Road to Researcher: The Development of Research Self-Efficacy in Higher Education Scholars

Elizabeth K Niehaus, Crystal E Garcia, Jillian Reading
Journal for the Study of Postsecondary and Tertiary Education  •  Volume 3  •  2018  •  pp. 001-020

Understanding how students develop a sense of efficacy as researchers can provide faculty members in higher education doctoral programs insight into how to be more effective teachers and mentors, necessitating discipline-specific research on how graduate programs are and can be fostering students’ research self-efficacy (RSE). Thus, the purpose of this study was to explore how doctoral programs and early research experiences contribute to the development of RSE in higher education scholars.

Participants identified elements of the formal and “hidden” curriculum that promoted and inhibited RSE development.

We employed multiple case study analysis of 17 individual early career scholars in higher education and student affairs.

Findings indicate that the development of RSE is complex, but that Bandura’s four main sources of efficacy are a useful way to understand the types of experiences that students are and should be having to promote RSE. Our findings also highlight the importance of the research training environment in RSE development.

We found that the formal curriculum of participants’ doctoral programs – their research methods coursework and the process of writing their dissertations – were important facilitators of their RSE development. However, we also found that the “hidden curriculum” – the availability of extracurricular research opportunities, faculty and peer mentoring, and the overall research culture of the doctoral programs – were influential in participants’ development.

Our findings point to a number of implications for higher education graduate programs seeking to improve students’ RSE. First, with regard to coursework, our findings point to the importance of recognizing the negative experiences students may bring with them to their doctoral programs, particularly related to quantitative methods, and of finding ways to help them see quantitative methods in different ways than they have before. Second, our findings suggest important implications for how faculty members as teachers, advisors, and men-tors can think about providing feedback. Finally, our findings suggest the importance of understanding the “hidden curriculum,” and how faculty members can influence students’ experiences outside of coursework and dissertations.

graduate student socialization, research self-efficacy, research training
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