Quality of thesis advising in graduate education in Northern Mindanao.
Graduate education is the highest level in education. It is referred to as the "apex of the educational system, one that showcases the best of the academic and intellectual products and processes of the system" (CMO 36, 1998). Graduate education involves research, both at the master's and doctoral levels. In fact, research is a must in graduate education--thesis or dissertation as a final requirement.
While the number of takers of graduate programs is steadily increasing, it is observed that the number of graduates does not correspond to the number of takers. A very high percentage of takers could not graduate due to noncompliance with the final requirement --a defended thesis or dissertation. To illustrate, in a class of 15, about two-thirds could finish their academic requirements but could not write their thesis. Among those who finished their thesis, many finished it after a long time. Just a few were able to finish it on time. The low rate of graduate students finishing their thesis may reflect the graduate education's mediocrity as revealed in the EDCOM Report (1990). However, to debunk such seemingly dismal description of the state of the graduate education in the country is not the thrust of this present study.
Several factors can be attributed for the graduate students' ability or inability to finish their thesis. Among these factors may include the students' time or availability to carry on the research process, considering the fact that many of them are workers; the students' writing skill, which is a requisite skill for research; the students' strong motivation to pursue the research work, which has with it a number of challenges that will bring to test the students' resolve; the students' grasp of the research problem and the research processes, a lack of which may confuse and soon frustrate the students leading them to give up writing; and the quality of assistance provided by a thesis adviser to a thesis advisee, which puts the whole research process in a perspective. The last factor may be referred to as advising or mentoring, which quality in the graduate education this study sought to find out.
The researchers of this study have been involved in the graduate education as professors and as thesis advisers or mentors. As advisers or mentors, they consider thesis advising or mentoring an important aspect of graduate education. Mentoring is important for it is acknowledged to have a significant beneficial effect on an individual's endeavors (Shea, 1992). Hence, the researchers explore the concept that the quality of thesis advising or mentoring determines the success or failure of the graduate students to complete their thesis.
But how exactly do we measure the quality of thesis advising or mentoring? Two indicators of quality espoused by Wang (2010) are output and outcome. Along Wang's (2010) concept on input-output-outcome, this study considers the advisers or mentors' knowledge, effort, time, resources, and attitude, which they bring with them as they fulfill their responsibilities, are collectively termed as input. While the quality of the thesis (output) reflects the quality of advising or mentoring (input), what the ratings suggest or imply concerning the quality of thesis advising/mentoring is the outcome, which is a quality indicator this study explored. This indicator (outcome)is based on the advisees or mentees' perception of its quality.
Just what is the role of a thesis adviser? Padua (2008) has this to say about an adviser's role:
The role of the thesis adviser is not mainly that of a teacher, but also that of a guide, mentor, confidant, and senior research colleague. The role definition rests on the premise that the adviser is instructing the student in learning to conduct investigations independently. Successful students and advisers often describe their relationships as respectful and collegial. The adviser, usually, older, wiser and knowledgeable about the ways of the university world, wields a considerable amount of power. The student, typically plagued with anxieties about the ability to do what is expected, looks up to the adviser as someone who has done it and who can teach or impart the needed knowledge and skill.
However, not every thesis adviser embodies the characteristics vested in a good mentor. While the terms mentor and thesis adviser are frequently used interchangeably, yet thesis advisers are not necessary mentors. Thesis advisers are responsible for ensuring that students fulfill graduate/institutional requirements for the graduate degree and for providing directions, methods and publications. Mentors, on the other hand, provide information beyond scientific concepts and laboratory techniques. They walk the proverbial extra mile to help their students. They give constant reminders on time management, by setting deadlines for submission of the parts of a thesis. They encourage their mentees and rescue them when problems occur. They see to it that the mentees observe ethics in research, to follow graduate school studies--all these and many more. Nevertheless, regardless of the distinctions drawn between a mentor and an adviser, a thesis adviser should also be a mentor. While a mentor and an adviser each fulfill key function, in many respects their responsibilities overlap and in some fortuitous instances these various roles are adopted by a single individual (Bird, 2001). Thus, in this study, the indicators that measure the quality of thesis advising cover those responsibilities and characteristics a mentor performs and demonstrates. After all, both advising and mentoring share the same goal--production of a good thesis and transformation of students into an independent researcher (Grant, 2003).
