“What my Parents Think I Do …” – Doctoral Students’ Assumptions about how Private and Work-related Groups View their Work

Alessa Hillbrink, Regina Jucks
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 14  •  2019  •  pp. 465-478

This study aimed at investigating whether doctoral students are already confronted with expectations that reflect a primacy of research and whether they adopt such views for themselves.

There is a consensus among academics in the university system that research is typically valued more strongly than teaching in terms of prestige, rewards, and career options. Such prioritization of research may hamper junior academics’ development as teachers, especially at the beginning of an academic career – the doctoral stage.

We measured the expectations that others put upon doctoral students (N = 55, all with teaching duties) in the discipline of psychology using pictures of research and teaching situations. Participants each chose one picture to illustrate what they anticipated their friends and their parents (private groups) as well as their colleagues and their supervisors (work-related groups) think they are doing. Afterwards, they described their own view of the research-teaching relationship.

The study expands the knowledge on how others in doctoral students’ networks might shape their development as researchers and teachers through the expectations they communicate. Moreover, it shines a light on doctoral students’ own views of research and teaching.

There was a clear primacy of research in terms of the assumed expectations of others; yet, doctoral students assumed that private groups expect them to teach more strongly than work-related groups expect them to teach. For their own views, doctoral students described mainly positive types of research-teaching rela-tionships, whereby research and teaching were oftentimes seen as equally im-portant.

In the face of a primacy of research in academia, teaching should not be left for private conversations, but naturally be a topic among colleagues and with the supervisor as well.

These findings underline the need to include private relationships into models of junior academics’ development as teachers, since these relationships can represent a counterpart to more research-focused expectations at work.

We should not underestimate the relevance of doctoral students’ own motivation and perspectives for the quality of their research and teaching in a system where the primacy of research narrative circulates.

Future research could compare doctoral students’ anticipations to the expectations the different groups in their networks really hold.

doctoral students, research, teaching, expectations, primacy, private relationships, supervisor, colleagues, prioritization, academics
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