Doctoral Advisors and Their Protégés: Does Mentoring Matter?
A Dissertation Abstract by Dr. Laura Gail Lunsford, University of Arizona South, Tucson, AZ USA
This is the abstract of the dissertation which won the 2009 Hope Richardson “Outstanding Mentoring Dissertation” from the IMA. The award was given at the 2009 IMA International Conference at Las Vegas, Nevada on March 5th.
“Doctoral Advisors and Their Protégés:
By Dr. Laura Gail Lunsford, University of Arizona South
|The Editors’ Comments
Editors’ note –
While the article’s focus is higher education advisor
The advisor-student relationship is at the heart of doctoral education in America. Significant resources and organizational efforts are devoted to promoting it. For example, the Council on Graduate Schools lists mentoring as one of six factors leading to Ph.D. completion (Council
This study examines doctoral education mentoring using a large-scale survey conducted at two major American research universities. It explores specific doctoral supervisory behaviors and the influence
The results suggest two important findings.
|How’s THAT for a “wake up call” !?
Attention all you higher education institutions! Check out these clear indications of why YOU too should be making mentoring a KEY ROLE in faculty-student and advisor-student relationships. If you
The author states that this article reviews the results
of a study which “examines doctoral education mentoring”. This
implies that all advisors in the study were performing mentoring functions.
As you read, it will become clear that this was not the case in nearly half of the cases.
For our own clarity, perhaps a more accurate statement might be that the study was of “doctoral student advisement for the
A variety of theoretical approaches are found in the mentoring
A psychosocial, developmental approach is used here because it provides insight into why an individual may be receptive to being mentored and why someone might engage in mentoring. Psychosocial
There is a developmental window in young adulthood, during the stage of identity development, when individuals most benefit from having a mentor (Erikson, 1968). Individuals must have a need, which can be met by a more experienced person, to want or to benefit from a mentor (Levinson, 1979; Valliant, 1977).
This notion of a developmental window comes from identity development theory. Identity development proceeds along two dimensions, commitment (high or low), and exploration (high or low), which yield four identity statuses (Marcia, 1966; Marcia, Waterman,
|This article is one of the best descriptions of dissertation research the Editors have seen in many years. Further, this study is also one of the best constructed the Editors have seen in many years. That is, no doubt why those who reviewed the submitted abstracts gave THIS study the 2009 IMA Dissertation Award !
Never-the-less, for the sake of adequately guiding our
Just as in the first “result” stated in the article’s section above (“mentoring is more complex than previously reported in the literature”), so is the theoretical framework for
For example, a significant element of using a developmental
Mentoring is comprised of two functions:
Previous studies have found that these functions exist across disciplines (Ferrer de Valero, 2005; Green and Bauer, 1995), across the years in graduate school (Clark, Harden, and Johnson, 2000; Kahn, 2000; Rose, 2003; Schlosser and Gelso, 2001; Tenenbaum, Crosby, and Gliner, 2001), and across gender (Tenenbaum et al., 2001; Zhao, Golde, and McCormick, 2005).
The remainder of this section reviews the findings related to departments and discipline; frequency; who is considered a mentor;
Disciplinary and departmental characteristics affect the type and amount of mentoring students report.
The frequency of mentoring varies by method used to study it.
Higgins and Kram’s (2001) theoretical work on developmental networks suggests this finding may not be unique.
There is no consistency in who serves as a mentor for graduate students. Several studies define the advisor as the mentor (Green and Bauer, 1995; Schlosser and Gelso, 2001; Tenenbaum et al., 2001;
There are limited studies on race and gender and they have reported equivocal findings. Students of color, who have mentors of color, report significantly more psychosocial and career support as well as more comfort with the relationship (Ortiz-Walters and Gilson, 2005). However, having shared values, regardless of mentor race, was significantly related to these same outcomes. Women are slightly more likely to have female dissertation chairs than is to be expected by chance (Neumark and Gardecki, 1998) and female doctoral students graduate faster if there are more females on the faculty. However, female students with female dissertation chairs take longer to graduate than female students with male dissertation chairs. In contrast, Tenenbaum et al. (2001) find male and female students are more likely to have male mentors.
Citizenship has not been considered in mentoring studies, even though a sizable percentage of doctoral studies in programs in the U.S. are international students (Redd, 2006).
The few studies that link mentoring with protégé outcomes usually report positive outcomes. Outcomes have been defined as satisfaction with program or mentor; scholarly products such as publications
Tenenbaum et al. (2001) report the sole negative outcome; receiving more psychosocial support, is significantly, negatively correlated with student productivity (number of presentations and publications).
