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The Situated Dissertation Advising Framework for Improved Doctoral Completion in a School of Education

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Abstract

This poster session presents a synthesis of the experiences of one School of Education in the use of a framework for situated dissertation advising founded on Lave and Wenger's situated learning theory that partially contributed to an exponential increase in doctoral student persistence and completion within a multi-faceted online doctoral learning community. The framework continues to be used by School of Education dissertation advisors in a new university-wide model for the doctoral student experience (both PhD and EdD) and as a lens to view ongoing assessment and qualitative evaluation of the new model from an educational and theoretical perspective.
The Situated Dissertation Advising Framework for Improved Doctoral Completion
in a School of Education
Robin Throne, PhD, Northcentral University
Brian Oddi, PhD, Northcentral University
Contributors:
C. Jerome Fore, PhD, Northcentral University
Cynthia J. Akagi, PhD, Northcentral University
Linda Bloomberg, PhD, Northcentral University
Meena C. Clowes, PhD, PhD, Northcentral University
Jennifer Duffy OConnor, PhD, Northcentral University
Andy Riggle, EdD, PhD, Northcentral University
Lisa St. Louis, PhD, Northcentral University
Melanie Shaw, PhD, Northcentral University
Rebecca Wardlow, EdD, Northcentral University
Throne, R., Oddi, B., Fore, C. J., Akagi, C, Bloomberg, L., Clowes, M. C., O'Connor Duffy, J.,
Riggle, B., St. Louis, L., Shaw, M., & Wardlow, R. (2017). The Situated Dissertation
Advising Framework for improved doctoral completion in a School of Education. 1st
Annual Conference on Academic Research in Education (CARE), Las Vegas, NV.
ABSTRACT
This poster session presents a synthesis of the experiences of one School of Education in the use
of a framework for situated dissertation advising founded on Lave and Wenger's situated
learning theory that partially contributed to an exponential increase in doctoral student
persistence and completion within a multi-faceted online doctoral learning community. The
framework continues to be used by School of Education dissertation advisors in a new
university-wide model for the doctoral student experience (both PhD and EdD) and as a lens to
view ongoing assessment and qualitative evaluation of the new model from an educational and
theoretical perspective.
Keywords: situated learning theory, situated dissertation advising, doctoral learning community
The Situated Dissertation Advising Framework for Improved Doctoral Completion in a School of Education
Northcentral University School of Education Poster Session at the
1st Annual Conference on Academic Research in Education (CARE),
Las Vegas, NV, January 30-31, 2017.
ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY
NORTHCENTRAL UNIVERSITY SITUATED DISSERTATION ADVISING FRAMEWORK:
RESEARCH CONFERENCE PAPERS AND PRESENTATIONS, 2015-2017
The situated dissertation advising framework (SDAF) was first formalized in 2015 by a group of Northcentral
University (NCU) Graduate School faculty and involves a resource-intensive, socialized, and high-mentoring
approach to dissertation research within an online doctoral community of practice. The framework is founded on
Lave and Wenger's (1991) situated learning theory, and has continued to be refined by NCU School of Education
dissertation deans and advisors to improve the doctoral student experience, persistence, and completion.
Akagi, C. G., & Fore, C. J. (2016). Dissertation chairs’ feats and follies of mentoring online
graduate students using a situated advising model: A case study. Presentation at the 19th Annual
American Association of Behavioral and Social Sciences Conference, Las Vegas, NV.
Working adults are more and more choosing online master's and doctoral programs to obtain their degrees. Enter
the online committee chair to mentor the student to degree completion. Serving as a Committee Chair, using a
situated advising model to mentor graduate students requires a specific set of communications and mentoring
skills to successfully mentor today’s online students. Based on Lave and Wenger’s Situated Learning Theory, the
Situated Advising Model is a 1-1 chair-graduate student advising model with six key focus areas. Two seasoned
doctoral chairs will present themselves as a case study subjects to share with conference attendees their mentoring
best practice feats and advising follies in online graduate student situated advising. The presentation will include:
(a) examples of quality chair-student communications, (b) student-specific mentoring tips, techniques, and tools,
(c) tips for working with ESL and disability students, (d) tips for working with students with varying writing and
research skill sets, (e) examples of consistent and timely iterative feedback on dissertation manuscripts, and (f)
summing it all up.
