Literature reviews as formative learning for PhD students in education

Constable, Hilary (2019) Literature reviews as formative learning for PhD students in education. In: 7th International AHE Conference 2019 (Assessment in Higher Education), 26-27 June 2019, Manchester, UK. (Unpublished) Full text not available from this repository.

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Reviewing relevant literature is part of almost all aspects of higher education and one which makes high demands on tutors for pertinent feedback in both formative and summative assessment. In the case of PhDs, what the literature review entails and how it should be guided and assessed is fraught with variation, often unacknowledged, both within and between areas of scholarship (Bengsten and Barnett, 2017). There are numerous published guides, including tailored course materials, for students on this aspect of higher education however approaches to supervision mirror wider variations in what constitutes a PhD (Kandiko and Kinchin, 2013). Literature reviews therefore pose challenges for supervisors and students in all aspects of assessment and especially in the provision of formative feedback as part of the supervisory process of guiding learning (Wisker, Robinson and Bengsten, 2017). Surprisingly, and somewhat oddly, whilst texts give advice on what (graduate) students should do, they are less explicit in relation to what learning is envisaged as taking place as a result or in the levels of learning achievable. In particular the work of a literature review in framing enquiry is not always problematised. Hence the criteria and methods of assessing student work can become mired in what has been done rather than what has been learned. This paper presents initial findings from a meta-review study which examines texts supporting PhD students in education in writing their appraisals of literature. A preliminary framework of analysis has been elaborated with which to scrutinise the reviews following related to the teaching and assessment of literature reviews in masters and PhD supervision (Arksey and O’Malley, 2005). Preliminary findings suggest that although there is superficial agreement about the common goals of literature reviews, deeper exploration of the texts reveals that they vary in their aims, their procedural advice and recommendations. Furthermore, the learning that is expected, can happen and can be assisted to happen is not prominent in these texts. The conclusions of this study are that there is a need for students and supervisors to consider the nature of the work of literature reviews as intrinsically problematic and to integrate such discussion explicitly within a process of formative assessment as part of the supervision process. This presentation will argue that the formative assessment of literature reviews is an important component of the types of transformative learning which is expected in PhD work.

Arksey, H. and O'Malley, L., 2005. Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. International journal of social research methodology, 8(1), pp.19-32.
Bengtsen, S. and Barnett, R., 2017. Confronting the dark side of higher education. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 51(1), pp.114-131.
Carr, W. and Kemmis, S., 2003. Becoming critical: education knowledge and action research. Routledge.
Kandiko, C.B. and Kinchin, I.M., 2013. Developing discourses of knowledge and understanding: longitudinal studies of Ph. D. supervision. London Review of Education, 11(1), pp.46-58.
Wisker, G., Robinson, G. and Bengtsen, S.S., 2017. Penumbra: Doctoral support as drama: From the ‘lightside’to the ‘darkside’. From front of house to trapdoors and recesses. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 54(6), pp.527-538.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Departments: Pre June 2020 Academic Departments and Services > Academic Departments > Institute of Education (IOE) > Non-Initial Teacher Education (Non-ITE)
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2019 15:21
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 15:21

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