Examining Educational Leadership Doctoral Students’ Self-Efficacy as Related to Their Role as a Scholarly Practitioner Researcher

Juliann S McBrayer, Katherine Fallon, Steven Tolman, Daniel W Calhoun, Emily Ballesteros, Taylor Mathewson
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 16  •  2021  •  pp. 487-512

This study examined an educational leadership doctoral preparation program to better understand how students’ self-efficacy evolves from the lens of a scholarly practitioner researcher as they progress through specified checkpoints to degree completion. The aim was to identify what factors contributed to building scholarly practitioner researcher skills and what factors hindered the development of doctoral students as they progressed through their educational leadership preparation program.

Doctoral programs have the highest attrition of graduate programs, with almost half of the successful students taking six to seven years to complete. Thus, educational leadership doctoral preparation programs must find ways to enhance students’ perceived capability in an effort to facilitate their progress through the program in a timely manner. The researchers believe having high research self-efficacy coupled with evidence-based practices to strengthen scholarly practitioner research skills may be a contributor to effective program progression if viewed from the lens of a scholarly practitioner researcher.

A mixed-methods study utilizing an ex-post-facto research design based on descriptive statistics coupled with an analysis of qualitative data examined students’ perceived self-efficacy of educational leadership doctoral students in relation to their rate of progression.

This study provides other doctoral programs a lens into the importance of maintaining students’ high self-efficacy, specifically in the area of scholarly practitioner research to ensure efficient progression through the program to completion in a timely manner.

Educational leadership doctoral students in the specified cohorts reported high self-efficacy at the pre-, mid-, and post-assessment checkpoints in the program during their coursework tier, and findings revealed this high self-efficacy was sustained throughout this progression to the dissertation tier. Four overarching narrative themes influencing students self-efficacy in scholarly practitioner research were identified as Social Support, Academic Challenges, Discipline, Effort, and Motivation, and Personal Challenges.

Educational leadership and related doctoral programs should consider using a scholarly practitioner researcher approach. This focus may lead to faster rates of degree completion and better prepared students to solve problems of practice in their practitioner settings.

While the results are promising in support of evidence-based practices to prepare scholarly practitioner researchers, in turn sustaining or supporting high levels of self-efficacy may prove impactful, thus warranting further research.

Ensuring high levels of self-efficacy may help students to complete their doctoral degree in a timelier manner due to the perception they are capable of program completion and may also, better prepare students to serve as scholarly practitioner researchers in their educational settings.

Future research should continue longitudinally to examine self-efficacy from the lens of a scholarly practitioner researcher to better understand how this shapes doctoral students’ efforts and capabilities in their doctoral work from admit to program completion. Additionally, future research can quantitively assess a model identifying the relationship between self-efficacy and the four identified themes for the development of doctoral students’ research skills as scholarly practitioners.

self-efficacy, educational leadership, leadership preparation, problem of prac-tice, scholarly practitioner researchers
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