22 SES 09 B, (Post)doctoral researchers and students
Doctoral students pursue their academic success during their doctoral programs. The transition to becoming an independent scholar is part and parcel of the doctoral education process (Council of Graduate Schools, 2005). However, researches indicate students undergo hardships with the need for navigation culture challenges and their individual development issues (Jones, 2013). Many of them did not manage to complete their doctoral studies. Scholars found various reasons for doctoral attrition and their frustrations in several aspects, including funding (Lovitts, 2001), culture of discipline and the department (Gardner, 2009; Golde, 2005; Lovitts, 2001), supervisor-student relationship (Lovitts, 2001), interaction with peers and faculty members(Cotterall, 2013; Emmioglu et al., 2017; Laufer & Gorup, 2018), and socialization experience (Gardner, 2007, 2010; Golde, 1998). Particularly, socialization has been considered to be a determining factor in doctoral student success and retention (Gardner, 2008).
Graduate student socialization is ‘‘the processes through which individuals gain the knowledge, skills, and values necessary for successful entry into a professional career requiring an advanced level of specialized knowledge and skills’’ (Weidman, Twale, & Stein, 2001). Scholars have identified different stages of socialization (Stein, 1992; Weidman, Twale, & Stein, 2001; Antony, 2002). Gardner (2008) developed a three-phase model to explain the total development transformation experienced by a doctoral student. The first phase begins from the admission process to the beginning year of coursework. The second phase includes the time during coursework and integration into the program, and the third phase marks the research proposal and the dissertation research. This model addresses the phases of doctoral experiences from the programmatic perspectives, the relational perspectives, and identity development. The programmatic perspectives are related to institutional and departmental requirements such as coursework, examinations, and the dissertation. The development in relational perspectives including changing relationships with peers, faculty, and other professionals. Finally, personal identity development is also accounted for in this model.
In recent years, more mainland Chinese students are studying doctoral program education in Hong Kong. In this study, we will employ Gardner (2008)’s three-phase model to help investigate how Mainland doctoral students perceive their learning experience, and to explore why and how frustrations and success are produced in Hong Kong.
This study will employ a qualitative approach to explore the learning experiences of Mainland Chinese doctoral students studying PhD programs in Hong Kong. The research questions are as follows: 1) How department and program affect Mainland students’ experience of frustration and success in their doctoral programs? 2) How thesis supervisor and peers affect their experience of frustrations in the doctoral programs? 3) How do Mainland doctoral students deal with frustrations and challenges they encounter during their doctoral programs? We will conduct semi-structured interviews with 16 Chinese mainland doctoral students majoring in four academic areas (Social Science, Business, Arts, and Engineering) from a top university in Hong Kong. Interviews are designed as a loosely-structured outline, accompanied by several phases, to allow participants to express their experiences in different phases of their PhD.
There are several preliminary observations. Firstly, the history, characteristics and missions of the diverse department do influence Chinese mainland doctoral students’ learning experiences. Variations in disciplines influence doctoral students’ engagement and interactions with faculty. The ambiguity of examinations, regulations, and paperwork play a substantial role in shaping negative doctoral experiences of mainland Chinese doctoral students. Secondly, supervisors play crucial roles in the doctoral students’ transition towards independent scholars. Some students lack chances for observation and suffer from their supervisors’ limited instructions. Mainland doctoral students often learn the informal and hidden role expectations through observation, interactions with faculty, and peer culture. Thirdly, students’ abilities to exercise agency influence their perceptions and responses of frustrations during their studies. It is significant for mainland Chinese doctoral students to establish supportive social networks and develop their independence. Finally, mainland students meet with frustrations when they have no access to understand what is expected of them in a new environment. Supportive learning communities serve as prominent sites for their academic learning.
Cotterall, S. (2013). The rich get richer: International doctoral candidates and scholarly identity. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 52(4), 1-11. Emmioğlu, E., McAlpine, L., & Amundsen, C. (2017). Doctoral students' experiences of feeling (or not) like an academic. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 12, 73-90. Gardner, S. (2008). "What's Too Much and What's Too Little?": The Process of Becoming an Independent Researcher in Doctoral Education. The Journal of Higher Education, 79(3), 326-350. Gardner, S. (2010). Contrasting the Socialization Experiences of Doctoral Students in High- and Low-Completing Departments: A Qualitative Analysis of Disciplinary Contexts at One Institution. The Journal of Higher Education, 81(1), 61-81. Gardner, S. K. (2007). “I heard it through the grapevine”: Doctoral student socialization in chemistry and history. Higher Education, 54(5), 723-740. Gardner, S. K. (2009). Student and faculty attributions of attrition in high and low-completing doctoral programs in the United States. Higher Education, 58(1), 97-112. Golde, C. (1998). Beginning Graduate School: Explaining First‐Year Doctoral Attrition. New Directions for Higher Education, 1998(101), 55-64. Golde, C. (2005). The Role of the Department and Discipline in Doctoral Student Attrition: Lessons from Four Departments. The Journal of Higher Education, 76(6), 669-700. Laufer, M., & Gorup, M. (2018). The invisible others: Stories of international doctoral student dropout. Higher Education, 1-17. Lovitts, B. E. (2001). Leaving the Ivory Tower: The Causes and Consequences of Departure from Doctoral Study. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. Weidman, J. C., Twale, D. J., & Stein, E. L. (2001). Socialization of Graduate and Professional Students in Higher Education: A Perilous Passage? ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report, Volume 28, Number 3. Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series. Jossey-Bass, Publishers, Inc., 350 Sansome Street, San Francisco, CA 94104-1342. Weidman, J., & Stein, C. (2003). Socialization of Doctoral Students to Academic Norms. Research in Higher Education, 44(6), 641-656.
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