Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Organic Collaborative Teams: The Role of Collaboration and Peer to Peer Support for Part-Time Doctoral Completion

Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Organic Collaborative Teams: The Role of Collaboration and Peer to Peer Support for Part-Time Doctoral Completion

Article excerpt


Completion rates among doctoral students remain an ongoing issue in higher education institutions (Gardner, 2010; Holley & Caldwell, 2012; Holloway & Alexandre, 2012; Jairam & Kahl, 2012; Jaschik, 2007; Kania-Gosche, Leavitt, & Wisdom, 2011; Lahenius, 2012; Mullen & Tuten, 2010). Research has shown that, within the United States, there are a staggering 100,000 individuals working to complete their doctoral degree, but an alarming 50% of those individuals will not succeed (Jairam & Kahl, 2012). Much of the research on doctoral completion rates link various factors to student failure or success. For example, Jairam and Kahl (2012) found that doctoral students face many stressors, such as "relative poverty, anxiety, sleeplessness, academic demands, fear of failure, examinations, and time constraints" (p. 312) but, on the contrary, a relevant stress release may be attributed to socialization among doctoral students striving for degree completion. Jairam and Kahl (2012) revealed doctoral student socialization generates various types of relationships that help to relieve stress and anxiety while providing academic support.

While previous research has focused on the completion rates of doctoral students, very little has been done regarding the role of peers in doctoral programs (Flores-Scott & Nerad, 2012), as well as the doctoral students as adult learners (Mullen & Tuten, 2010). Many factors can contribute to the successful completion of doctoral students, including the pedagogical use of student teams. Beyond the scope of higher education, teamwork has been defined as "a cooperative process that allows ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results" (Scarnati, 2001, p. 5). In the realm of higher education, specifically doctoral education, student-based teams are often created or identified by faculty for the purposes of completion of an assignment, then disbanded at the conclusion of the course (Macke & Tapp, 2012). While the value of a student-based team seems logical, minimal research exists illustrating the long term benefits of these student teams on the completion of a doctoral program. This lack of literary support prompts two questions: at what point does an instructor-identified team formed for a single course project, transcend into a collaborative team that fosters and supports doctoral completion? And, is it possible the prospect of this collaborative team is what could improve the progression of doctoral students through the often isolating dissertation phase, and subsequently positively impact completion rates? The peer authors experienced this type of collaboration during their doctoral program, which occurred in a naturally evolving, rather organic way. Consequently, the purpose of this narrative study is to define and examine the role of organic collaboration and peer to peer support on part-time doctoral student completion.


The authors are three peers, Meghan, Laura, and Cathy, each balancing work, family, and busy lives, while participating in a part-time, non-cohort higher education leadership doctoral program. The resulting narrative study was designed to capture the organic collaborative experiences of these three peers in their doctoral program which ultimately led to their degree completion. Throughout this experience, the peers contributed to these collaborative efforts by creating intentional peer relationships during the comprehensive exam preparation, dissertation process, and post-doctorate scholarly practices. This narrative is the story of an organic collaboration among three peers who were united by their instructor in one course, but remained intact to this day by choice. While each of these peers was strong academically and would have completed the program in due time, each peer's strength, when combined with the others, contributed to the strength of the organic collaborative team.

The organic collaborative team consisted of Meghan, Laura, and Cathy. …

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