Mentoring research has identified significant, but small, effects. This suggests the presence of interactions or conditional effects (Frazier, Tix, and Barron, 2004). Theoretically, identity commitment may
The literature has identified two types of mentoring but it is not clear how the types influence one another. Education researchers point to the importance of disciplinary characteristics and citizenship when studying graduate students.
|The Editors point out that it is vital for readers to
remember that findings such as these were true in the specific settings
and conditions in which the named studies were done.
Never-the-less, some mentoring initiatives are undertaken with the specific agenda of demonstrating that such findings can be changed,
For example (reference bullet point #3 under “Disciplinary
The author’s “Frequency” findings related to method of data collection are somewhat mysterious. However, they have
significant importance for interpretation of past research, and for planning
by those who would do research in the future.
The overarching research question is does mentoring influence graduate student outcomes, and if so, do certain conditions strengthen or weaken that relationship?
Two hypotheses are tested here. In addition, the data are explored to
|It is significant that the results of this study (see
later) were 57% received mentoring from their advisors. This means that
those who DID receive mentoring could serve as the research “treatment
group” and those who DID NOT receive mentoring could serve as the “control group”.
This makes this research is a very significant empirical
This section describes the sample, survey design, and administration.
SAMPLE -Individuals from two, public research-intensive institutions (U1 and U2), who began their doctoral program between August 2000 and January 2003, participated in an online survey during April 2006.
SURVEY DESIGN – Participants took 10-20 minutes to complete an online survey, which had four sections.
ADMINISTRATION – Individuals were invited by email to complete an anonymous, online survey.
Two reminder emails were sent seven days apart.
Participants were given the opportunity to enter an incentive drawing for $100 gift certificates. About 25% of the individuals (n= 505) could not be contacted because their email was returned as undelivered, 258 from U1 and 247 from U2. Thus, 1,499 individuals were contacted.
1. Mentoring – Mentoring is measured by two factors computed from fourteen behaviors. The factors represent the psychosocial and career functions of mentoring relationships. These behaviors are taken from the Advisor Working Alliance Inventory (AWAI) (Schlosser and Gelso,
2. Identity Commitment – The short version of the Objective Measure of Ego Identity (OMEIS) was selected to measure identity status because of its established validity and reliability (Adams, 1998). There are 24 questions; six items for each of the four identity statuses, which cover three domains: occupation, politics, and religion. Subjects respond using a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree). The OMEIS has been used on samples of college students and young
3. Citizenship – Citizenship is assigned from the respondent’s choice from these options: U.S. Citizen, Permanent Resident, or Non U.S. Citizen. Citizenship is dummy coded with U.S. Citizen as the referent.
4. Discipline – The respondents report their field of study, which were collapsed into six disciplines: education, engineering, humanities, mathematics, science, and social science. Discipline is dummy coded with engineering as the referent.
|Clearly, because the AWAI factors are specific to graduate education advisement, some of these factors do not generalize well to other grade levels within education, EVEN when the focus is advisement, such as during middle and high school years.
Further, some of these factors may not generalize well to other settings, even when advisement is a key mentoring role, unless
Identity commitment was assessed since the theoretical framework for the study showed that the issue of identity development may relate to mentoring since the period when identity is developed is also when individuals will most benefit from having a mentor.
Satisfaction with advisor – Satisfaction with advisor is computed from responses to one, 5-level Likert scale question; a 5 indicates more satisfaction.
Student productivity – Intellectual Property
Degree progress – Progress toward degree is calculated from respondents’ answers to eight questions about common degree
Covariates – There were two covariates in the analysis, number of semesters since beginning their doctoral program and number of semesters of undergraduate research
|You may want to know . .
“Independent variables” are those factors that
“Dependent variables” are those factors which are dependent on, or created by the independent variables.
The point of identifying and evaluating these is to be able to determine which factors are significant in causing the desired
“Covariance” is the effect of two variables which interact and complicate the process of determining what causes what, and what might have happened anyway, regardless of whether mentoring happened or not.
Respondents – The sample is 53% female, 66% European American, 73% U.S. citizens, and 82% are enrolled at the time of the survey.
Mentors – Two-thirds (63%) of the advisors are full professors.
Hypothesis One – Computing the appropriate regression, to examine
The psychosocial mentoring function is positively, significantly related to satisfaction with advisor and the career mentoring function is positively, significantly related to all five outcomes. Thus, there is partial support for the hypothesis one.
