I am 57 years old, father of four, and I have worked with children and adolescents in various roles and settings for over three decades, and have treated hundreds of families. For the last 13 years, I have practised as a psychotherapist in Israel working mainly with this young population and their families. According to Costley and Stephenson (2008) and Doncaster and Lester (2002), professional practice research programs, such as the one I undertook, are appropriate for mid-and later-career practitioners like myself, who embark on the process for their professional extension, including supporting (or advocating) a major professional development or change effort. (Costley and Stephenson 2008; Doncaster and Lester 2002).
As Lester (2004) stated, a practitioner’s who embark on this type of doctoral process, already have substantial field experience and will have had individual careers that are not defined by traditional occupational frames of reference, and all will have extensive bases of real-world knowledge. Most will be working across the boundaries of conventional academic disciplines, and some will be working in contexts where their practice is defined by their personal knowledge base, experience and repertoire of skills, rather than by any standard occupational or professional classification (Lester, 2004). Being such a practitioner myself, I was attracted to Doctor of Practice research and specifically to the EdD program at Derby University, rather than a traditional PhD.
Necessity for research
The almost ubiquitous challenges of raising our children, teaching young students and interacting positively with adolescents, facilitating their optimal development, were the main incentive for this research. Toffler (1970, 1994) described how over the last half-century, the enormous technological and social development in the world, and the swift rate in which they occurred, has made the knowledge and experience advantage of adults less significant. He described the adult response to this rapid technological development which characterises modern life as ‘future shock’, which is the same as the experience of immigrants as they acclimatize to a new technologically advanced society (Toffler, 1970, 1994). In my view, this growing generation gap has made the challenges of raising our children, teaching our your students and interacting positively with adolescents, even more, predominant and demanding. In my field experience, parents from all cultures and socioeconomic classes are often overwhelmed by these challenges and the growing gap between their children’s mentality and their own. The ‘adolescents at risk’ whom I encountered, mentored and treated, came from many diverse backgrounds. Furthermore, many researchers such as Szapocznik, Perez-Vidal, Brickman, Foote, Santisteban, Hervis and Kurtines (1988), Barrett and Rappaport (2011), Sommers-Flanagan, Richardson and Sommers-Flanagan (2011) and Thornberry (2005) describe how the majority of these adolescents are resistant to the various approaches to therapy (Szapocznik, Perez-Vidal, Brickman, Foote, Santisteban, Hervis and Kurtines, 1988; Barrett and Rappaport, 2011; Sommers-Flanagan, Richardson and Sommers-Flanagan, 2011; Thornberry, 2005). Most psychological perspectives since Freud (1957) viewed our emotional disturbances as adults to be originated from our childhood experiences (Freud, 1957). Therefore, I presumed that early, efficient intervention during childhood and adolescence could perhaps prevent emotional and developmental problems in these youngsters, and help to prevent emotional distress or illness in adulthood.
The necessity for the research and its goals stemmed from the career-long observations, my practice partner and co-researcher-practitioner Anat Ben Salmon and I had made, in the challenging field of therapy for children, adolescents and their families, which we had chosen for our career. Furthermore, in 2007 the Schmid report was published in Israel, which examined the prevalence of adolescents at risk in Israel and the requirements for their care (Schmid, 2007). Based on the recommendations of the Schmid report (2007), and our experience, Anat and I identified a general professional requirement to conceptualize practical knowledge in psychotherapy for the treatment of this young population and their families. In addition, our first-hand experience of various training programs which we attended in order to expand our practical skills, led us to explore the requirement for more efficient training programs for new professionals in the field, who would be capable of meeting the challenges of work with children, adolescents and their families. The urgent circumstances of these youngsters and the prevalence of cases require that new practitioners attain applicable practical skills, as quickly as possible in their career. In addition, a framework for the provision of professional supervision with the goal of collaborative reflective practice would also be necessary to support the new practitioners emotionally and professionally, after their qualification. It was therefore first necessary to compose and construct a practical professional knowledge base which would serve as the foundation for training and supervision programs and dissemination. This plan could be an important contribution to the care of this young population and their struggling parents.
