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Online doctoral students from different cross-cultural generations may disconnect when dissertation chairs fail to understand how students’ worldviews impact doctoral students during the dissertation-writing process. Because of the changing needs of digitally connected Generation Z students who will enter online doctoral programs by the mid-2020s, higher education leaders must create a model that will prepare online doctoral chairs to change how they mentor students and reflect on mentoring practices. The purpose of this qualitative exploratory case study was to examine how online dissertation chairs perceived the role of reflective mentoring practices and changing student cross-cultural and generational worldviews. The themes that emerged were online anonymity versus personalization, shepherd leadership versus transformational leadership, and meeting professional goals versus student-centered goals. The significance of the study is the need for online leaders to institute a change process that will be firmly in place for online dissertation chairs when Generation Z students are old enough to begin doctoral programs. Keywords online dissertation chairs, reflective mentoring practices, digital generation, Generation Z students, shepherd leadership lived experiences of a certain group or culture (Adler & Introduction Adler, 1987). Therefore, the purpose of this qualitative When online doctoral chairs minimize the integration of exploratory case study was to examine how online disserta- reflective mentoring and relationship building, the likelihood tion chairs perceived the role of reflective mentoring prac- of online doctoral student disengagement increases during tices and changing student cross-cultural and generational the dissertation-writing process. If online chairs underrate worldviews. The central research question was, “How do the value of reflection related to building learner relation- online dissertation chairs perceive the role of reflective men- ships, attrition rates exponentially rise. Disconnected online toring practices and changing student cross-cultural and gen- doctoral students fail to effectively communicate with chairs erational worldviews?” or disregard feedback designed to promote successful com- Based on the findings of this study, university online pletion of the dissertation-writing process (Kemp, Molloy, educational doctoral program leaders may reevaluate the Pajics, & Chapman, 2014). need to create a change program to prepare dissertation Online doctoral students from different cross-cultural gen- chairs to meet generational challenges. In addition, online erations tend to detach from the communication process if chairs may use this study as a springboard for reviewing online chairs appear to disrespect the impact of students’ gen- personal reflective practices. For online chairs who face erational learning preferences. Disengaged students who strug- generational-related issues, this study may serve as a tool to gle with self-efficacy issues related to generational differences engage online chairs in reflective discussions on changing may unsuccessfully meet dissertation completion timelines student attitudes. (Blass, Jasman, & Levy, 2012). To address this problem, online dissertation chairs’ perceptions on the role of reflective mentor- ing practices and changing student cross-cultural and genera- University of Phoenix, AZ, USA tional worldviews were explored in this qualitative study. Corresponding Author: Unlike quantitative researchers who methodically investi- Barbara Fedock, University of Phoenix, 1625 W Fountainhead Pkwy, gate phenomena based on mathematical or statistical testing, Phoenix, AZ 85040-1958, USA. qualitative researchers explore phenomena to understand the Email: email@example.com Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open balance on student social issues, online doctoral student Literature Review motivational levels may be in jeopardy, and the failure of Study findings demonstrate that online dissertation chairs students to fully engage in the dissertation-writing process have developed basic strategies to mentor Generation X and may not be the primary obstacle (Hyatt & Williams, 2011). Generation Y students born before 1994. Generation X stu- Online doctoral chairs who unsuccessfully establish posi- dents are the generation after the Baby Boomers, and they tive and meaningful mentoring relationships with genera- were born in the 1960s to the 1970s. This generation tended tional and cross-cultural students may experience higher to be reliable workers and dedicated to getting an education; mentee dropout rates (West, Gokalp, Pena, Fischer, & however, Generation X students struggled with learning and Gupton, 2011). When communication problems related to keeping up with technological advancements. On the con- personal work ethics arise or socialization characteristic of trary, Generation Y students were born in the 1980s to the generational differences develop, students may complain early 1990s, and they felt more comfortable using technol- that online chairs appear disconnected and unwilling