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The purpose of the assignment is to demonstrate your working knowledge of APA format by writing a paper.

The doctoral Learning process is uniquely autonomous. It is important to develop individual plans for success and use personal strategies to reach your goals.

General Requirements:

  • Review the APA Quiz questions prior to beginning work on your paper.
  • When writing this paper ensure you are speaking from a formal standpoint and are not using I-statements.
  • Doctoral learners are required to use APA style for their writing assignments. The APA Style Guide is located in the Student Success Center.
  • This assignment uses a rubric. Please review the rubric prior to beginning the assignment to become familiar with the expectations for successful completion.
  • You are required to submit this assignment to Turnitin. Please refer to the directions in the Student Success Center.


In 750-1,000 words, construct a paper that addresses the following.

  1. Discuss learning experiences one may face prior to the doctoral learning experience. Support your discussion with scholarly evidence.
  2. Research the autonomous nature of doctoral learning. Discuss how doctoral programs and learning skills and strategies employed when completing them is different than other learning experience.
  3.  Conduct a literature review of five scholarly articles related to strategies for success in doctoral programs.
  4. Based upon your research discuss specific strategies you recommend when developing a plan for successful completion of a doctoral program.


Doctoral studies are about learning to create new knowledge and to become a researcher. Yet surprisingly little is
known about the individual learning patterns of doctoral students. The study aims to explore learning patterns among
natural science doctoral students. The participants included 19 doctoral students from a top-level natural science
research community. The data were collected through interviews and qualitatively content analysed. Five
qualitatively different learning patterns were identified: 1) active knowledge creator, 2) active producer, 3) active
project manager, 4) passive producer and 5) conformist. The patterns differed from each other in how the participants
approached their learning regarding conducting research and becoming a researcher, learning strategies and their
perceptions of learning objects. This indicates that learning environments need to be adjustable to different doctoral
student learning patterns. At best, by designing practices in congruence with doctoral students’ ways of learning,
scholarly communities can provide flourishing environments in which doctoral students are able to become
autonomous scientists who conduct high quality research. To our knowledge, doctoral students’ learning patterns
have not been previously reported in doctoral education literature. This study contributed to the literature on doctoral
student learning and provided new insight into the complexity of learning processes among natural science doctoral
students by identifying five qualitative different learning patterns.
Keywords: Doctoral student, Qualitative research, Learning pattern, Natural science, Postgraduate education.




1. Introduction
Learning is at the core of doctoral studies (Brew, Boud, & Namgung, 2011; Pyhältö, Nummenmaa, Soini, Stubb, &
Lonka, 2012). Doctoral studies entail learning about research and making an original contribution to knowledge
(Delamont & Atkinson, 2001; Lovitts, 2005; Saunders, 2009). They are also about learning to become a researcher
(McAlpine & Amundsen, 2009; McAlpine, Jazvac-Martek, & Hopwood, 2009; Pyhältö et al., 2012; Sweitzer, 2009)
and to engage in a scholarly community (Austin, 2002; Gardner, 2007; McAlpine & Norton, 2006; Pyhältö, Stubb, &
Lonka, 2009; White & Nonnamaker, 2008). Doctoral journeys are suggested to vary in terms of their unique
individual characteristics (McAlpine et al., 2009; Lovitts, 2001; Vekkaila, Pyhältö, & Lonka, 2013a, b). Lahenius and
Martinsuo (2011), for instance, identified three different types of doctoral journeys among doctoral students in
industrial engineering and management: the students’ orientations towards their doctoral studies differed in their
goals, resources and level of progress. Moreover, Terrell (2002) found that doctoral students majoring in educational
technology typically employed two learning styles in a web-based learning environment: the converger and the
assimilative, which both entailed a high level of abstract conceptualization. The findings, despite of lacking focus on
doctoral student learning, imply that doctoral students’ learning patterns may differ.
Prior research on higher education student learning has focused heavily on undergraduate students (Vermunt, 2005;
Vermunt & Vermetten, 2004). As a result, we still know surprisingly little on doctoral students’ learning. Therefore, a
better understanding is needed of doctoral students’ learning during their doctoral process. The aim of this study is to
explore what learning patterns can be identified among natural science doctoral students.
www.sciedupress.com/ijhe International Journal of Higher Education Vol. 5, No. 2; 2016
Published by Sciedu Press 223 ISSN 1927-6044 E-ISSN 1927-6052

2. Theoretical Framework
The learning pattern refers to the activities that the student employs in learning, including cognitive strategies,
metacognitive regulation, conceptions of learning and approaches to learning (Vermunt, 2005; Vermunt & Vermetten,
2004). Accordingly, doctoral students’ learning patterns encompass activities that they employ in learning to conduct
research and to become a researcher. This includes their situated approach to learning and their perceptions of
learning objects.

Previous studies on higher education student learning have identified various approaches that undergraduate students
apply in learning and studying (Entwistle & McCune, 2004; Lonka, Olkinuora, & Mäkinen, 2004). Approaches to
learning include learning strategies and the motivation to learn and study (Biggs, 1978; Entwistle & McCune, 2004).
A deep approach to learning that focuses on understanding ideas and the meaning of the learning contents and a
surface approach which is characterized by the management of the learning contents and their reproduction have
frequently been identified in prior studies on undergraduates (e.g., Lonka et al., 2004). In addition, a strategic
approach referring to the organization and monitoring of studying activities has been reported (Entwistle & McCune,
2004; Entwistle & Peterson, 2004; Lonka et al., 2004). Yet these studies have focused almost solely on Bachelor’s
and Master’s degree students.

Doctoral students’ approaches to learning may also vary. Doctoral students have, for instance, been shown to focus
on gaining an in-depth understanding of their research topics (Vekkaila, Pyhältö, Hakkarainen, Keskinen, & Lonka,
2012; Wisker, Robinson, Trafford, Creighton, & Warnes, 2003), and frustrating experiences of failing to master
certain research areas or techniques have been reported (Delamont & Atkinson, 2001; Pole, 2000).
The strategies that students apply to learning are the central determinants for successful learning (Lonka et al., 2004;
Vermunt, 2005). It has been suggested that the degree to which students are able to regulate their learning i.e., are
metacognitively, motivationally, affectively, and behaviourally active participants in their own learning process
affects the quality of their learning process and achievements (Pintrich, 2004; Puustinen & Pulkkinen, 2001;
Zimmerman, 2008). Self-regulative learning involves student’s goal setting and personal initiatives, selection and
development of learning strategies, and self-monitoring of learning activities as well as evaluation of the learning
process (e.g., Pintrich, 2004; Puustinen & Pulkkinen, 2001).

For instance, the perceived degree of academic
involvement predicts doctoral students’ educational outcomes: students that value their involvement more have
higher levels of satisfaction with doctoral education and increased perceptions of self-efficacy to conduct scholarly
work (Anderson, Cutright, & Anderson, 2013). Moreover, doctoral students associate active involvement in training
with attaining good quality professional development and relationships within scholarly communities (Gardner &
Barnes, 2007). On the other hand, doctoral students who perceive themselves as passive objects within their
scholarly community report lower levels of interest towards doctoral studies and have more often considered
interrupting their studies than students who are active agents in their communities.


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