The Professional Doctorate – Lessons for LIS from CID?

The Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate is an interesting project by which programs in fields including Chemistry, English, and Education have engaged in a re-examination of their models for doctoral education. Several participating faculty members have presented their ideas in the recently-published Envisioning the Future of Doctoral Education (2006), but a brief essay with possible significance for LIS education can be found in the current issue of Educational Researcher: Reclaiming Education’s Doctorates: A Critique and a Proposal.

Without going too deeply into the argument, the authors suggest that doctoral education in the field of education (my field, as some of you know) has been “crippled” by the lack of clear distinction between doctoral study aimed at producing education researchers and faculty members (Ph.D.) and that aimed at producing educational leaders in the practice setting (and scholarly practitioners) (Ed.D.). They present an interesting model for what distinct and vital doctoral programs aimed at these different audiences might look like.

Without putting too fine a point on it, their argument about how doctoral study in education as currently conceived does not always serve scholarly practitioners and leaders “in the field” certainly seems applicable to the Ph.D. in LIS (which an increasing number of people who I consider to be excellent examples of the scholarly practitioner seem to be avoiding in favor of doctoral degrees in management studies, higher education administration, and instructional technology). LIS was not one of the fields selected for study by the CID (although I have suggested it to Lee Shulman as something he might consider), but I’d love to see our discussion of the limitations of formal LIS study for those of us in the field taken to the next level through a formal review such as that which the CID has afforded some of these other fields.

So, a “professional practice doctorate” for library leaders? What would it look like, and how would it differ from the current model for doctoral education in LIS? Do we have what Shulman calls a “signature pedagogy” (that’s a tricky one!)?

3 thoughts on “The Professional Doctorate – Lessons for LIS from CID?”

  1. While I’m not sure how well it fits your concept of “professional practice doctorate” it is possible that the program Simmons is developing with an IMLS grant could be the closest thing in field of LIS education. It is described as:

    A doctoral program that specializes in managerial leadership in the information professions and focuses on the knowledge, skills, competencies, and personal traits applicable to leadership in libraries, nonprofit organizations, and other information-intensive enterprises. The program will train 15 well-qualified individuals to lead libraries and information organizations into the future, disseminate a body of scholarly and practice-based research to the profession, and continually update and examine leadership issues in information-related organizations.

    If one of the graduates of this program was going to seek a position in academic librarianship, it would seem necessary to develop a firm understanding of higher education and academic administration. Does this program provide those sorts of specifics the way a Ed.D. program in higher education administration would? Probably not. So a professional practice doctorate would need to draw on both library administration and leadership and allow the student to take courses in a school of education – or whatever field that person might seek to specialize in. Another way the professional practice degree should differ is that it should allow a dissertation project that is based on ethnographic or qualitative methods, which is likely to be quite different from what currently expected in an LIS doctoral dissertation (based on what I’ve seen). The dissertation should require extensive research into a management or leadership case of some sort that uses a theoretical framework for analysis. But it should be more about getting out into the field than just accumulating data and crunching numbers.

  2. I thought of the Simmons example, too, but didn’t cite it because I think the CID approach is meant to engender broader thinking across the field than one program.

    I will note that, if I remember correctly, Simmons is also committed to bringing in leading professionals as “professors of the practice” as part of this program, and that also suggests a valuable connection between the research base and the practice base.

    Simmons seems like a step in the right direction, although perhaps pitched at a somewhat narrow audience to signal a significant shift in the paradigm of LIS doctoral education.

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