My hypothesis regarding the goal of research in social science is that it is meant to produce understandings which will have practical application in society and lead to improvements in people’s lives. Derived from this hypothesis, it follows that the research findings should be generally applicable beyond the specific circumstances of the situation studied. Since my research intended to produce knowledge which could be widely applicable in professional practice, a major consideration of my research was identifying an epistemology and methodology which could fulfil requirements for generalizability of the findings.
My doctoral research process was exceptionally long, taking over twelve-years, during which I was accompanied and instructed by three different sets of supervisors, and at the same time suffered some significant administrative upheavals which impeded the process. The complete process can be divided into four chronological periods, during each of which I considered various methodologies and types of presentation for my dissertation. In each phase, I developed understandings as to the best way to investigate my practice through introspection, dialogue with another practitioner, my review of published epistemologies and research methodologies, the direction of my supervisors, and the circumstances which evolved between the University and myself, during each period. While trying to conduct the process strictly in accordance with the ethical and technical guidelines for academic research, I was confronted with a number of critical issues which any conscientious candidate for the doctor of practice award, who seeks to introduce his personal practical knowledge into the academy, must overcome. These were issues related to the nature and source of the practical knowledge of practitioners and methodological issues related to the necessity for the collaboration of researchers in research of practice. Addressing these issues prolonged the doctoral process, but eventually lead to understandings with implications far beyond the practical knowledge framework which I produced. These understandings were related to research of professional practice in general, and the introduction of practical knowledge into the academy.
As is traditional for doctoral research, I was directed by my supervisors to conduct the research process alone. However, I soon realised the necessity for the collaboration of researchers in research of practice, focusing on tacit knowledge. Therefore, from 2007 onwards, much of my research process was conducted in collaboration with Anat Ben Salmon in a dialogic methodology, which was the natural professional environment of two psychotherapists. For nine years we struggled to achieve the University’s recognition of this dialogic process, despite the fact that it is referred to and encouraged in both the QAA’s guidelines and the University’s publications. In 2016 the University eventually authorised the collaborative process which we had conducted as our methodology. The final part of the research process was conducted with both Anat and another practitioner Dr Anna Cristal-Lilov, who was a professional colleague and fulfilled an important role in my research but was not, at that time, a doctoral candidate at Derby University. My epistemic and methodological contemplations continued until the very last stage of the research process, which meant that I conducted much of the process without a predefined methodology. This was because I was unable to identify an existing epistemology and methodology which met my requirements for practical knowledge production and its introduction into the academy. During each stage, I reviewed epistemologies and at the end of each stage, in retrospect, I conceptualised the personal methodology which I had utilised.
This text is an auto-ethnographic narrative describing the twelve years of my doctoral research process. In this dissertation, I describe the procedure which I undertook including the background of the participants, the setting, the method of data collection, and the outcomes the research produced. It accompanies an artifact in the form of a dynamic website which serves as a repository containing part of the actual dialogue that took place between my co-researchers and I and all the material utilised in and produced by the process. This material on my website is presented to the reader in various forms including texts, diagrams and video clips, and exposes the reader to all phases and aspects of the research process. The claims which I make in this dissertation are either grounded in academic literature or in evidence located on the website. I chose this autoethnographic narrative describing my doctoral research process and the website format for my presentation, because it is an approach which I believe will provide the reader with the most transparent and rigorous reflection of all the stages of the doctoral journey which I undertook, leading to my Research Understandings. My hypothesis is that this level of detail is sufficient for the reader to comprehend the procedure which we undertook, and to inspire other practitioner’s who read my work, to conduct a similar procedure in order to extract their tacit knowledge. My goal was also to demonstrate a process of training of professional practice in psychotherapy, which could be replicated by other teacher-trainee diads. Furthermore, the doctoral process which I conducted and this dissertation, serves as a demonstration of the complex and challenging task of introducing practical, professional knowledge into the academy. The practical knowledge produced by the process was quickly applied in practice at a number of levels. It was utilised by my trainee in her practice according to her personal approach, formed the basis of the syllabuses for three training courses and is currently being utilized by our trainees in their practice. However, in order to overcome the challenge of introducing new practical knowledge into the academy, it must be written in academic discourse. This might necessitate the creation of a new language of terms abducted from existing academic ones due to their analogical association with the idea the researcher wishes to convey, during the process of conceptualisation. Additionally, innovation must be demonstrated, the knowledge must be academically grounded in evidence from the field of practice or literature and attain accreditation through examination. The process which I conducted is presented in full in this dissertation as an explicit example of the complexity and intensity of the effort necessary to introduce knowledge which has significance in the practical domain into the philosophical academic domain.