to make ogy than Generation X students. Unlike Generation X stu- constructive changes in the mentorship process. Though dents, Generation Y students enjoyed teamwork and chairs may provide feedback to help students meet long- collaboration (Doloriert, Sambrook, & Stewart, 2012). range goals designed to ensure students complete the pro- Little research exists on how online chair will meet chal- gram, students may want more short-term feedback. In this lenges related to mentoring Generation Z students who have case, online chairs may find that unexplained relationship been digitally connected to the Internet since birth. problems increase which may be directly related to genera- Generation Z students were born after 1994 but before 2004, tional preferences (Doloriert et al., 2012). and they make up nearly 18% of the world’s population. By In the mid-1990s, online doctoral programs grew at a time 2020, almost half of the global workplace will be Generation when connectivity became a changing way of life for many Z (Fry, 2015). Though the number of Generation Z students learners. Online chairs were trained to focus on pedagogy who will enter online doctoral programs by the mid-2020s is and andragogy, and they were expected to assume pedagogi- unknown, higher education leaders must prepare for possible cal, social, managerial, and technical roles in the online doc- changes. toral classroom. However, higher education leaders seldom The literature review for this study was a critical review stressed the need for reflective mentoring (Jang, Reeve, & of online chairs’ mentoring practices, as well as a synthesis Deci, 2010). Therefore, online chairs tended to mainly focus of studies related to changing worldviews of Generation Z on overseeing the writing process and on timetables for com- students. The review provided new insights on methodolo- pletion (Drysdale, Graham, & Borup, 2014). Though an gies and designs utilized in former studies. New views of increased number of study findings demonstrated the impact doctoral chairs were acquired that may expand understand- of generational work ethics in the classroom, educational ing on the need for instituting a change program. leaders failed to use the findings to amend the established online chair model (West et al., 2011). Likewise, leaders tended to ignore research findings on how online student sat- Reflective Mentoring Process isfaction rates correlated with online chairs’ differing reflec- One effective tool for online chairs is to reevaluate one-on- tive mentoring practices. Online students whose chairs one student relationships via a reflective mentoring process. reflected on students’ worldview differences experienced a When online dissertation chairs fail to analyze, evaluate, and higher level of satisfaction (Strang, 2009). reflect on the doctoral dissertation-writing process and the changing cultural generation needs of learners, external Equitable Mentoring problems between online chairs and students may surface. However, these problems may not be directly related to the To maintain effective communication, online chairs must dissertation-writing process (Gardner, 2009). Conflicts reflect on and respect generational differences (Ginsberg, related to communication styles may arise if online chairs Knapp, & Farrington, 2014). Schniegerjans, Schniegerjans, and students do not share common educational goals. When and Yair (2012) posited doctoral chairs who maintain good social issues related to communication disrupt the disserta- relationship practices avoid being unfair to students who tion completion process, expectation levels for dissertation have contrasting generational worldviews. An equitable completion timetables may be interrupted. mentoring relationship benefits both online chairs and doc- Online chairs may fail to be knowledgeable on why toral learners. When positive relationships are established, potential generational-related problems may arise; therefore, online dissertation students tend to be more productive, and as mentors, reflections may be focused on meeting university chairs demonstrate an increase in reflective practices (Carter goals, such as graduation timetables. In existing studies on & Whittaker, 2009). When reflective online chairs provide reflective practices, chairs are not apt to question how the frequent opportunities for personal communications, cultur- mentoring process impacts generational needs of students. ally diverse students may feel more empowered to engage in However, when reflective mentoring does not include a focus the total decision-making process (Livingston, 2011). Fedock 3 Empowered generational learners may more freely negotiate 2013). Generation Z doctoral students may have different classroom logistics with chairs, such as learners may request world visions and untraditional work ethics. These ideas may less rigid guidelines for posting assignments (Kumar, not be directly based on age but to cultural behaviors com- Johnson, & Hardemon, 2013). mon to traits characteristic of a specific generation. If reflec- Modes of online student empowerment change from gen- tive mentoring practices are not in place to provide