Socialization to Research: A Qualitative Exploration of the Role of Collaborative Research Experiences in Preparing Doctoral Students for Faculty Careers in Education and Engineering
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One challenge facing graduate education is the preparation of future faculty members across disciplines to assume faculty positions (Wulff & Austin, 2004). This qualitative study explored the socialization process of doctoral students in education and engineering fields committed to a career as a faculty member. Specifically, this study attempted to understand what knowledge, skills, and understandings (Weidman, Twale, & Stein, 2001; Van Maanen & Shein, 1979) are acquired during the research collaborations some doctoral students have with their faculty mentors and how this relationship prepared doctoral students for a future as a faculty member. Core elements of the Graduate and Professional Student Socialization model (acquisition of knowledge and skills, investment, and involvement) were used to explore doctoral student socialization (Weidman et al.). Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with forty doctoral students (20 education, 20 engineering) from four predominately White research institutions (PWRIs).
Five themes emerged from the data regarding the role research collaboration played in socializing doctoral students in education and engineering to faculty careers. First, the research collaborative process with mentors aided doctoral students in learning how to communicate research to different audiences, the realities of research, how to conduct problem solving research, and the competitive nature of research. Second, participants identified learning about the complexity of a faculty role, particularly responsibilities that extend beyond teaching and research for faculty members. Third, doctoral students reported learning about the requirements of the tenure process.
There were ways the collaborative experience positively or negatively contributed to an interest in a faculty role. Positive factors included enjoyment of research and the perceived autonomy and flexibility of research. Negative factors included the perceived low priority given to teaching and the demands placed on faculty members. Participants reported varying levels of commitment to the research collaborative relationship depending on whether they had competing interests. Exposure to the research collaborative process with a faculty mentor allowed doctoral students to conceptualize the entire research process from beginning to dissemination and to get an intimate idea of the realities of faculty life. Implications for practice, research, and theory are outlined.
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