Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Faculty Perspectives on Doctoral Student Socialization in Five Disciplines

Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Faculty Perspectives on Doctoral Student Socialization in Five Disciplines

Article excerpt

Introduction

Socialization has become the prevailing framework through which the doctoral student experience has been examined (Austin, 2002; Baird, 1992; Bess, 1978; Clark & Corcoran, 1986; Ellis, 2001; Gardner, 2007; Keith & Moore, 1995; Mendoza, 2007; Turner & Thompson, 1993). Socialization in graduate school is thought to occur as a result of experiences both inside and outside of the classroom (Weidman, Twale, & Stein, 2001) but it is the doctoral student's interactions with faculty members that have received the most attention in the existing literature. In particular, faculty members play myriad roles in the socialization of doctoral students, including instructors in the classroom, supervisors for students with assistantships, committee members for the thesis or dissertation, advisor or chair of the research process, and even mentor (Isaac, Quinlan, & Walker, 1992; Pease, 1967; Weidman & Stein, 2003). In this way, faculty members serve as gatekeepers into and out of doctoral programs (Weidman et al., 2001). And, while multiple studies exist that examine how doctoral students view their socialization experiences in graduate school (e.g., Gardner, 2007; Gonzalez, 2006; Mendoza, 2007; Turner & Thompson, 1993) corresponding studies examining the faculty member's perspective in this socialization process are relatively absent. Such an examination is warranted given the primary role that faculty play in the socialization process of doctoral students (Weidman et al., 2001). The purpose of this study was to better understand faculty members' perceptions about the socialization process and their role in it within five doctoral programs. The paper begins with an overview of the literature related to doctoral student socialization and the faculty role in doctoral education. The methods used to conduct the study, the findings, and the discussion then follow, concluding with implications for policy, practice, and future research.

Doctoral Student Socialization

Socialization is the process through which an individual learns to adopt the values, skills, attitudes, norms, and knowledge needed for membership in a given society, group, or organization (Austin, 2002; Bragg, 1976; Merton, 1957; Tierney, 1997; Van Maanen, 1984; Weidman et al., 2001). In relation to the graduate student, socialization is imperative to a successful graduate school experience (Clark & Corcoran, 1986) as unsuccessful socialization contributes to the decision to depart from the degree program (Council of Graduate Schools, 2004). Unlike other models of professional socialization, however, graduate student socialization is unique in that the student is becoming socialized not only to the graduate school environment but simultaneously to the professional role (Austin, 2002; Golde, 1998; Rosen & Bates, 1967). The socialization that occurs is also specific to the discipline in which the student is located (Golde, 2005).

The avenues through which socialization occurs are tri-fold, according to Bragg (1976): (a) the interaction of students with the structures of the educational setting, (b) the interaction among students in the same educational program (i.e., discipline or department), and (c) the interaction between students and faculty members (p. 14). The structure of the educational setting "[a]ffect[s] or facilitate[s] change in the student's attitudes and values because they reflect the attitudes and values of the profession itself (p. 14). These structural elements include the student selection process, the isolation of students from outside influences, the consistency of program goals, the explicitness of values and role models, the provision of opportunities for practicing responses (i.e., coursework, examinations, internships, or practica), and the provision of both positive and negative sanctions as feedback to students. Interactions with peers also serve to promote the socialization process, particularly as newer students interact with more veteran students in "learning the ropes" of the program. …

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