Project-Based Learning and Doctoral Student Research Skill Development: A Case Study


  • Nancy Fichtman Dana University of Florida
  • James Rigney SUNY Plattsburgh
  • Vicki Vescio University of Florida
  • Vera Wei Ma University of Florida



project-based learning, action research, practitioner research, doctoral education


The purpose of this study was to understand the ways doctoral students in an online Ed.D. program developed their skills as practitioner researchers through a project-based learning (PBL) experience. In order to describe and analyze the nature of the students’ PBL experiences, case study methodology was used. Interviews, a video-recording of a two-hour synchronous class session, and student generated artifacts were iteratively analyzed by a team of researchers. Results reveal underlying tensions within three case themes: individual versus collective learning, simulated versus real research experience, and public class activity versus private group conversations. These findings demonstrate that Ed.D. program area faculty must balance the competing tensions raised by these case themes in order to facilitate research skill development and foster the ability of their students to grow as practitioner scholars.

Author Biographies

Nancy Fichtman Dana, University of Florida


School of Teaching and Learning, College of Education

James Rigney, SUNY Plattsburgh

PhD Candidate

School of Teaching and Learning, College of Education

Vicki Vescio, University of Florida

Clinical Assistant Professor

School of Teaching and Learning, College of Education

Vera Wei Ma, University of Florida

PhD Candidate

School of Teaching and Learning, College of Education


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How to Cite

Dana, N. F., Rigney, J., Vescio, V., & Ma, V. W. (2021). Project-Based Learning and Doctoral Student Research Skill Development: A Case Study. Impacting Education: Journal on Transforming Professional Practice, 6(4), 27–35.



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