support eration to generation. Study findings show that online students to online chairs when Generation Z students enter doctoral born after 1994 are more prone to ignore classroom rules and programs, the end result may be a decline in student satisfac- chairs. These students may prefer to communicate with peers tion (Barnes, 2010). than instructors, and they strongly rely on peer feedback, even Institutions of higher learning leaders must begin the to the point of ignoring instructor feedback. These students change process to help online chair develop a student-cen- tend to feel empowerment when they receive praise and sup- tered set of reflective practices. Otherwise, a generation of port from peers. Developing and maintaining relationships learners may feel disconnected to a process. Generation Z with instructors or chairs may not be a significant factor for students who spent most of their formative years spent on the them (Kemp, Molloy, Pajics, & Chapman, 2014). Carpenter, World Wide Web are used to instant action and satisfaction. Wetheridge, and Turner (2012) posited students who prefer Online chairs must be prepared to deal with a digital genera- peer interactions may not view an online dissertation chair as tion that expects immediate gratification. Online chairs must an integral part of the process. Few studies exist that explore set short-term goals for students, and they must provide how online chairs perceive the role of peer support and feed- appropriate, constructive feedback on short-term goals. back. In addition, in the literature, limited study findings show Though most online chairs focus on longtime goals and how online chairs’ view the role of generational differences meeting wide range timetables, Generation Z students will and chair/teacher relationships (Holley, 2011). expect focused and short-term goal feedback. Studies have shown that dissertation students are more engaged in learn- ing and are more active participants in the online classroom Impact of Changing Generational when effective online instructional frameworks and mean- Attitudes and Viewpoints ingful reflective mentoring processes which center on stu- In one study, findings indicated that changing post-Gener- dents’ specific needs are in place. Therefore, the need for ation Y attitudes and cultural preferences affected how stu- creating a meaningful framework for Generation Z students dents communicated in the online classroom (Hansen & is critical (O’Meara et al., 2013). Leuty, 2012). Generation X and Y online dissertation stu- dents who were born between the 1960 and the mid-1980s Conceptual Framework sought to engage in team building, and they craved a chair’s attention, feedback, and guidance (O’Meara, Change theory is a framework for educational changes. To Knudsen, & Jones, 2013). In contrast, Generation Z stu- make effective changes, leaders must convince participants dents born after 1994 have experienced a connection to that change is needed, important, and meaningful. To believe technology since birth. Generation Z students use social in change, participants must support the moral purpose media as a communication tool, and they tend to be disin- behind a change (Fullan, 2006). For online chairs to be com- clined to work in teams. Because Generation Z students mitted to a change process, higher education leaders must regularly communicate digitally, they lack interpersonal proactively promote meaningful practice, such as online doc- communication skills (Fedynich & Bain, 2011). A limited toral chair reflective mentoring and transformational leader- number of studies exist in the literature that examine how ship skills. Transformational leaders individually mentor online chairs perceive the impact of generational charac- followers, and they listen and cater to followers’ needs. teristics of students born after 1994. However, based on Transformational leaders seek the ideals of followers and existing study findings, change will be needed (Willis & demonstrate an interest in followers’ ideals (Chou, Lin, Carmichael, 2011). Chang, & Chuang, 2013). Online doctoral chairs who lack training or understanding Change may create a sense of unbalance. Therefore, to of the generational change process tend to underestimate the avoid possible confusion, online chairs need to be shown impact of cultural or generational differences. Cross-cultural how to reflect on changes related to the connected genera- worldviews may affect how Generation Z students will tion. Change processes must be well planned and imple- approach and complete the dissertation-writing process. mented in stages. All stakeholders must understand each step Generation Z learners tend to incorporate best practices that of the change, and each stakeholder must believe that change have personal appeal. These students have spent their lives is needed. Plans should be developed before stakeholders are being connected to multimedia sites, and, while engaging in faced with difficult decisions that may result in negative con- online conversations, they have learned to speak their minds. sequences (Fullan, 2006). Though online chairs may not yet Generation Z students