Bloomberg, L. D., & Volpe, M. (2016). Completing your qualitative dissertation: A road map from
beginning to end (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Addressing one of the key challenges facing doctoral students, Completing Your Qualitative Dissertation fills a
gap in qualitative literature by offering comprehensive guidance and practical tools for navigating each step in the
qualitative dissertation journey, including the planning, research, and writing phases. Blending the conceptual,
theoretical, and practical, the book becomes a dissertation in actiona logical and cohesive explanation and
illustration of content and process. The Third Edition maintains key features that distinguish its unique approach
and has been thoroughly updated and expanded throughout to reflect and address recent developments in the
field.
Bowlin, L. K., Buckner, S. A., & Throne, R. (2016). Duality, positionality, and stance:
Workplace dissertation research as preparation for practice-based research. Paper presented at
Twelfth International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, University of Illinois, Urbana-
Champaign. Retrieved from http://firescholars.seu.edu/conference_proceedings/3/
At United States online doctoral institutions, many doctoral candidates focus their dissertation research on study
problems that emerge from professional practice, which may serve as a vital first experience and preparation for
continued practitioner or practice-based research. Although there have been many definitions offered as to what
constitutes workplace research, this scholarly reflection explores three essential considerations for duality (dual
roles), positionality, and stance in a doctoral dissertation research problem originating from a doctoral candidate’s
workplace setting or professional practice. As a doctoral scholar with a dual role as a workplace professional and
doctoral candidate, the doctoral candidate must often shift perspective and negotiate the concurrent dual or
multiple identities of workplace professional, doctoral learner, scholar, and independent researcher. When
The Situated Dissertation Advising Framework for Improved Doctoral Completion in a School of Education
Northcentral University School of Education Poster Session at the
1st Annual Conference on Academic Research in Education (CARE),
Las Vegas, NV, January 30-31, 2017.
accomplished, workplace dissertation research may also serve to evolve the candidate’s enhanced perspectives,
thereby preparing the candidate for continued practice-based research within the discipline that, in turn, may also
expand the candidate’s views and solutions to post-doc workplace problems. For this scholarly reflection, we
defined dual roles, positionality, and stance within the practitioner and practice-based research literature, and
further describe our reflections of the experiences as two recent doctoral graduates and our dissertation committee
chair. We used Moustakas’ critical self-analysis as a scholarly reflective mechanism in context with a critical
review of the current literature to consider preparation for practice-based research through workplace dissertation
research, and purport that these constructs need further exploration to better prepare doctoral candidates for
practice-based research and to generate new knowledge during and following doctoral degree attainment.
Clowes, M. C., Shaw, M., & Throne, R. (2016). Enriching online doctoral advising using
situated advising andragogy. Presentation at the 39th Teaching Public Administration
Conference, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ.
As the number of online doctoral programs in Public Administration increases, one challenge faced in teaching
Public Administration is understanding how to mentor online doctoral students so that they complete their
programs successfully and within a reasonable amount of time. This research includes a summarization of
strategies used by certain faculty to increase effectiveness, decrease time to completion rates, and increase
retention. The authors recommend a formal approach to situated dissertation research advising to improve
doctoral student persistence and completion especially for the dissertation research phase of a doctoral
program. The suggested model can lead to chair efficacy, higher quality mentoring skills, and more collaborative
communication between the chair and candidate.
Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. USA: Cambridge
University Press.
As first posited by Lave, the authors elucidated learning as situated in that it occurs normally, within any
embedded learning activity, context, or culture; that is, as it normally occurs, learning is embedded within
activity, context and culture. The learning setting must be situated so as normally to involve the construction of
knowledge. Socialization and collaboration are essential components of situated learning theory whereby the
learner participates within a community of practice comprised of the established conventions, beliefs, and
behaviors to be acquired. While initially, the learner may reside at the periphery of the respective learning
community, over time the learner becomes more socialized, engaged, and active within the learning culture until
assuming a pinnacle role as an expert.
