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Reviewed by:
  • The Development of Doctoral Students
  • Melissa McDaniels
The Development of Doctoral Students. Susan K. Gardner. ASHE Higher Education Report, 34(6). San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2009, 127 pages, $29.00 (softcover)

The Development of Doctoral Students will certainly take its place among the growing set of publications serving as catalysts for scholars, administrators, and teaching faculty who are interested in utilizing college student development and adult learning theory to deepen their understanding of how, and under what conditions, doctoral students develop and progress through their programs. This knowledge will enable administrators and faculty working directly with graduate students to better design their doctoral programs to enhance persistence and to increase the number and diversity of individuals seeking advanced degrees in this country.

The first chapter ("The Development of Doctoral Students: Phases of Challenge and Support") and last chapter ("Summary and Recommendations") of this 7-chapter volume are conceptually and rhetorically strong and serve as "bookends" to this monograph. In the first chapter, Gardner provides a rationale, based upon existing literature, for why understanding doctoral student development is important. High rates of attrition exert costs on institutions offering the degrees, the professional communities who rely upon this highly trained talent pool, and individuals who fail to achieve a goal they had pursued for both personal and professional reasons. Gardner then goes on to present some hypotheses for why she believes doctoral students have been "forgotten" in the student development literature. She uncovers an important assumption she believes may have led to the development of this gap; she asserts that there is an implicit "assumption that the graduate student is completely self-aware and entirely developed upon entering graduate school, almost as if the development of the student ceases upon graduation from an undergraduate institution" (p. 4). Gardner spends the rest of the chapter presenting a framework of doctoral student development. I see this framework as a process model (not an identity development model as suggested by Gardner) that identifies three phases ("entry," "integration," "candidacy") within which a doctoral student could either be propelled developmentally, or risk possible program departure. Gardner uses Sanford's challenge and support framework as the engine that either encourages or discourages development. The last chapter provides a very clear set of recommendations for policy and practice in higher education. Gardner very competently describes the implications she sees for each phase of the three phase conceptual model used in this monograph. Finally, she presents a set of recommendations for future research. These recommendations (pp. 101-103) provide a road map for researchers who want to begin exploring important questions about doctoral education.

In the second chapter Gardner ambitiously presents a broad overview of student development theory. In chapters 4, 5, and 6, she very skillfully interweaves the work of various student development theorists. As stated earlier in this review, Gardner's conceptual framework (first outlined in chapter 1) draws upon Sanford's challenge and support model for its propulsion. Unfortunately, the model being presented (chapter 1), the theories presented in the student development primer (chapter 2), the theories Gardner uses to expand upon the developmental processes in her model (chapters 4, 5, and 6), and the recommendations [End Page 603] (chapter 7) are not strongly aligned. However, in chapters 4, 5, and 6, Gardner skillfully interweaves Sanford's work, and the work of other student development theorists (e.g., Chickering & Reisser, Baxter Magolda, Schlossberg) to deepen understanding of the developmental dynamics that underlie the phases of the doctoral education experience.

Gardner is one of the experts on doctoral education in the United States. Thus it was not a surprise that she presents a very comprehensive and tight overview in chapter 3 of the research on doctoral education in general, and doctoral students and doctoral programs more specifically. Readers whose expertise is primarily in the undergraduate college student development literature will find this chapter very useful in providing a landscape of research to date on doctoral education.

In writing this volume, Gardner had an ambitious organizational and rhetorical task. Specifically she needed to decide how to: (a) approach synthesizing the work of two related but disparate (up until now) sets of literature; (b) write a volume that...


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