This article reports on an exploratory study regarding the first 12 graduates of a new type of Professional Doctorate by Public Works (PDPW) programme in the UK, that uses an in-depth reflective and critical analysis of prior high-level work-based learning with attendant evidence as its main product for assessment. The main aim of this research was to illustrate the effects of undertaking this process on the candidates’ professional learning and identity. A case study approach was used to enable focus from a variety of perspectives on to the single case of the PDPW programme, and interview, questionnaire, focus group and participant observation methods were employed with candidates and staff involved with their learning, teaching and assessment process (N = 32). The results are indicative and presented alongside practice-based experience of facilitating and assessing the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) on another professional doctorate with a very similar pedagogical and philosophical perspective. The pedagogic processes described in the article appeared to facilitate doctoral candidates’ reflexive understanding of their experience and knowledge. By drawing on individual understanding about workplace learning the process also provided another way of learning about themselves. The implications of the findings for theory and practice in promoting RPL through an ontological turn for higher education, to reconceptualise learning to affect ways of being rather than or as well as ways of knowing, is discussed.