Rademaker, L., O’Connor Duffy, J., Wetzler, E., & Zaikina-Montgomery, H. (2016). Chair perceptions
of trust between mentor and mentee in online doctoral dissertation mentoring. Online Learning,
20(1). Retrieved from https://olj.onlinelearningconsortium.org/index.php/olj/article/download/605/199
We explored online dissertation chairs’ perceptions of trust in the mentor–mentee relationship, as trust was
identified as a crucial factor in the success of doctoral students. Through the implementation of a multiple-case
study, and a qualitative, online questionnaire, and through qualitative data analysis, we discovered 16 chairs’
perceptions of trust and that student vulnerability is an important part of the relationship that chairs consistently
work to alleviate. Findings point to the importance for chairs to establish trust through feedback, consistency, and
personal connections with students. Second, chairs perceived student vulnerability to include both students’
discussion of their academic skills (or lack thereof) and their willingness to share personal information. Chairs
were very resourceful in enacting strategies to alleviate all types of student vulnerability, including recognizing
student strengths and pointing to the positives of vulnerability and by offering scholarly resources for students to
develop their academic strengths.
The Situated Dissertation Advising Framework for Improved Doctoral Completion in a School of Education
Northcentral University School of Education Poster Session at the
1st Annual Conference on Academic Research in Education (CARE),
Las Vegas, NV, January 30-31, 2017.
Rigler, K. L., Bowlin, L. K., Sweat, K., Watts, S., & Throne, R. (2017). Agency, socialization,
and support: A critical review of doctoral student attrition. Paper presented at the 3rd
International Conference on Doctoral Education, University of Central Florida.
Almost universally, residential doctoral programs have reported attrition rates of up to 50% for face-to-face
programs and 50-70% for online doctoral programs. The purpose of this critical review was to explore current
literature for doctoral attrition and persistence to explore reasons and attributes for improved persistence to
completion. We analyzed a final sample of 79 studies for context with doctoral attrition and persistence and,
following coding, pattern matching, and synthesis, four final constructs emerged: (a) chair agency and chair-
candidate relationship; (b) candidate socialization and support systems; (c) candidate preparedness; and (d)
financial considerations. These constructs indicated that internal factors from within the doctoral program have
affected attrition and we encourage doctoral educational leadership to implement strategies to improve
dissertation chair practices through professional development, increased candidate support and socialization
opportunities, creation of clearer pathways from academic to dissertation research coursework, and improved
financial opportunities and support for candidates. We recommend quantitative explanatory studies to further
examine the four factors within the doctoral program to examine the effects on doctoral candidate completion.
Throne, R., Shaw, M., Fore, C. J., O’Connor Duffy, J., & Clowes, M. (2015). Doctoral candidate
milestone achievement: A philosophy for situated dissertation advising. Paper presented at the
Eighth International Conference on e-Learning and Innovative Pedagogies at the University of
California, Santa Cruz.
The paper is informed by an institutional case demonstrating the effectiveness of this model in an e-learning
environment where technology tools have been evolving rapidly and institutional architectures have been
changing to accommodate those technology tools as well as dynamic student expectations. In a primarily doctoral
granting institution, it is critical to have provisions to ensure high rates of student success to ensure institutional
viability. In this research, the authors present the challenges experienced by doctoral candidates and propose a
philosophy of dissertation advising to help online students complete their programs successfully and within a
reasonable amount of time. This research includes a summarization of strategies used by certain faculty to reduce
student complaints, decrease time to completion rates, and increase retention. The authors recommend a formal
approach to situated dissertation research advising to improve online doctoral student persistence and completion
especially for the dissertation research phase of a doctoral program. The suggested model leads to chair efficacy,
higher quality mentoring skills, and more collaborative communication between the chair and candidate.
Throne, R., & O’Connor Duffy, J. (2016). Situated EdD dissertation advising in an online
doctoral community of practice. Poster session at the 2016 WSCUC Academic
Resource Conference, Garden Grove, CA.
Doctoral education contributes to a knowledge-driven society in preparing scholar-practitioners who will use
formal inquiry to solve problems and discover innovations that benefit educational leadership. The Northcentral
University School of Education offers a model for situated dissertation advising within an online community of
practice to improve persistence and completion.
