Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Expanding the Doctoral Student Socialization Framework: The Central Role of Student Agency

Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Expanding the Doctoral Student Socialization Framework: The Central Role of Student Agency

Article excerpt

Doctoral studies provide an extended opportunity for both formal and informal socialization processes to take place. Through curricular and extracurricular experiences, doctoral students are inducted into graduate studies, as well as the norms and standards of their disciplines and professions, most notably academic careers. Positive doctoral student socialization is critical to student retention and success in graduate school (Clark & Corcoran, 1986; Gardner, 2007; Golde, 1998; Mendoza & Gardner, 2010); yet, most socialization processes are neither systematic nor intentional (Austin, 2002; Authors, 2012; Weidman, Twale, & Stein, 2001; Austin & McDaniels, 2006). Given the importance of socialization, scholars have encouraged coordinated institutional and departmental approaches (Bieber & Worley, 2006; Golde & Dore, 2001; Walker, 2004). Considerable research on doctoral student socialization has ensued in the past few decades, building upon over 70 years of scholarship on doctoral education. The emphasis of the doctoral student socialization research has focused on how the organization shapes socialization, and faculty and other educators continue to have limited knowledge about the active role doctoral students play in their own socialization.

The extant literature has pointed to the various stages involved in doctoral student socialization (Braxton & Baird, 2001; Clark & Corcoran, 1986; Gardner 2007, 2008b; Weidman et al., 2001), the importance of the faculty advisor-student relationship (Bernardi, 2006; Giles & Endsley, 1988; McDaniels, 2010; O'Meara, Knudsen, & Jones, 2013; Weidman & Stein, 2003), and the ways doctoral students develop professional identities (Austin, 2002; Egan, 1989; Gardner & Barnes, 2007; Sweitzer, 2009). Much of the existing literature has been shaped by organizational theories, and doctoral student socialization is often viewed as a process through which departments and their representatives, most notably faculty, impart knowledge and skills about the academic discipline and profession to students. Although researchers have recognized the role that individuals, including faculty, peers, and families, play in doctoral student socialization (Austin & McDaniels, 2006; Baker & Pifer, 2011; Bernardi, 2006; Gardner, 2007; Juedes, 2011; Koblinsky, Kuvalanka, & McClintock-Comeaux, 2006; Sweitzer, 2009) and have suggested that doctoral students influence the organization in a bidirectional or multidirectional process (Antony, 2002; Austin, 2002; Gardner, 2008a; McDaniels, 2010; Tierney & Rhoads, 1994), most studies continue to privilege an organizational approach. Adding important alternate perspectives, some scholars have suggested that doctoral students should play a more active role in their own socialization (e.g., Austin, 2002; Bieber & Worley, 2006; Golde & Dore, 2001) and that doctoral students have agency in the socialization process (McDaniels, 2010). Although these researchers have established that doctoral students can and should be active agents in the socialization process, we know very little about how doctoral students exercise agency to intervene.

With this study, we sought to address the limited research on doctoral students' involvement in their own socialization processes. Our data analysis for a broader mixed methods project involving both a survey and interviews regarding doctoral student experiences, socialization, and vocational choices, revealed that while the organization was salient, the doctoral student socialization process was complex and multidirectional, as other researchers have suggested. This finding led us to consider the following new line of inquiry for this study: In what manner do doctoral students shape their own socialization processes? The purpose was to explore doctoral student socialization as a recursive process that is shaped both by the organization (or department and its faculty representatives) and by individual doctoral students. …

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