work. Finally, the online platform shall also be used for online trainings and classes in order to bring the community together regularly between the annual summer schools.

Role of a European Research Program (ERP)

Defining a European Research Program (ERP), i.e. coordinating CGC-research activities across Europe, particularly through the ESVDC, will be a cornerstone of the multilateral project. On the one hand, raising central research questions for our entire field will raise the overall profile of the EDP and of our academic discipline as a whole: It might even be possible to acquire large international research grants, once an ERP has been developed. On the other hand, involving the DC’s in broad research projects will benefit both the projects and the DC’s. The research projects will benefit from an increase in perspectives, expertise and resources invested in their point of research. The DC’s will gain experience in large international research projects and multidisciplinary research, and be able to connect their research with broad and socially important research themes – both of which will strengthen their profiles as researchers and academics significantly.
As has been explained in section 1.5, the ERP shall be broad and inclusive, involving all of the central research themes which will be of relevance for our field in the near future. It will be an important challenge of the multilateral project to bring in all of the different strands of research and set up clusters of topics and institutions that encourage a strong link to the doctoral program and enhanced research cooperation in our field.
To make the development of such a broad and inclusive program possible, we want to integrate eight general research perspectives from the beginning and embed them in the central structure of the EDP, especially in the membership of the “scientific committee” (see Chapter 2.2). Due to the high practice-orientation of our field, it only makes sense to give the primary focus on central “fields of action” of professionals in career guidance and counselling. In NICE, with a high involvement of members from the ESVDC, a consensus on the central professional roles and core competences of CGC professionals has just emerged by 2012 (NICE, 2012). We believe it makes sense for all of these professional roles/ core competences to be considered six of the general research perspectives, since they together form what we understand as the core of our field.

  • Research on questions of career education (as a field of practice which focuses on developing peoples career management competences/skills) and of career coaching (as a method for supporting people in developing their career management competences)

  • Research on career information & assessment (career guidance)

  • Research on career counselling

  • Research on management of CGC services and programmes

  • Research on interventions in and the development of social systems related to CGC

  • Research on professionalism in CGC (focusing on more general questions of how CGC professionals practice, e.g. relating to ethical questions, their continuous learning, reflexivity etc.)

Additionally, we think that two further topics should be added, which are of additional importance for those people engaged in training CGC professionals: The academic training of CGC professionals (including such themes as competences, curricula, teaching and assessment methods), and policy questions related to our field (how are CGC services and programs embedded in organisations, communities, political systems etc.?). This second point is important because of the high need to take policy questions into consideration in CGC-related research and training:

  • Research on the (academic) training of CGC professionals

  • Research on (national, regional, organisational, institutional) policies related to our field

First ideas upon how these general research perspectives can be integrated into the development of an ERP formally and particularly in regard to the management of the EDP will be considered below in section 2.
By embedding these eight general research perspectives in the ERP, we will also guarantee a high degree of interdisciplinarity in the EDP. The profession and the discipline of career guidance and counselling strongly benefit from the knowledge bases of various academic disciplines, including:

  • Psychology (especially counselling, work, social and organizational psychology)

  • Educational Science (especially theories of learning, competence development etc.)

  • Sociology (especially organizational and professional sociology)

  • Economics (especially labour market research and micro-economics of decision-making)

  • Political Science (especially governance theories related to labour market regulation)

  • Management Science (especially quality management and organization development)

These different disciplines are each strongly connected with several of the eight general research perspectives, creating a chance for the involved researchers and DC’s in the project to gain a better understanding of how the different disciplines can better cooperate in multidisciplinary research and training efforts in the future.

Likewise, the benefits for universities and potential mentors need to be considered. This is done in section 1.6.

This obviously excludes the thesis, for which González et al (2008, 13) suggest awarding 140 “doctoral credits” (i.e. 140 ECTS points at PhD level).

If the EDP shall be accredited in as many European countries as possible, we need to assume the maximum “rate of ECTS point translation”. In Flanders, 30 hours per ECTS point are required by law: We assume that this is one of the higher “translation rates” in Europe, but suggest further investigating our options here during the program development. For reference, González et al (2008, 10), suggest a lower “translation rate” of 25-30 hours or students’ or candidates’ work per ECTS point.

Mark Savickas’ framework offers an alternative name for the professional tasks of CGC practitioners linked to career information and assessment, i.e. “career guidance”. Due to the multifaceted misunderstandings that this name brings with it in Europe, we have decided to avoid this term as a reference to a single, particular role and the relevant activities. By very many people, “career guidance” is understood as an umbrella term for all activities related to our field, e.g. when the European Union refers to “guidance systems”.

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