The Situated Dissertation Advising Framework for Improved Doctoral Completion in a School of Education
Northcentral University School of Education Poster Session at the
1st Annual Conference on Academic Research in Education (CARE),
Las Vegas, NV, January 30-31, 2017.
Throne, R., Oddi, B., Fore, C. J., Akagi, C, Bloomberg, L., Clowes, M. C., O'Connor Duffy, J., Riggle,
B., St. Louis, L., Shaw, M., & Wardlow, R. (2017). The Situated Dissertation Advising
Framework for improved doctoral completion in a School of Education. 1st Annual Conference
on Academic Research in Education (CARE), Las Vegas, NV.
This poster session presents a synthesis of the experiences of one School of Education in the use of a
framework for situated dissertation advising founded on Lave and Wenger's situated learning theory that partially
contributed to an exponential increase in doctoral student persistence and completion within a multi-faceted
online doctoral learning community. The framework continues to be used by School of Education dissertation
advisors in a new university-wide model for the doctoral student experience (both PhD and EdD) and as a lens to
view ongoing assessment and qualitative evaluation of the new model from an educational and
theoretical perspective.
Wardlow, R., Shaw, M., & Throne, R. (2017). The online Doctor of Education revisited: Using CPED
Principles & WSCUC best practices for program review and improvement. Presentation at the
2017 WSCUC Academic Resource Conference, San Diego, CA.
Northcentral University School of Education revised the Doctor of Education degree (EdD) program to align with
the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED) framework, which allowed for program customization to
better serve and prepare educational practitioners to solve the contemporary problems of educational practice. The
School of Education utilized WSCUC Best Practices for Program Review for a five-year program review of the
EdD to assess quality in the ongoing preparation of doctoral-level educational leaders equipped to solve problems
of practice as guided by CPED Principles. Changes resulted in greater levels of reported EdD student success and
satisfaction.
Wetzler, E., O’Connor Duffy, J., Fish, L., & Rademaker, L. (2016). Finding empathy as we
guide doctoral students and repair mentor/mentee relationships: Using Rusbult’s model to
explore our work. American Educational Research Association, Washington, DC.
We, collectively as four dissertation chairs, use autoethnography to examine our relationships with graduate
students by using Rusbult’s (1982) framework of responses to relationship deterioration. We explore how our
mentoring can impede or facilitate student success once a mentoring relationship is damaged. Collaboratively, we
examine how our different mentoring styles lead to the different outcomes when relationship conflict arises.
Given Rusbult’s model of Exit, Voice, Loyalty, Neglect, (EVLN) we reflect upon mentoring examples from our
own work that illustrate each of the constructs. Our analysis reveals that varying levels of empathy lead to either
constructive approaches to relationship repair or further deterioration. Implications can guide chairs to adopt
mentoring techniques that rehabilitate the mentor-mentee relationship resulting in student success.
SCHOOL OF EDUCATION, NORTHCENTRAL UNIVERSITY
Presenters: Robin Throne, PhD; Brian Oddi, PhD; C. Jerome Fore, PhD
Contributors: Cynthia Akagi, PhD; Linda D. Bloomberg, PhD; M. C. Clowes, PhD; Jennifer O’Connor Duffy, PhD; Andy Riggle, EdD; Lisa St. Louis, PhD; Melanie Shaw, PhD; Rebecca Wardlow, EdD
THE SITUATED DISSERTATION ADVISING FRAMEWORK FOR IMPROVED DOCTORAL COMPLETION IN ASCHOOL OF EDUCATION
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Northcentral University
Conference on Academic Research in
Education
Carnegie Project on the Education
Doctorate
WASC Resource Guide for ‘Good Practices’
in Academic Program Review
NEXT STEPS
Evaluate pre-candidacy prospectus as
dissertation preparation
Track completion rate trends
Enhance PhD-Ed and EDD differentiation
Refine components of SDA Framework
Empirical test of SDA Framework
Ongoing evaluation of the University
Doctoral Student Experience
SITUATED LEARNING THEORY
As first posited by Lave, Lave and Wenger
(1991) elucidated learning as situated in that it
occurs normally, within any embedded
learning activity, context, or culture as it
normally occurs. The learning setting must be
situated so as normally to involve the
construction of knowledge. Socialization and
collaboration are essential components of
situated learning theory whereby the learner
participates within a community of practice
comprised of the established conventions,
beliefs, and behaviors to be acquired. While
initially, the learner may reside at the
periphery of the respective learning
community, over time the learner becomes
more socialized, engaged, and active within
the learning culture until assuming a pinnacle
role as expert.