tend to express uncensored opinions, mentor Generation Z students, higher education leaders can which are accepted by peers and not questioned (Weber, begin the reflective process and start making changes as 4 SAGE Open Table 1. Overview of Themes. needed. Though more studies are needed to investigate the impact of cross-cultural and generational students’ learning Themes characteristics on how online doctoral programs are designed and implemented, a sufficient number of study findings exist Online anonymity versus personalization Shepherd leadership versus transformational leadership to begin the process. Online chairs’ perceptions of the change Meeting professional goals versus student-centered goals process must be explored to evaluate how chairs view their roles as reflective mentors. occasionally, a former student would infer an age group. One Method participate indicated a former student exchanged a Christmas card with her each year, and, in her last card, the student The purpose of this qualitative exploratory case study was to noted she was a first-time grandmother. examine how online dissertation chairs perceived the role of During the open-ended interviews, participants were not reflective mentoring practices and changing student cross- asked whether they taught digitally connected students. cultural and generational worldviews. This case study was a From interview data, it was not possible to determine whether bounded study in which the focus was on participants’ per- a relationship among different generations of chairs and stu- ceptions of an external event (Yin, 2003). In one-on-one dents existed. In this qualitative study, quantitative questions interviews via Skype and email, participants were asked were not asked. Participants were not invited to describe spe- semistructured open-ended questions. Interviews took less cific topics, such as generational characteristics of students. than 60 min, and four participants participated in a second Likewise, participants were not asked about perceptions on interview. the impact or effects of generational differences and reflec- To identify interview themes or patterns, thematic analy- tive mentoring styles. Participants were not asked leading sis was used to analyze data. NVivo 10 data management questions. software was used to assist in the organization and sorting of data in this study. Data transcript reviews were conducted before using NVivo 10 data management software to code Results, Implications, data. An inductive data coding approach was used to analyze Recommendations, and Conclusions data collected during interviews. Themes and patterns were Three themes emerged from the analysis of the in-depth analyzed and categorized. To protect participant identity and interview process. Based on the online chairs’ perceptions on safeguard confidentiality, pseudonyms were assigned, such reflective mentoring and changing student worldviews, the as P1, P2, and P3. The researcher was the primary instrument themes that emerged were online anonymity versus person- in this study. alization, shepherd leadership versus transformational lead- ership, and meeting professional goals versus student-centered Participants goals. Themes reflected online teaching traits, leadership qualities, and professional aspirations. Themes are identified Online leadership dissertation chairs from one university in Table 1. with an online doctoral program were invited to participate in the study, and purposeful sampling was used to gather the sample. In a qualitative study, sample sizes should include Theme 1: Online Anonymity Versus from 10 to 15 participants (Yin, 2003). In this study, initially, Personalization 10 online university chairs agreed to participate. However, one participant had health problems and withdrew from the In the online dissertation classroom, participants felt a sense of study, and another participant changed jobs. Eight chairs anonymity was provided for them and for each individual stu- completed the interviews and fully participated in the study. dent. Age, ethnicity, gender, and cultural views were not rele- Participants were from diverse cultural backgrounds and eth- vant in the online classroom. P4 noted, “I am an online chair nic groups, and they ranged in age from 45 to mid-60s. because I want to maintain anonymity, and I believe my men- Participants lived in different sections of the United States tees feel the same way.” Participants highly respected online and had been chairs from 3 to 15 or more years. Both male student anonymity, and they tended to avoid student commu- and female chairs participated in the study. nications related to cultural worldviews. P2 indicated, “I have During interviews, participants acknowledged they did never thought about the cultural perceptions and worldviews not know the age range of the dissertation students they of my online doctoral students, except when necessary in the chaired. Participants indicated they felt age was unimportant context of the study.” Overall, participants honored anonymity in an online classroom, and online classroom communica- more than getting to know students personally. tions between