Doctoral education in a successful ecological niche: A qualitative exploratory case study of the relationship between the microclimate and doctoral students' learning to become a researcher

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Scholarly communities are dependent on and often measured by their ability to attract and develop doctoral students. Recent literature suggests that most scholarly communities entail ecological niches in which the doctoral students
learn the codes and practices of research. In this article, we explore the microclimate in an ecological niche of doctoral education. Based on a theoretical definition of microclimate as the emotional atmosphere that ties group
members together and affects their actions, we conducted a case study that aimed to describe the key features of the microclimate in a successful ecological niche of doctoral education, and the ways in which the microclimate support
the doctoral students’ learning. The methods we applied in the case study were based on short-term ethnographic fieldwork. The results reveal four key features of the emotional atmosphere in the microclimate: mutual appreciation, balancing seriousness and humor, desire, and ambition. These features constitute the shared emotionality that sets the scene for the microclimate, and affects and guides the doctoral students’ daily practices. Furthermore, the results indicate that the microclimate supports successful doctoral education because it: 1) fleshes out the professional attitude that is necessary for becoming a successful researcher in the department, 2) shapes and adapts the doctoral students’ desires to grasp and identify with the department’s practices, and 3) provides the doctoral students with access to flow zones that drive their education. These results may suggest practical implications for fostering and cultivating successful ecological niches in medical education at doctoral level.
TidsskriftInternational Journal of Higher Education
Sider (fra-til)103
Antal sider113
StatusUdgivet - 2014


  • Doctoral education, Higher Education, microclimate, Workplace learning, PhD education, medical education, Bourdieu

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