Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Factors Contributing to Counselor Education Doctoral Students' Satisfaction with Their Dissertation Chairperson

Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Factors Contributing to Counselor Education Doctoral Students' Satisfaction with Their Dissertation Chairperson

Article excerpt

The process of successfully completing a doctoral program depends upon a variety of factors. One key component of degree completion hinges on the dissertation process. Students, faculty, departments and the university as a whole are affected when doctoral students fail to complete their degrees (Council of Graduate Schools, n.d.-b; Garcia, Malott, & Brethower, 1988; Gardner, 2009; Goulden, 1991; Kritsonis & Marshall, 2008; Lenz, 1997; Lovitts, 2001). In the United States, doctoral attrition rates have been measured at 57% across disciplines (Council of Graduate Schools, n.d.-a). More recently, data have shown that attrition rates are declining in most doctoral programs; however, those in the field of humanities continue to stall (Jaschik, 2007). Many students fall short of completing the dissertation or take much longer than expected to complete the dissertation due to a lack of supervision or mentorship (Garcia et al., 1988). In a meta-synthesis of 118 studies on doctoral attrition, the most frequent finding was that degree completion is related to the amount and quality of contact between doctoral students and their chairperson (Bair & Haworth, 2004).

Mentoring Relationships

Mentoring relationships are essential to doctoral education and contribute to timely dissertation completion (Council of Graduate Schools, n.d.-b; Garcia et al, 1988; Lovitts, 2001). Casto, Caldwell, and Salazar (2005) examined the importance of mentoring relationships between counselor education students and faculty members. They discussed the benefits of having a counselor education mentor to assist with co-teaching, carrying out research activities, and enhancing professional competence and identity development. Kolbert, Morgan, and Brendel (2002) also noted that counselor education doctoral students benefit from faculty mentors who guide students through interactive tasks such as supervision, research, co-teaching, administration, advising and helping new graduates find employment. Although the types of interactions between doctoral students and their faculty chairperson have been documented, the relative influences of these interactions on the overall student-chairperson relationship remain unclear.

Selection and Behaviors

Chairperson behaviors and the criteria used by doctoral students to select their chairperson influence student relationship satisfaction and degree completion (Goulden, 1991; Lovitts, 2001). Lovitts (2001) found that the amount of time faculty spent interacting with students, the location of interactions (formal vs. informal settings), and the quantity of work and social interactions with students all influenced doctoral students' satisfaction with their chairperson. In addition, participants in the study who failed to complete their doctoral degree were six times more likely to have been assigned a chairperson rather than to have chosen a chairperson. Furthermore, students who completed their degrees were cited as feeling much more satisfied with their advisors than students who did not complete theirs.

Wallace (2000) researched meaningful student-chairperson relationships and the process by which students are assigned or select a chairperson, and found that previous interactions, personality matching and similar research interests were the three most common factors of meaningful relationships in the dyads. Smart and Conant (1990) conducted a qualitative study examining faculty members' perceptions of key factors that doctoral students should consider when selecting a chairperson. The top suggestions were for someone with similar research interests, someone with a thriving reputation for publishing and someone well educated in methodology (Smart & Conant, 1990). Although this combination can equal success for some doctoral students, researchers also have identified other variables that contribute to a successful student-chairperson relationship. For example, Bloom, Propst Cuevas, Hall, and Evans (2007) accumulated letters of nomination for outstanding advisors. …

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