Research mentorship: Practice, problems, the path-goal theory and models


Part II
OUR previous discussion on the same topic began by admitting that our avid pursuit of a research culture to be at par with universities in developed economies while, indeed, a significant goal has also spawned problems in many of our graduate schools; albeit in some, too, of cross-border universities. In our case, besides the need for increased competent research mentors, we also need research advisory panels in the early stage of degree programs. Certain practices also contribute to problems, particularly to degree candidates who can hardly avail of mentors with expertise aligned to the candidates’ respective research interests. Lumping students with different specializations in one research methods class, where the capstone is the research proposal, limits advice to the mentor conducting the course. Assigning mentors to students only at a later stage of their respective degree programs and, at times, with unmatched expertise does not improve the situation.

We suggested that other than merely looking up the literature on competent mentorship, a genuine picture of mentorship needs of a graduate school could be better determined if studies on such needs could be undertaken. The research could be qualitative where the data on exit conferences with degree candidates on both the proposal and final orals are utilized. There could also be focus group discussions with degree candidates as well as with mentors. The qualitative research could also have a quantitative feature to provide some meaningful metrics of the qualitative aspect. Given improved services of the web, there is so much to learn, available in scholarly references.

For such a research on the home front, we suggested the path-goal theory to anchor the study. This study would seek to determine mentor competencies. The analogy of the leader and followers and the interplay of akin variables clearly demonstrate the application of the path goal theory to the research mentor and mentee relationship. As Northouse suggests, “The theory is useful because it reminds leaders that their central purpose as a leader is to help subordinates define and reach their goals in an efficient manner,” just as what would be expected of a competent research mentor to achieve, relative to the success of a mentee. <>

Anchoring the research on mentors’ competency on the path-goal theory is one big metaphor or an analogy. The leader becomes the mentor and the followers become the mentees. The revised version of this theory argues “that the leader engages in behaviors that complement a subordinate’s abilities and compensate for deficiencies.” In our analogy, the mentor “engages in behaviors that complement” the mentee’s “abilities and compensate for deficiencies.” Victor Vroom’s expectancy theory of motivation, which influenced the path-goal theory, suggests that “the manager’s job is viewed as guiding workers to choose the best paths to reach their goals, as well as the organizational goals. The theory argues that leaders will have to engage in different types of leadership behavior depending on the nature and the demands of a particular situation.” So also would a mentor adjust his/her style to fit the mentee’s needs. “It is the leader’s job to assist followers in attaining goals and to provide the direction and support needed to ensure that their goals are compatible with the organization’s goals. A leader’s behavior is acceptable to subordinates when viewed as a source of satisfaction, and motivational when needs satisfaction is contingent on performance, and the leader facilitates, coaches, and rewards effective performance.” It would be stressing the obvious to point out how our anchor theory expresses what we expect from research mentors in stressing how leaders should be and which would draw satisfaction of mentees.

Lumping students with different specializations in one research methods class could be a healthy practice opportunities for interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity to be created and utilized. However, if a research proposal for degree candidates, whether a thesis or a dissertation, is a capstone requirement, relying solely on the academic who conducts the research methods class, could generate some problems for students because of disciplines not matching that of the course conductor. Thus, it is reiterated that a research panel be available to students early in their enrolment for a degree to have them ready with at least a tentative topic when they finally make a choice of a research problem. Also, graduate schools can provide a collegially crafted research agenda, which usually is for a certain timeline drawn from the graduate school’s vision, mission and goals, and the CHED National Higher Education Research Agenda 2 (2009-18). Collegially, this means including stakeholders from the outside such as industries, education and health-care, and other relevant groups.

Having dealt on this, we come across a dissertation on “A Mentoring Model for Enhancing Success in Graduate Education” suggesting two models. The first model—peer mentors—“is based on the premise that students can benefit from having multiple mentors with varied skills to facilitate their academic, professional, and personal development.” The second model, “The Five-Tier Mentoring Program,” is meant “to enhance student success” in graduate schools, viewed as a stepping stone to improve both student retention and degree completion. It consists of five components essential for a successful mentoring program, namely, (1) committing to the mentoring process, (2) establishing mentoring venues, (3) serving as a role model, (4) employing successful tools, and (5) monitoring the protégé’s progress.”</uploadedFiles/asha/publications/cicsd/2008SAMentoringModel.pdf>

Besides providing a manual on policy guidelines for theses and dissertations and research papers, a graduate school could conduct regularly a well-planned program on mentorship as part of a continuing professional development (CPD) program for its academics.

Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, PhD, is one of the Philippines’ most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies included not only education and pedagogy but also literature, general science and history. She studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Great Britain and Japan. She headed chartered institutions, was vice president for academics and for external relations and internationalization. She is copy editor of the Liceo journals, an internationalization consultant and professorial lecturer on-call and at the Graduate Studies of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro City). She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the central office of the Commission on Higher Education.


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