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Self-Assessed Personal and Professional Prospects and Program Expectations of Students in Three Doctoral Cohorts.

ERIC Descriptors: Adult Students; Writing Skills; Questionnaires; Distance Education; Career Change; Graduate Students; Research Opportunities; Self Evaluation (Individuals); Expectation; Doctoral Programs; Satisfaction; Self Esteem; Data Analysis; Employment Opportunities; Professional Identity; Student Role; Employees; Family Role; Prior Learning; Student Characteristics; Cohort Analysis

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The purpose of this study was to determine, through a survey of students registered in the first three cohorts (consisting of 40 students) of Athabasca University's Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program, the perceived prospects and career and personal plans of students. As they began the program, but before any program interaction had occurred, students were asked to complete an online questionnaire (included as part of this report). (Another questionnaire, completed at the end of the first year of the program, is the subject of another report.) The questionnaire asked students to assess their career prospects (career advancement and career change were known, through previous research, to be major motivations of program students), and their expectations of the program. Specifically, students were asked to state how important an outcome was, and to identify which outcomes were "critical" to their satisfaction with the program. The survey sought to determine the areas in which doctoral students already felt confidence, the areas in which they hoped they would gain greater skills or more capabilities, and the topics considered critical to their satisfaction with the program. Results were analyzed using Microsoft Excel, ATLAS.ti, and SPSS.PC. The conclusions and recommendations showed that students expected programs to provide the following: increased credibility; knowledge of the distance education literature; data-analysis and writing skills; enhanced academic prospects; opportunities to do more teaching; connections to other universities; and broad knowledge of technology developments. Also, to meet students' express expectations, Athabasca University's graduate programs (master's and doctorate) should provide a better introduction to fields (enculturation and socialization); more research opportunities through engagement with the working research community; more direct links to employment; emphasis on development of a unique professional, academic identity; and specific research and presentation skills, especially writing. Finally, tensions were identified between the role of graduate student, and that of employee and family member, all roles of the program's adult students. The Survey Instrument: Online Survey of Doctoral Students is appended. (Contains 6 tables.)

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Author:Fahy, Patrick J.; Spencer, Bob; Koole-Ady, Marguerite
Publication:ERIC: Reports
Date:Nov 1, 2010
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