Hypothesis Two –
Satisfaction with Advisor.
Intellectual Property Events.
There is no support for hypothesis two for intellectual property events.
Publications. Discipline significantly interacts with the two mentoring variables to influence the number of publications.
There is partial support for hypothesis two for because discipline significantly interacts with career support to influence publications.
Progress Toward Degree.
The two mentoring variables are not significantly related to progress
|Although the final response rate of 32% seems quite low, in fact it is quite typical of such studies. Imagine how low it would be if no incentive ‘drawing” had been provided to motivate participation.
The hypotheses were originally stated earlier in
the article. For clarity regarding conclusions, the hypotheses are presented
There is only “partial support” for Hypotheses
When all data are considered the following interesting results are found:
(Hypothesis 1 part A). was proven. Students who reported more mentoring, (i.e. psychosocial and career support) from their advisor AL:SO reported higher satisfaction with their advisor.
However, (Hypothesis 1 part B) was NOT proven. Students who reported higher satisfaction with their advisor did NOT also report more intellectual property events, publications, presentations; or more
What DID effect the number of intellectual property events and progress on degree completion was the area of discipline (field of study).
(Also Hypothesis 2). The two mentoring functions (psychosocial and career support) were NOT significantly effected by citizenship nor identity commitment.
Neither were the number of intellectual property
Mentoring is the second most frequently endorsed item of seven factors graduate students identify as contributing to their success.
Over half of the doctoral students agreed or strongly agreed with a statement that their advisor is a mentor, another 25% are neutral about their advisor being a mentor, and 18% did not agree that their advisor
There are no significant differences by gender, discipline,
Most individuals report multiple mentors, including their advisor. Two-thirds of the respondents have a faculty mentor, other than their advisor. Two-thirds of the sample have a mentor outside of the faculty. Only 14% of the respondents report no other mentors.
Analysis of the individual AWAI items reveals collaboration to be significant.
Introduction to professional activities, offering improvement ideas, and feeling respected are significantly related to three of the dependent variables.
However, four behaviors (including feeling respected) are negatively related to outcomes. Therefore, not all mentor-like behaviors are associated with positive outcomes.
|While it is important that, in this study, 2/3rds sought mentoring from faculty other than their advisors AND 2/3rds sought mentoring from outside the faculty, it must be understood that, in this study, only 57% felt advisors served as mentors.
The biggest unstated finding here is that, when mentoring is not received from those who officially should be providing mentoring, persons will seek multiple mentors elsewhere. The drive in adults to succeed is that strong. Note however, that this is unlikely to be the case with youth, especially those who have never benefited from adequate support and guidance.
The implications of this finding are offered in the section with that title below.
Caution is in order here when considering the use
of these findings in YOUR mentoring work, especially those where the significance is negative. While “not all entor-like behaviors are associated
with positive outcomes” was true in THIS study, you may not find this to be true if you work with proteges who are not graduate doctoral students.
There are several reasons why this may only be the case in this setting and in this study. However, this article does not explain
The results advance knowledge about mentoring in three areas by:
In addition, the covariate undergraduate research, arguably a type of mentoring relationship, was unexpectedly related to doctoral student outcomes.
Conditional relationships – Psychosocial and career support were positively, significantly related to doctoral student outcomes in a main effects model. There was a large effect size for one dependent variable, satisfaction with advisor. However, the small, significant effect sizes found in previous research were found for presentations, publications, intellectual property events, and progress on degree milestones. Most studies stop at this point.
This study went one step further by introducing conditional effects, which presented a different view of how the type of mentoring
The interaction of these variables has not been investigated but these
Variations Across Disciplines – This study replicated
1. Biglan (1973) suggests that work proceeds differently in “pure” versus “soft” disciplines. In the pure disciplines there is more structure, more collaboration and research is done a team, laboratory environment. Individual work characterizes humanities. Thus, a struggling student may have more support built in the pure disciplines and may be left to flounder in the softer ones. If there is less support in soft disciplines then the role of the mentor is more important and a student may need more psychosocial support. Similar findings have been reported in the youth mentoring literature (Rhodes, 2002).
The disciplinary characteristics may also explain why receipt of more career support is related to higher odds of publishing for students in the humanities, social sciences, and education. Career support may be built into the pure disciplines through laboratory teams. Thus, the influence of advisor career support may not be as important. However, career support from an advisor may make a big difference for the students working alone in the humanities.