ABSTRACT
This poster session presents a synthesis of
the experiences of one School of Education
in the use of a framework for situated
dissertation advising founded on Lave and
Wenger's situated learning theory that
partially contributed to an exponential
increase in doctoral student persistence and
completion within a multi-faceted online
doctoral learning community. The framework
continues to be used by School of Education
dissertation advisors in a new university-
wide model for the doctoral student
experience (both PhD and EdD) and as a
lens to view ongoing assessment and
qualitative evaluation of the new model from
an educational and theoretical perspective.
SITUATED DISSERTATION ADVISING:
A FRAMEWORK NCU DOCTORAL STUDENT EXPERIENCE
In fall 2016, NCU implemented a revised
dissertation course series and restructured
committee model for improvement in the
doctoral dissertation course sequence:
Structured linear 4-course dissertation
sequence to promote student completion
in 48 weeks
Embedded assessment structures to allow
for institutional data archiving on student
success
Scaffolding approach to dissertation study
development
Consistent and ongoing committee
feedback
Supplemental courses to allow additional
time for chapter development over two 8-
week blocks
Figure 3. School of Education Persistence to Completion, 2014-2016
Accessible and equitable
Fluid, iterative, and nonhierarchical
Situated technology-rich resource base
Accessible resource-intensive infrastructure
Socialization situated among doctoral learning
community
Iterative & collaborative committee dynamic
Communication channels remain technology-
mediated
Relational academic and social support
networks
Collaborative engagement among leadership,
faculty, staff and candidates
Culmination: pinnacle celebratory dissertation
defense
Direct research implications for educational
practice
DISSERTATION CHAIR AGENCY
Strong mentoring ethos
Healthy & diverse communication style
Priority for quality chair-candidate
relationship
Resource driven not chair driven
Consistent iterative documental feedback
Transformative investigator development
Incremental scholarly writing development
Incremental research skill development
Meaningful suspense dates remain flexible
Celebratory dissertation journey measures
... The key determinants of American doctoral student persistence and online dissertation research completion have highlighted the relationship between the doctoral candidate and dissertation research supervisor, mentor, or chair (Rigler, Bowlin, Sweat, Watts, & Throne, 2017;Throne et al., 2017;Throne, Shaw, Fore, O'Connor Duffy, & Clowes, 2015). These key elements have also emphasized the necessity for the online doctoral research supervisor to possess the very human traits of trust, honesty, and effective com-Dissertation Research Supervisor Agency for U.S. Online Doctoral Research Supervision munication, especially for online, hybrid, or part-time doctoral degree programs (Black, 2017;Gardner & Gopaul, 2012;Rademaker, Duffy, Wetzler, & Zaikina-Montgomery, 2016;Throne & Duffy, 2016). ...
... In a critical review of the factors of doctoral student attrition, the authors previously noted the high attrition rate in U.S. doctoral programs has proffered much research to explain why doctoral students exit these programs, regardless of delivery modality, prior to dissertation completion (Baghurst, 2013;Rigler et al., 2017). In addition, the authors have identified that a positive, relational, and nonhierarchical online mentoring supervision style was a key determinant for doctoral degree and dissertation research completion in an online U.S. doctoral education program (Throne & Duffy, 2016;Throne et al., 2018;Throne et al., 2017;Throne et al., 2015). Yet, online doctoral students repeatedly report problematic relationships with the dissertation research supervisor as an impediment to dissertation completion regardless of delivery modality (Akagi & Fore, 2016;Levitch & Shaw, 2014;Rigler et al., 2017). ...
