Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Managing Perceived Coping Behavior While Mentoring Doctoral Students

Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Managing Perceived Coping Behavior While Mentoring Doctoral Students

Article excerpt

Introduction and Background

A recent study from Protivnak and Foss (2009) found that a few doctoral students listed their motivation to achieve a doctoral degree as a means to manage the stress and cope. Additionally, Protivnak and Foss discovered that collaboration between students and faculty members was an important factor for successful completion of doctoral studies. They reported that many students felt "mentoring to be the most helpful experience in their doctoral studies" (p. 246); however, some students had difficulty with doctoral mentoring and felt abandoned (Protivnak & Foss, 2009). Supportive classmates who provided encouragement and guidance were an important aspect for doctoral students to help address stressful situations (Protivnak & Foss, 2009). Ali and Kohun (2006) reviewed the topic of isolation feelings and the counter measures deployed to minimize isolation, demonstrating that isolation could be a factor in influencing one's behavior.

For this research study, increased tension was observed during the dissertation creation process between advisors, acting as a mentor, with some students. Mentors and mentees prefer relationships that provide a positive camaraderie, but more importantly, a relationship where common goals are more easily achievable provides more weight (Ugrin, Odom, & Pearson, 2008). Urgin, et al. (2008) researched leader member exchange, the social exchange quality in relationships, during mentoring along with demographics of gender and ethnicity. They discovered that their qualitative follow-up interviews supported their quantitative results that "faculty members indicated that they prefer working with people that have personality traits that they like" (p. 348) even more than the variables of demographics. The authors recommend further exploration of these complex factors.

Hall and Burns (2009) reviewed the role of mentoring by faculty members through the lens of identity theory. From the fluid sociocultural and anthropological view of identity, the authors posit that doctoral students create new identities as well as evaluate themselves under a new researcher framework during the doctoral program. This transformation creates perceived coping behavior impressions as high-valued professionals are often shifted to a position where their role has lower value. Lazarus and Folkman (1984) defined coping as the "constantly changing cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person" (p. 141). As doctoral students redefine their identity, Hall and Burns (2009) stated, "students who question valued identities or seek to develop identities that do not fit the status quo may find themselves excluded" (p. 60). Therefore, the role of mentoring doctoral students must include managing the student's identity formation to develop cultural awareness of the program and faculty members.

Terry, DeMichiell, and Williams (2009) discussed five issues of the mentor/mentee relationship including a) mentoring requirements, b) compatibility of scholarly work, c) personality compatibility, d) presentation/publication opportunities, as well as e) time and schedule for interaction. Within the review of the personality compatibility issue, the authors discuss the importance of the compatible thinking styles between two persons to maximize the efficiency of process and adherence to deadlines. Terry et al. (2009) cited that "personality factors do enter in the equation of collaboration and unconsciously, either or both of the workers should consider this aspect before commitment of any major effort" (p.10). This study researched the similarity or difference of thinking styles in terms of cognitive styles.

The Research Model

The faculty members of Robert Morris University's Doctoral program in Information Systems and Communication often observed doctoral student's behavioral shifts during the lifecycle of the doctoral program. …

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