Having been heavily immersed in work in this field since the age of 26, I embarked on the Ed.D program in 2007 because by that stage Anat and other colleagues had to lead me to understand that my approach to therapy was unconventional, and differed from their practical experience and academic reading. They observed my communication skills with young people who together with their parents were unsatisfied with previous attempts to undergo a process of change. The general attributes of D.Prof programs described above and Derby University’s 2003 Ed.D program handbook, were the main factors which attracted my interest to the program, rather than a conventional Ph.D. These attributes were enhanced by Derby Corporation's publications which proposed that through joint research with businesses, their knowledge could be elevated to level 8 standards.
The first phase of the process (2007-2012) was conducted under the supervisory instruction for individual research, and I was directed to conduct a process of introspection, reflecting alone upon my practice, and to produce a meaningful model of practical knowledge from my cases in the field. I understood that the general goal of doctoral research is to produce innovative knowledge, and new knowledge must be justified with evidence which is more solid than the researcher-practitioner’ personal viewpoint. For this viewpoint to be generalisable, the procedure must be efficient and positive for every practitioner confronted with similar circumstances. With this in mind, I reviewed the positivist epistemologies of Empiricism, Rationalism, Positivism and Logical Positivism and the theories of modern physics. I considered if these philosophies or scientific theories could provide me with insight for the conceptualisation of my practical knowledge. Being unable to provide concrete experimental evidence for the statements in the practical model which I sought to compose, and since I realised that I cannot produce a specific protocol of rules from my practice approach for other practitioners to replicate in any given circumstances with any given patient, I rejected the applicability of these positivist philosophies for my requirements. During this stage, I identified the significant challenge of producing new practical knowledge, through accepted methodologies in individual research about one’s practice. Since the onset of the research process, I conducted regular discussions about my practical approach with Anat. We became aware that our discussions within a framework for the training of professional practice, could also be an arena for the conceptualisation of practical knowledge, but at that time (2008) could not identify a recognised research methodology for this purpose. In our EdD student group, we were encouraged to form small working groups in order to discuss our research with each other, to share ideas and transfer knowledge from one to the other. This emphasized the necessity for the active collaboration of researchers in research of practice, and I tried to communicate this understanding to my supervisors. However, considering that the doctoral award is an individual one, our supervisors could not envision the feasibility of the notion of collaboration in the academy, at that time. While I faced these significant methodological dilemmas, I read about Schön’s (1995) claim that no less than an ‘epistemic revolution’, is necessary for the goal of introducing research of practice for the production of practical knowledge into the academy (Schön, 1995). I understood that this situation also required a new methodology for the production of practical knowledge in research. This understanding preoccupied me, in parallel to the personal practical knowledge which I wanted to produce for my individual doctoral award. By the end of this stage, I had conceptualised my personal epistemology which was reflected in my practice approach. In light of this, I raised a suggestion for a methodology for conducting academic research of practice.
During the second phase of the research process (2012-14), we were still directed by our second set of supervisors to conduct individual research on different subjects related to our practice and through separate methodologies. I was directed to consider auto-ethnography as a method to conceptualise my practical knowledge, and in accordance with this, I reviewed epistemologies in the relativist paradigm, including Epistemic relativism, Interpretivism, triangulation and social epistemology. Although the collaboration between Anat and I was still not recognised by the University, during this period, my research nevertheless focused on the professional dialogue between us. Early in the doctoral process, we realised that practical knowledge was conceptualised within this dialogue with a trainee professional while being transferred to her and simultaneously transformed during the process. A framework of practical professional knowledge could be constructed from this conceptualised knowledge. From the beginning of this process, and as described by Polanyi (1966), we realised that the practical knowledge of a practitioner is tacit (Polanyi, 1966). Being psychotherapists, it was evident to us that this means that the knowledge is located in his subconscious realm, and the active involvement of another practitioner is essential for the extraction of this knowledge, in a similar manner to the psychotherapy process.
