The Doctoral Mentoring Relationship: The Phenomenology of Scholarly Leadership

Jason D Flora
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 12  •  2017  •  pp. 219-249

Much has been written in academia about the meaningful relationship between doctoral students and their respective dissertation chairs. However, an often-overlooked benefit of the dissertation research process as a whole is its potential to professionally and personally transform the capacities of all concerned – the doctoral candidate, mentor/major professor, and committee.

From the exclusive perspective of the doctoral Chair/mentor, this qualitative study explores the potentially transformative power of the dissertation process as it relates to scholarly leadership.

In order to most accurately address the study’s research questions and to best capture the lived experiences of 4 purposefully selected doctoral chairs, each with varying degrees of dissertation guidance experience, the study was inten-tionally designed to leverage the phenomenological method. Data was collected through a series of in-person and phone interviews (each co-researcher was interviewed 3 times) and subsequently coded to determine emerging themes and categories relative to the co-researchers’ lived experiences as doctoral mentors.

Specific findings about what scholarly leadership means relative to doctoral student/mentor interactions, including how this pivotal relationship can be enhanced, support and contribute to current global higher education literature calling for increased understanding of and accountability within doctoral education as a whole. Such will further inform and enhance current mentoring best practices of graduate and undergraduate students alike.

As a rich experiential education and learning opportunity, the essence of scholarly leadership features four essential elements: acting with authenticity, facilitating growth or change, holding vision, and acknowledging deficiency.

It is recommended that practitioners of doctoral education, particularly at the dissertation Chair/mentor level, as well as institutionally, first genuinely value the results of this study, and, in turn, authentically and consistently implement such best practices in order to meaningfully enhance the quality of the overall doctoral experience.

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Implementation of the study’s findings likewise has the potential to positively actualize the lives of doctoral mentors/major professors in their roles as educators, scholars, and life-long learners.

Further research is necessary to determine the relationship between scholarly research and each of its attendant essential elements: authenticity, facilitative behavior, vision, and deficiency.

doctoral education, PhD supervision, scholarly leadership, mentorship, experi-ential learning
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