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
This study determined the quality of thesis advising in the graduate schools in Northern Mindanao along the following performance domains: time, affective, technical, and professional. Specifically, this study determined the thesis advisees' ratings of their respective advisers' quality of advising and any significant difference in the advisers' quality of advising when grouped by type of school.
This study used the descriptive design using an evaluative tool to describe the characteristics of the main variable of the study, which is the quality of thesis advising in the graduate education. Descriptive (mean) and inferential statistics (F-test) were used in the analysis and interpretation of data.
The study involved all schools in Region 10 offering graduate programs. From the eight schools, 25 thesis advisers were identified by the respective deans of the graduate schools, who, in coordination with the CHED representative, took charge of the proper administration of the questionnaire to the graduate students who, in time of the study, either have just completed or are in the final stage of their research work. Preceded by an official communication from the regional office of the Commission on Higher Education, the gathering of data proceeded within a month. The accomplished questionnaires were sent back to the regional office either through the mailing system or direct delivery by the school's personnel.
To determine the quality of thesis advising, the study used the evaluation tool developed by dela Pena (2011). The 24-item evaluation tool, which test of reliability yielded a Cronbach's Alpha value of .822 (high reliability), measures the quality of thesis advising along the four domains of advising: time (7 indicators), affective (5 indicators), technical (7 indicators), and professional (5 indicators). Further, the instrument uses the 5-point Likert's scale with the following rating descriptions: (1) not at all true--poor, (2) not very true--satisfactory, (3) somewhat true--good, (4) very true--very good, and (5) completely true--excellent. The following score ranges were used: 1-1.8 (very poor), 1.81-2.60 (poor), 2.61-3.40 (good), 3.41-4.20 (very good), and 4.21-5 (excellent).
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
As found in this study, the evaluation by the graduate thesis advisees of the quality of thesis advising in the graduate schools in Region 10 during the covered academic year (2011-2012) was very good (M=4.7) across the four domains (time, M= 4.6; affective, M=4.7; technical, M=4.8; and professional, M=4.5). This finding indicates that the thesis advisers in the graduate schools, as perceived by their advisees, possess the necessary competencies for effective thesis advising. Provided by the thesis advisers with adequate time for consulting, the right motivation and morale-boosting interactions, appropriate technical guidance, and rich insights about the topic under investigation, the graduate thesis advisees cancarry on successfully their research undertaking. As asserted by Widnall (in Reis, October 2010), the adviser is the primary gatekeeper for the professional self-esteem of the student and the rate of progress toward the degree. While completion of a thesis or dissertation depends much on advisee factors, e.g. writing ability and attitude and resources, having a competent thesis adviser is closely linked to the completion of the research work (Reis, October 2010); that is, thesis completion largely hinges on effective advising. As evidenced in this study, the graduate schools have in place a pool of competent thesis advisers. One factor that would explain for the perceived high quality of thesis advising in the graduate education is the advisers' long experience in thesis advising coupled with their personal engagement in research--research productivity being one of the considerations in the pooling of graduate faculty. Additionally, the profile of the graduate faculty in the region indicates accomplishments in both research and teaching. Also, very recently, research consortia at the regional and national levels have taken prominence in the region, engaging immensely the academe to advance excellence in research. Moreover, the findings suggest another attributing factor --the graduate schools' strategies, e.g. existing graduate education guidelines that define thesis advising, to make the adviser-advisee relationship as productive and as mutually satisfying as possible.
