Understanding the Problem of Practice: An Analysis of Professional Practice EdD Dissertations

Vera Wei Ma, Nancy Fichtman Dana, Alyson Adams, Brianna L. Kennedy


Investigating a “problem of practice” is a signature feature of the EdD dissertation. Yet, little is known about how doctoral students derive their problems, the nature of the problems they study, and the impact studying problems of practice has on students’ local contexts. The purpose of this study was to investigate EdD students’ problems of practice through document analysis of 28 dissertations completed in one EdD program at a large, research-intensive university. Findings revealed that problems are derived from doctoral students’ felt difficulties and real-world dilemmas in three main categories: supporting marginalized students, increasing the quality of educator professional development, and supporting novices’ entry into the profession. Furthermore, five generic themes that describe the types of impact dissertation studies had on students’ local contexts are reported. Based on findings, four guidelines to assist EdD students in deriving problems of practice are offered.


professional practice doctorate; dissertation experience; problem of practice; doctoral education

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/ie.2018.50


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018 Vera Wei Ma, Nancy Fichtman Dana, Alyson Adams, Brianna L. Kennedy

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.