During the third period of the process from 2014-2017, my research was impeded due to administrative problems which arose due to the non-compliance of the staff to their regulations for doctoral research. A year and a half after I launched my official administrative complaint, Anat also launched one based on the refusal of the staff to authorise the presentation of her collaborative research which she had conducted with me in her dissertation. We were preoccupied with these disputes and appeals to the supervisory authorities which we conducted together with Dr Anna Cristal-Lilov, a British born physician and our professional colleague. The correspondence between us as researchers and the University and supervisory authorities, during this process, are texts related to the feasibility of practical knowledge production in the academy, serve as evidence for the claims in this text and can be reviewed in the website. Despite my preoccupation with this process, I continued with my review of epistemologies related to the co-construction of knowledge, constructivism, constructionism, triangulation and the issue of peer disagreement in social epistemology.
Before, during and after my discussions with Anat, I produced diagrams illustrating stages and aspects of my therapeutic approach, and the knowledge extraction process. These diagrams and their textual explanations are presented in my website artifact. These diagrams enhance my personal style of communication, facilitate the reader’s insight and understanding of the knowledge I wish to convey, and contribute to the authenticity of the dissertation. Therefore, through our dialogue during this stage, we produced our model of practical knowledge in psychotherapy. Simultaneously we conducted a process of tacit knowledge extraction and following the process, we conceptualised a generic model for research of practice and conceptualisation of practical knowledge.
Our model of practical knowledge reached the level which enabled me to compose the syllabus for my therapeutic mentor training course, and together with Anat, I composed the syllabus for our psychotherapy training course. Anat revised her syllabus for her parental guidance training course which she had taught previously in an external college, and we established our own private college and began teaching trainees.
The resolution of our disputes with the University eventually led to the authorisation of our collaborative research methodology based on dialogue by the University in 2017. Beginning work with our third set of supervisors symbolised the onset of the last stage of the research process. Anat and I produced a duoethnography which exhibited the tacit knowledge extraction process. In 2018, our supervisors directed that each of us should conduct his own analysis of the duoethnography. I term the third phase as trialogic, as Anna became a member of our research team and conducted dialogues with us, producing further knowledge outcomes and understandings. In this trialogic framework, I fulfilled the role of the practitioner, Anna the philosopher who investigated my practice, and Anat fulfilled the role of what I term the ‘fringe division’. Her role was to critically examine my narrative concerning my practical approach, and provide persistent critical feedback which enabled it’s elucidation, development and sharpening, while it was extracted and composed in text.
Constructing the drafts of my epistemology, methodology, analysis and outcomes chapters with both Anna and Anat during this phase of the doctoral process, led to new understandings regarding my epistemic stance as a practitioner and researcher. I understood that this comprised an additional stage of the doctoral process, beyond the dialogic stage of the process which I was authorised to conduct with Anat. During this final stage, I conceptualised my suggestion for the conceptualisation of personal epistemology by positioning the individual person within the Critical Realist ontology framework. This enabled the conceptualisation of a new epistemology for the production of practical knowledge based on the premises of CR and the collaborative methodology for academic research which I had begun to conceptualise in 2011, was finally crystalised. The main outcomes of my research process were my new suggested epistemology and collaborative methodology which I had utilised for the process. For this reason, it was impossible to construct a standard nine-chapter dissertation because the outcome of the research was the epistemology, methodology and method which I utilised for the process and conceptualised in academic discourse in retrospect following it. I chose to adopt this chronological presentation in order to describe the gradual conceptualisation of this suggested methodology which is a standard dissertation format could not comprise both the methodology chapter and the outcome of the research.
My suggested methodology for research of practice is a collaborative one and in my case involved the participation of three researcher-practitioners each of whom fulfilled a vital role. Therefore, in order to present the factual process as it occurred and to fulfil Guba and Lincoln’s (1989) requirements for "trustworthiness of qualitative research” of credibility, transferability, dependability and conformability, referred to by Bradley (1993), I must disclose all the researchers involved (Guba and Lincoln, 1989 in Bradley, 1993). Moreover, my dissertation will be accompanied by the dissertations of the other two co-researchers, who will present their role and experience in the process, their understandings and the outcomes each produced.