Interaction Equivalency Theorem: Towards Interaction Support of Non-Traditional Doctoral Students

Constance D Graham, Liezel Massyn
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 14  •  2019  •  pp. 187-216

This conceptual paper proposes interaction support based on the Interaction Equivalency Theorem (EQuiv) to support interaction for non-traditional doctoral students who have been identified as attrition risks.

The master-apprentice form of doctoral education consists primarily of interaction with the supervisor for academic purposes. If this interaction is impaired, it may affect the ability to complete the dissertation due to insufficient knowledge, and it may also create a sense of isolation, which can lead to attrition. Nontraditional students have many characteristics that may inhibit this interaction such as being part-time or studying at a distance. Institutions have been urged to develop profiles of students at risk of dropping out based on past trends and offering intervention to students at risk. In conjunction with risk profiles, the EQuiv offers the potential to individually optimize interaction under time and resource constraints, with a view towards deep and meaningful learning.

The paper is a conceptual paper using a systematic review of the literature, covering 50 years. Articles were sourced from various databases and journals.

This article offers recommendations for improving interaction opportunities for nontraditional doctoral students in the master-apprentice form of doctoral education who are at risk of dropping out. It sheds a light on a distinct population whose needs are often overlooked. Additionally, the envisioned use of the EQuiv by organizations and academic departments is an expansion of its intended use by course designers. Additional original work is demonstrated by (a) the development of an EQuiv quality matrix to assess and rank the EQuiv literature, (b) a model of how the EQuiv might be employed to compensate for insufficient interaction, and (c) a representative model of socialization agents and knowledge transmission.

The doctoral experience and EQuiv literature have shortcomings regarding interaction support to non-traditional doctoral students. The literature on the doctoral experience does not capture the invisible problems of the nontradi-tional doctoral student who is under the master-apprentice form of doctoral education. Although institutions are urged to develop risk profiles based on characteristics of students who have dropped out, it still does not capture this specific group of students. Additionally, the socialization requirements of traditional doctoral students under the master-apprentice system are unclear, so the requirements of nontraditional doctoral students under this system are also not specified.

Most EQuiv research does not pay attention to the cautions of Anderson (2003a), so the literature is based on situations that do not reflect the intent of the EQuiv. However, it is proposed that the EQuiv could be used as a substitution or augmenting of the S2T interaction in the master-apprentice model.

The proposed recommendations might assist practitioners in developing a risk identification process to support non-traditional doctoral students at risk within cost and time constraints for both students and departments.

An empirical study of nontraditional doctoral student interaction experiences and requirements should be conducted, followed by an analysis of the interactions in the EQuiv. Additionally, the role of socialization of nontraditional doctoral students in the master-apprentice form of education should be explored. Furthermore, a literature review on various risk profiles might be of use to institutions wishing to develop preliminary profiles.

Further research on the Interaction Equivalency Theorem is proposed. The EQuiv in its current form has been largely confined to the distance education discipline, mostly focusing on structured courses. The article enlarges the scope of the theory to also contribute to the field of doctoral education.

Further research could focus on exploring the applicability of interaction pref-erences, substitutability and the strength of the interactions with this cohort of students. An adaptation of the EQuiv might assist practitioners in developing a risk identification process to support non-traditional doctoral students at risk within cost and time constraints.

Support to non-traditional doctoral students in other countries may improve if the interaction is optimized, which in turn may affect persistence.

Exploration of management models in support of doctoral student interaction.

doctoral education, persistence, interaction equivalency theorem, part-time non-traditional students
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