Addressing Concerns Regarding the Completion of the Ph.D.
- When is it time to advise a student about how to “pivot” away from the Ph.D.?
- When is it time to discuss with a student the next steps to determine if more work is needed?
- How do you determine if student is in need of additional advice, additional mentors?
- How do you determine if more patience is merited?
Note: Sometimes both adviser and student both know the answer but are reluctant to consider or articulate it. What is lost or gained if a decision is made?
Qualifying Exams. If exams have already been administered/completed.
- If the outcome of exams does not meet expectations for passing, this would be a good place to begin the conversation.
- What further goals or work are required to re-take exam?
- How will this be achieved within the time allowed?
- How would the student like to proceed?
- How would the department like to proceed?
- What assistance does faculty need to move forward?
- What assistance does student need to move forward?
- If student has reached this point of exams, then adviser and student should review notes and directions from progress meetings:
- Were all the directives followed?
- Were all the questions addressed?
- Were all concerned addressed?
- Has something changed?
- If the exam can be re-taken, then items above should be reviewed carefully, with clearly outlined expectations, accountability and steps to move forward. Discussion should include:
- College and department requirements for moving to candidacy.
- Consequences of inability to meet those steps.
- Steps to move forward, including the least desirable.
How Long to Make Exceptions
- What is the nature of the exceptions?
- Who requested / offered them and why?
- What was the intent and purpose of the exception?
- Additional time
- Review your agreed-to timeline and the consequences.
- Getting to the "That's It" point.
- This is the hardest decision to make on both sides. However, in cases where necessary, you must both be able to discuss how and why you have gotten to this point: exams, missed benchmarks, incomplete agreements, expectations (adjusted, not adjusted, unrealistic)
- Will extensions lead to something new? different?
- If not, what is the argument or rationale for another exception?
What Needs to Be Learned
- If there is a question of whether or not needed skills have been attained, it is important to review what skills have been acquired.
- Is this a case of inadequate skills or loss of interest; fear or lack of confidence?
- can other skills needed be developed with additional (and what) work?
- the skills that have been acquired; can they be transferred into something tangible?
- do the skills demonstrate other possibilities, aspects of the discipline?
- do the skills demonstrate an affinity for something other than what the student is focusing on?
- if yes, how can this be broached or suggested?
- can options be suggested?
- does the department have instruments to help student see the difference and to perhaps help them shift (or pivot) in a different direction without losing more confidence?
At What Point Pivot: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/08/05/why-mastering-out-phd-program-might-really-be-mastering
- Ask student to reflect on why they are pursuing the Ph.D.
- Ask the student how they imagine their research or academic life: an average day, week? Research projects?
- Ask them how they imagine their average day in the future.
- Both adviser and student should pay attention to the narrative being shared.
- what are the key words used?
- is the narrative being created realistic of the research life?
- Ask the student to share what they want to do from this point on?
- If student wishes to continue, believes that they can, return to the skills acquired, not acquired, needed.
- How does the student self-assess their abilities and skills based on department requirements?
- Share your assessments with each other to have a better understanding of where they intersect or don't.
- Discuss ways to move from there with a plan.
- Why research?
- Is another path possible?
- It is important to know if what is being experienced or observed is part of a pattern, a new incident, or an invisible experience. In this current moment, are there external events that have exacerbated already present events, or that have caused new issues to arise?
- In either case, please have information for CAPS available: https://healthcenter.indiana.edu/counseling/video-counseling.html
- At some point did student's work habits change?
- Is student in need of assistance for something not voiced?
- Would a mentor or different mentor be of any help?
- Ask student if they still have interest in the work, and if so why or why not?
- Ask student if there are options they have considered?
- Ask adviser what factors are shaping (or not) their decision that student is at the "that's it" stage.
- Be clear that there are no biases at work in determining what can/not be completed.
- Be clear that there are not commitments to an idea that is not really desired.
- Does student need a leave to address something that cannot be discussed?
- Do student and adviser need permission to move in another direction? If so, from whom?
Additional resource: https://cgsnet.org/cgs-occasional-paper-–series/university-georgia/chapter-1