The Impact Of Cognitive Maps (Conceptual Understanding), Background Characteristics, And Religious Identity On Doctoral Students' Persistence Across Academic Programs And Demographic Groups
Leo A. Johnson, Jr., Ph.D.Director: John Convey, Ph.D.The Impact Of Cognitive Maps (Conceptual Understanding), Background Characteristics, And Religious Identity On Doctoral Students' Persistence Across Academic Programs And Demographic GroupsThe research sought to determine the impact that university/departmental documents, faculty, peers, and student attributes have on students' understanding of the doctoral process. In addition, the study investigated the role that the religious identity of a university plays in doctoral persistence. The student's conceptual understanding of the doctoral process as this study proposed resides in students' cognitive maps. The study involved 122 doctoral students who passed their qualifying examination and attended the university between the years of 1997 to 2007. Participants were divided into three groups: Completers (received a doctoral degree within a five-year period), at-risk completers (more than five years to complete degree requirements), and non-completers (no longer enrolled). Participants completed an online survey that measured the extent to which university documents, faculty, and peers helped them understand the doctoral process.A one-way ANOVA was used to determine if there were significant differences in the mean scores of three groups on each of the items of the survey. The results indicated that completers were more favorable than non-completers on two items with respect to the amount of understanding that faculty provided regarding the doctoral process: work required for the PhD and comprehensive guidelines. No differences between the groups were found for the document items and the peer items. A repeated measures Analysis of Variance showed that on 13 out of 15 of the items participants had a more favorable rating of the help provided by faculty in understanding the doctoral process when compared to the help in understanding of the doctoral process provided by university documents and peers. A regression analysis revealed no significant demographic predictor of degree completion, and no significant relationship occurred between years of persistence and the understanding of the doctoral process from documents, the faculty and peers.With respect to religious identity of the university playing a role in doctoral persistence, a one-way ANOVA showed the groups differed on only one of the 14 items. Overall, the religious identity of the university did not seem to play a role in persistence to degree.
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