Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Preparing for Practice: Parallel Processes of Identity Development in Stage 3 of Doctoral Education

Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Preparing for Practice: Parallel Processes of Identity Development in Stage 3 of Doctoral Education

Article excerpt

Introduction

"The academic job market is the final gauntlet one has to survive." This quote from a student summarizes study participants' impressions of the final stage of the doctoral student experience, Stage 3, the time after the dissertation proposal defense that includes completion of the dissertation and the job search (Austin & McDaniels, 2006; Gardner, 2008; Golde, 1998; Tinto, 1993). One component of the scholarship about doctoral education, the stage model, has been applied to understanding the doctoral student experience (Baker, Pifer, & Flemion, 2013; Baker & Pifer, 2011; Gardner, 2008; Grover, 2007, Lovitts, 2005, 2008). In the United States, Stage 1 includes the admissions process and the first year of courses. Researchers characterize this stage as being about knowledge consumption (Austin, 2002), given that students gain knowledge through formal instructional delivery and course work. In Stage 2, students often complete coursework, earn candidacy, and pass the dissertation proposal defense. Stage 2 has been characterized as a time of knowledge creation (Gardner, 2008; Lovitts, 2005, 2008). During this stage, students use the acquired skills from Stage 1 to create new knowledge that contributes to their respective fields of study through the commencement of original research, a process that begins through the development and defense of the dissertation proposal. In this paper, we offer a descriptor to characterize Stage 3: knowledge enactment. Based on findings from a qualitative study of Stage 3 that was part of a larger longitudinal study of doctoral education, we suggest that in this stage, students enact the technical and cultural knowledge they have acquired to effectively assume the role of the scholar by successfully defending a dissertation, entering the job market, and obtaining employment. This designator, knowledge enactment, captures the dynamic nature of the learning and identity changes that occur during this important, yet under-studied, stage of the doctoral student experience.

Elsewhere, we identified a parallel process of identity development during Stage 2 of doctoral education, during which students cultivate and enact their roles as both students and emergent scholars (Baker, Pifer, & Flemion, 2013). Prior research has suggested that individuals experience identity shifts as a result of educational experiences (Anderson, Cutright, & Anderson, 2013; Baxter Magolda, 2001; Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Jazvac-Martek, 2009). While all three stages present challenges and require students to develop and adapt their approaches to learning, Stage 3 necessitates the management of that parallel identity process in a new way, altering students' approaches to learning as they move towards active engagement in community practices and seek legitimacy.

Existing literature has offered little knowledge of students' experiences during Stage 3 or the parallel process of identity development as students and scholars. Stage 3 is important to study, given the resources that have been invested in students' training to that point and its proximity to the goal of persistence to degree completion and becoming an independent scholar. There is a need for greater knowledge of this stage, and particularly students' evolving identities and the ways in which they develop as learners in relation to program milestones, their engagement in the practices of the academic community, and key relationships and interactions. The goal of this study was to better understand the parallel process of identity development during Stage 3 and how it affects knowledge enactment as a response to managing the challenges of the dissertation and the job market. The research questions that guided this analysis were

1) What program structures or milestones trigger identity development during Stage 3 of doctoral education, and in what ways?

2) In what ways do doctoral students perceive and manage the challenges of Stage 3 of doctoral education? …

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