2. Most doctoral students are embedded in a network of mentors, providing evidence for Higgins and Kram’s (2001) developmental
3. This study explored which mentor behaviors positively and negatively influence protégés’ outcomes. For example, collaboration and engagement in professional activities are positively, significantly related to several doctoral outcomes. Other behaviors, such as recognizing areas of improvement, welcoming input, and establishing a timetable have a negative, significant relationship with the doctoral outcomes. Feeling respected is positively related to satisfaction with advisor and intellectual property events but is negatively associated with presentations.
Instrumental and Sample Considerations – The findings need to be considered with caution.
1. The AWAI instrument might not encompass all of the behaviors that characterize mentoring relationships in graduate school. For example, introducing a student to a new literature was not one of the AWAI items but is an important professional, mentoring behavior.
2. The OMEIS was used to measure identity status but the data suggest it might not be the best measure.
3. Only currently enrolled or graduated students were included in this study. Thus, these findings might not apply to students who are on leave or who have left their program. A related concern is the lower response rate from international students, which means the findings might not apply to international students.
4. Finally, it might take years for the effects of mentoring to be realized, which might not show up in the proximal measures used here.
|THESE RESULTS STATEMENTS ARE WHERE READERS ARE URGED TO FOCUS.
1A. Mentoring is important to graduate students (and others
persons seek multiple persons to mentor them,
AND . . .
seek mentoring elsewhere when those who are supposed
1B. The typical ways that people work and the extent of collaboration (independently, as teams, etc.) vary with discipline (settings). “Informal mentoring” and support are more available in collaborative, team-oriented environments with the result that persons who are learning and seeking to improve find more support for those agendas.
NOTE – This should not suggest that these kinds of settings do not need more formal mentoring. Other research shows that where ever there is an expectation for learning and improvement, formal mentoring should be provided to support achieving that goal.
Clearly, those settings which are characterized by independent work and by less collaboration and team work, tend to provide inadequate
In these settings, formal mentoring is critical for staff and for organizational development and attainment of the organization’s strategic objectives (retention, increased productivity, better results, etc.)
This study has four implications for future research.
First, more work is needed to understand how citizenship and identity may influence mentoring and student outcomes. The measures of citizenship and identity commitment were problematic. Career commitment might be more appropriate to discern the relationship between mentoring and this theoretically important concept.
Second, future studies need to examine the influence of multiple mentors because so many students in this sample reported them;
Third, the findings highlight a need to develop discipline specific outcomes. For example, number of publications is not a good measure
Fourth, few of these advanced or graduated students reported having no mentor but more work is needed to understand the relationship
|The Editors would encourage further research, especially for items 2 and 4 described by the author. In fact, such research studies
would be excellent candidates for future awards like the one this dissertation received.
Regarding the third item the author suggests, the Editors find that such a “need”, as stated, is only felt when viewed in general. Persons who work in specific settings are well aware of the
IT WOULD BE INTERESTING to study further and describe
It would also be interesting to attempt to relate those diverse norms and expectations to the extent of collaboration and teamwork in each of those settings.
The results provide two practical considerations for doctoral education.
1. First, the friend aspect of mentoring is usually emphasized
Furthermore, the specific career behaviors of collaboration and building of professional networks appeared to be responsible for the positive relationship with doctoral student outcomes. Thus, these types of activities might be highlighted more in graduate programs.
2. Second, the findings suggest support of undergraduate research might be warranted because it was robustly related to several important doctoral student outcomes. The relationship between mentoring and outcomes disappears when talent is considered (Green and Bauer, 1995).
Number of semesters of undergraduate research is a crude measure of an activity, arguably a mentoring activity, which occurred years prior to the data collection. However, it was significantly, positively related to having an intellectual property event, publications, and progress on degree milestones. It was negatively, significantly related to satisfaction
|This study found that only 57% felt advisors served as mentors and that 2/3rds of these same respondents sought mentoring from faculty other than their advisors AND also from outside
the faculty The implications of this finding are that mentoring
programs must ensure that:
1. Persons whose role is advisement, teaching, leading, and other such roles, deserve clear expectations that their work IS mentoring
2. Official, formal “mentors” must be adequately trained, supported and held accountable for functioning as effective mentors.
– Several of the more technical aspects of this abstract, such as factor loading for instruments, data charts, mathematical models used for calculating significance, and the list of References were eliminated by the Editors as unnecessary for the more general IMA audience. Should any readers wish to know this information, we suggest contacting the author, Laura Lunsford at <firstname.lastname@example.org>