Further analysis of the findings leads to a description of the relationship existing between the thesis advisers and advisees in the graduate education. The high ratings of the thesis advisers along the time, affective, technical, and professional domains indicate a respectful, collegial, and collaborative relationship. The thesis advisees perceived them as experts who could impart to them the needed knowledge and skill as they go through the research process. Also, the relationship is characterized with open and adequate communication, allowing for sufficient feedback essential in the improvement and completion of the research work--the lack of which delays the research process. Thus, such relationship can be described aptly as a reinforcing one (Kalichman, August 2001).
How the competence of advisers has impacted research is shown by the completion of the research work of the graduate students. However, how quality advising has capacitated the graduate students to write quality research paper was not assessed in this study, thereby necessitating a study on such area to further validate the perceived effectiveness of the thesis advising in the graduate education.
When the subject graduate school thesis advisers were categorized by type of school, college or university, in relation to their evaluation ratings, no significant difference in the means was observed. This finding implies that the quality of thesis advising in the graduate schools is not dependent on the school classification--college or university. Irrespective of the classification, schools offering graduate studies are mandated to satisfy the CHED directives that define quality instruction at the graduate level. As the finding indicates, these subject graduate schools, in compliance with the CHED directives, have indeed institutionalized quality measures--qualified and competent graduate school faculty and research-related quality assurance mechanisms, providing graduate students with quality assistance and services as they pursue the writing of their thesis or dissertation.
While the quality of thesis advising was perceptually measured, this study, nonetheless, offers valuable insights into the practices of the thesis advisers as perceived by their advisees, information that the subject graduate schools have not generated so far considering the absence of a tool for evaluating thesis advising. Thus, results of this study serve to validate initially the effectiveness of the graduate school thesis advisers. The validation is deemed initial since it is perceptual and, being so, it requires further validation that takes up the substantive aspect of the theses or dissertations. This aspect pertains to the output quality, which this study did not consider for the lack of numerical evaluation ratings of the theses or dissertations upon which to base the substantive quality of the output. The prevailing grading practice in the graduate schools is the giving of the mark "passed" that is reflected in the transcript of records, thus the difficulty in validating quality advising through the substantive aspect, which is more reliable, however. Thus, it is recommended that numerical values be adopted across all schools in the evaluation of the research output. Such rating system will not only clearly indicate the level of quality of the graduate students' research output as evaluated by a panel of experts but will also be useful in the assessment of the extent to which the thesis advisers have performed their functions.
In conclusion, findings of this study indicate high quality thesis advising in the graduate education in the region as perceived by the graduate school students. High quality thesis advising, as conceptually framed in this study, means adequate provision of time for interaction, highly ethical and professional dealings, and intelligent exchanges between thesis advisers and advisees throughout the research process. Such high level of quality in thesis advising is indicative of the graduate schools' conscious effort of carrying out the mandate the Commission on Higher Education has imposed on them, that is, the promotion of excellence in teaching and research. Also, the high quality of thesis advising is reflective of the standard and ethical values the advisers in the graduate education in the region have imbibed in their profession as advisers.
Bird, S.J. 2001 "Mentors, advisors, and supervisors: Their role in teaching responsible research conduct." Science and Engineering Ethics. 7, 445-468.
Grant B. 2003 Mapping the pleasures and risks of supervision. Discourse; 24(2):175-90.
Kalichman, M. 2001 (August). Responsible conduct of research: An introductory guide. Office of Research Integrity of University of California.
Reinz, R. 2010 The Chronicle of Higher Education, U.S. Global Edition, Oct. 26,. Retrieved: http://chronicle.com/section/GlobalHomepage/433/
Shea, G.F. 1992 Mentoring. California: Crisp Publications Inc. . Wang, X.
2010 Performance analysis for public and nonprofit organizations. Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
SALVADOR C. DELA PENA III
Liceo de Cagayan University, Philippines
Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines
Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines
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|Author:||Dela Pena, Salvador C., III; Gersana, Zenaida; Tolod, Lourdes; Absin, Saturnina|
|Publication:||Liceo Journal of Higher Education Research|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2012|
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