Access to Discourse and Professional Identity Development of Doctoral Students in Communities of Practice

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Virginia Tech


This qualitative case study examined the development of doctoral students' professional identities through the negotiation of boundaries among communities of practice and through the social forces within a community of practice. The five doctoral students who participated in the study had been secondary agriculture teachers and were in their second and third years of a Teaching and Learning concentration of an Agricultural and Extension Education doctoral program at a Land Grant University. The participants had from four to seven years of teaching experience in secondary agriculture programs and were on full graduate assistantship with their academic department at the time of the study.

The over arching theme was developed through analysis of interviews which were developed through a priori propositions, document analysis, and participant observations. This theme - Doctoral students must lose some legitimacy in their previous communities of practice to gain legitimacy with the faculty community of practice and access the faculty Discourse. Doctoral students' ability to define themselves as "good" and to have legitimacy reinforce each other and increase access which facilitates their professional identity development in relation to the faculty community of practice - emerged to describe the entire study and suggest influences that hinder or facilitate professional identity formation.



communities of practice, Discourse, legitimacy, access, professional identity