... Several researchers have reported some U.S. research supervisors who were overly involved in their own research agenda and not regularly available for supervision, interaction, and feedback were detrimental to dissertation research completion (Holmes et al., 2014;Rigler et al., 2017;Van de Schoot, Yerkes, Mouw, & Sonneveld, 2013). To this end, in a critical review of the literature surrounding U.S. doctoral persistence and completion, dissertation research supervisors who initiated regular and consistent doctoral student-research supervisor meetings reported higher doctoral completion rates (Rigler et al., 2017;Throne et al., 2017). Thus, as U.S. doctoral candidates engage opportunities to interact with the dissertation research supervisor, it is essential for a socialized, cooperative, and supportive relationship to be established based on clear expectations between the candidate and research supervisor (Gardner, 2009(Gardner, , 2010Hardre & Hackett, 2015;Rigler et al., 2017). ...
Chapter
This chapter critically explores the construct of agency from a dissertation research supervisor perspective. While the literature has expanded in the exploration of student agency, little focus has been given to the construct from a research supervisor agency stance. Current research into doctoral completion has shown the relationship between supervisor and dissertation writer as critical to persistence and completion. However, less investigation has focused on the aspects of dissertation supervisor agency and the evolution to a high mentoring approach, especially for online doctoral students. The conceptual inquiry utilizes the lens of Lave and Wenger's situated learning theory to view how research supervisor agency can foster and guide doctoral scholars to consider researcher positionality and move from the margins of the doctoral learning community to the center of scholarly life and post-doctoral practice-based research and evidence-based decision making.
... (2) healthy interactive communication style; and (3) priority for the graduate studentresearch supervisor relationship. These developed traits facilitate a high awareness of self-as-researcher for the graduate student when the research supervisor has also benefited from a clear and coherent positionality as principal investigator and continuation of one's own empirical work or research supervisor agency (Bowlin et al., 2016;Spaulding, Rockinson-Szapkiw, & Spaulding, 2015;Throne, Bourke, et al., 2018;Throne, Oddi et al., 2017). ...
... Another important aspect of the integrative process in the development of a scholarpractitioner for new online graduate-level researchers as they assess their researcher positionality in context of the multiple identities as professional practitioner, scholar, and investigator is to consider the multi-faceted, complex, and necessary structures surrounding research within the graduate student's discipline. As the authors have described here, researcher positionality allows for a narrative placement for researcher objectivity and subjectivity whereby the researcher is situated within the many aspects of perspective, positionality, and situated within the learning community (Lave & Wenger, 1991;Rose, 1997;Throne, Oddi et al., 2017). It is made overt as a narrative explication in the primary research report or manuscript. ...
Chapter
This chapter has pedagogical implications for online graduate students to define researcher positionality. It offers graduate-level examples for the articulation of researcher positionality within online graduate-level research including theses, dissertations, and academic writings. This chapter is relevant to current master's thesis or doctoral dissertation writers at American institutions of higher education through distance, blended, or hybrid delivery modes. The authors suggest instructional strategies and a research supervisor agency to guide current master's thesis or doctoral dissertation writers in the articulation of researcher positionality. This fosters self-awareness of an online researcher's stance, subjectivities, proclivities, and standpoint prior to study participant engagement for data collection. This chapter may also be applicable to tenure-track faculty in need of this exposition for current empirical research and/or graduate student instruction.
... One model that supports this work, Situated Dissertation Advising Framework, mentors students through the dissertation process and focuses on the student as the driver of the process (Throne, et al., 2017). Their work examined the importance of a multi-faceted approach to dissertation completion and support. ...
Chapter
To increase success and graduation rates, research shows that doctoral programs must adapt to changes in how instruction is managed and delivered, and must include options that recognize and facilitate discipline mastery without compromising their integrity or the quality of their degrees. This chapter explains a new path to doctoral degree completion, one that minimizes arbitrary time-frames and emphasizes discipline mastery through rigorous coursework and graduate-level research. The authors recommend a new model for successful completion of the dissertation within the Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) through evidence-based practice. This model implements structured mentoring and the transformation of dissertation research from an end-of-program destination to a program-embedded process. This chapter will provide a discussion of four evidence-based strategies for improved success for doctoral students following this type of pathway to dissertation completion.
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