Supporting Doctoral Students through Peer Mentoring Erin Fukuda March 13, 2012, EDLD 655, University of Oregon Site Improvement Goal Ph.D. Student Peer Mentoring Plan Goal: Improve program experience and time-to-degree (TTD) rates for Ph.D. students within an education department. Planning P1 Department Approval: meet with the Department Head to discuss feasibility of implementing a department wide Ph.D. peer mentor system. P2 Ph.D. Student Support: Create a survey for current Ph.D. students to indicate interest in volunteering to be a mentor and provide additional details such as areas of research interest and year in program. P3 Compile List of Mentor Volunteers: Consolidate survey data for presentation to the Department Head P4 Determine Mentor Processes and Practices: Share survey data with Department Head and determine: 1) processes for matching mentors with incoming Ph.D. students, 2) formality of system, and 3) preferences for the role of mentors P4 Mentor Matching: Meet with Department Head once the list of accepted new Ph.D. students has been created. Match new students with Ph.D. mentors. Pairing will be guided by similarity in interests, but differences in faculty advisor to provide new student with a broader idea of the role of advisors and differences that can exist in advising relationships. P5 Communication of Peer Mentor Program: 1) Ensure that applicable department materials, including acceptance letters address mentor program, 2) Communicate with mentor volunteers regarding pairing and responsibilities, including initiating contact with new student if paired. Over the last several years Ph. D. students have shared a range of frustrations about their experience within a department in the field of education. The problems expressed include unpredictable course offerings, required courses that are not offered, courses consistently scheduled at conflicting times, initial misrepresentation to some students about availability of financial support, varied understanding of departmental policy by faculty/staff, departmental practices that fail to foster and sometimes inhibit peer communication/support, lack of communication between faculty/staff and students about departmental changes that affect students. Out of a sample of 20 current Ph.D. students, half have reported that one or more of these challenges has either resulted in: actual extension of TTD, plans to extend their TTD, or serious intentions to leave their program. Median Ph.D. Time-to-Degree 9.00 8.00 7.00 6.00 5.00 4.00 3.00 2.00 1.00 02 03 04 05 Oregon 06 07 08 Other AAU 09 10 11 Student Reported Departmental Impact on Time-to-Degree n=20 Extended TTD 25% No Impact Reported 50% Anticipate extending TTD Thought of 15% Leaving 10% Though average Ph.D. TTD for the department is lower than at comparable universities and follows similar trends, TTD has increased since 2008. Options Resource Impacts POSTER TEMPLATE BY: www.PosterPresentations.com Redesign R1 Evaluate Mentor Program: Develop and send out a survey to mentors and mentees to gather information about strengths and areas of improvement of the Ph.D. peer mentor program. R2 Adjust Mentor Program: Use feedback from peer mentor evaluation survey to guide changes to the program. Impact on department or college resources will be minimal, since the peer mentoring program is organized and predominately implemented by student volunteers. However, some department faculty and staff time will be required to facility student organization of the program. The cost of time depends each individuals salary or wage and is represented here in terms of hours. -Department Chair time: 3-6 hrs. per year - Assist with initial planning/redesign - Facilitate matching -Department administrative assistant: 2 hrs. per year - Any changes to department documents about the peer mentoring program - Email communications as needed -Other departmental faculty: 2-3 hrs. per year - Potential involvement in all Ph.D. gathering Plan Timeline P1 Oct 2011 Nov. 2011 Dec. 2011 P2 P3, P4 P5, P6 Jan. 2012 Feb. 2012 March 2012 Option 1: Set a course schedule that includes all required classes and minimizes course conflict Option 2: Improve communication about policies and resources. Option 3: Create a peer mentor program to facilitate communication and support among Ph.D. students. Golde (2005) reported six thematic reasons for doctoral attrition including “poor fit of expectations between student and department” and “mismatch between student and advisor”. Another study found that faculty and students both perceived the nature of program tasks and resources and how they are arranged, as well as communication of expectations and requirements to be strong and moderate influencers of TTD, respectively (Wao, Dedrick, Ferron, 2011). Research suggests that option 3 may help mitigate these TTD influencers. Formal peer mentoring relationships can contribute to successful socialization of new students, understanding norms and organizational politics, and helping protégés cope with stress (Allen, McManus, & Russell, 1999). As a Ph.D. student, feasibility of student involvement must be considered when determining a course of action. Option 1 seems less feasible than options 2 and 3. Additionally, fostering support and dissemination of shared knowledge of departmental policies, resources, and past course offerings through a formal peer mentoring program may address some needs targeted by options 1 and 2. For this reason, option 3, peer mentoring was selected. Mentoring Process M1 Introduction: Each established mentor emails their mentee to introduce him/herself, and begin communication to provide support, advice, information as needed. This may include information about program experience and expectations that may help the mentee decided whether or not this program is a good fit. M2 Ph.D. Mentor Face-to-Face: Set a date, coordinate an event to allow new students who commit to the Ph.D. program a chance to meet their peer mentor in person. M3 All Ph.D. Gathering: Coordinated event for any current Ph.D. student new or established to meet an expand social support networks. M4 Development of Individual Mentor Relationships: Each mentor continues to support and assist their mentee and in the process develops an individualized relationship. M1 M2, M3 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 Aug 2012 Sept 2012 M4 Oct 2012 Nov 2012 Dec 2012 Jan 2013 R1 R2 References Outcome Projections Proximal Projected Outcomes As previously described, research suggests that formal peer mentoring systems have the potential to help new students understand the norms and politics of an organization. Many of the current students who have had to extend their TTD or had serious thoughts attribute this experience to lack of understanding departmental culture (e.g. dissertation or course offering policies and procedures) or a misalignment of expectations between the department and students (e.g. misunderstanding of financial support that is available). Peer mentors have spent time operating in and getting to know the culture and expectations and can be a personal resource of information and support for new students. The peer mentoring program has the potential to produce proximal outcomes of better alignment between student and department expectations, better understanding of departmental policies, and a feeling of improved ability to manage the stress involved in a Ph.D. program of study. March 2013 Feb 2013 Additional personal outcomes could include social networking, decreased initial isolation, and improved leadership skills for volunteer mentors. Distal Projected Outcomes The proximal projected outcomes of the peer mentor program may help facility improved distal outcomes of decreased TTD and improved overall personal experience while progressing through the program. By having easy access to departmental policies about dissertation procedures or course offerings, via peer mentors, new students may be better able to plan their trajectory through their program, and be better able to avoid issues such as missed deadlines or missing a required course because of lack of context around timing of course offerings. All, T.D., McManus, S. E., & Russell, J. E. A., (1999). Newcomer socialization and stress: Formal peer relationships as a source of support. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 54, 453-470. Golde, C.M., (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. Office of Institutional Research, University of Oregon, (2012). [EDLD Time-to-Degree]. Unpublished data. Wao, H.O., Dedrick, R. F., & Ferron, J.M., (2011). Quantitizing text: Using theme frequency and theme intensity to describe factors influencing time-to-doctorate. Qual Quant, 45, 923-934.