chairs and students were generally limited to Visualizations of student facial expressions or body lan- professional issues. Three participants commented they guage were not included in participants’ reflections. sometimes received communications from graduates, and, Participants focused on the examination and evaluation of Fedock 5 Table 2. Overview of Subthemes for Theme 1. mainly as a shepherd. I lead students to dissertation comple- tion.” Four participants used the words “guide and shepherd” Subthemes to describe their mentoring roles. All participants described a Respect for online students’ desire of anonymity chair’s role as a person who guides students forward. P6 clari- Reflections on cultural views in terms of dissertation content fied the role of shepherd by stating, “As a shepherd, I watch Lack of chair reflections on students’ body language or behaviors out for my students. I know what they need to do, and I am there to get them back on track if they wonder off course. Otherwise, I respect students’ anonymity.” In the role of shep- their own written expressions and emotional responses to herd, participants indicated they kept the process moving, and student work and communications. P5 explained, they did not view personal interactions or observations of gen- erational differences as part of the role of being a shepherd. When I reflect, I think about how I felt during specific Participants did not characterize themselves as transforma- correspondences, but I never share my feelings with my doctoral tional leaders. Participant responses lacked examples of indi- mentees. I do not try to image how online students look or react. vidualized mentoring, and they did not represent themselves I like to be an online chair for that reason. as leaders who listened to the needs and concerns of students. Participants tended to focus on long-range goals rather than on Chairs expressed that online anonymity provided them a a series of short-term goals. Participants indicated the role of means to be impersonal yet encouraging and result oriented. shepherd or guide was a long-term personal goal, and one par- P1 indicated, “I prefer to focus on ideas and evidence. In ticipant stated that being a shepherd was “addictive.” online mentoring, I am not distracted by students’ body lan- Participants felt that both chairs and students reaped increased guage or other individual distractions that occur when I work benefit from long-range successes. Therefore, participants with students face to face.” In online classrooms, chairs expressed limited reflection on short-term goals involving stu- tended to view reflection as a tool designed to maintain dents’ generational needs. Participants reflected on whether professionalism. students were meeting timelines. P8 commented, “I generally only reflect on factors that may affect long-term success rates Subthemes for Theme 1 of my students. Though I address student questions, I focus on the graduation timeline.” A majority of participants tended to Three subthemes were identified in Theme 1: respect for reflect on procedural issues, such as timelines, instead of eval- online students’ desire of anonymity, reflections on cultural uating individual student differences or work ethics related to views in terms of dissertation content, and lack of chair generational differences. Participants described student com- reflections on students’ body language or behaviors. The sig- munication problems as minor issues, such as questions related nificance of the subthemes was a lack of reflection on stu- to content or procedure. P2 commented, “Communication dent reactions or individual behavior traits. The subthemes challenges are typically based on helping online dissertation are listed in Table 2. students understand technical and scholarly writing questions. In the subthemes, participants associated reflective men- I cannot remember any communication differences that might toring practices with online practices that frequently afforded have been based on cultural and generational worldviews.” both chairs and students higher degrees of personal privacy. Participants spoke positively about their students, and all par- P3 summed up the subthemes, “Oh, I have a wonderful rela- ticipants mentioned chairing “wonderful students who were tionship with my students. I respect their privacy and cultural respectful.” However, several participants indicated they differences by mainly concentrating and reflecting on con- occasionally reflected on the words and tone they used in com- tent, not on observations of behaviors.” Participants munications to students, but this type of reflection was not expressed the need to reflect on their professional behaviors critical in the long-term mentoring process. rather than on the behaviors or personal views of students. Subthemes in Theme 2 Theme 2: Shepherd Leadership Versus Two subthemes in Theme 2 were identified. The first sub- Transformational Leadership theme was long-term goals versus short-term goals, and the Though participants reflected on traditional pedagogical, man- second subtheme was a lack of need for understanding gen- agerial, and technical mentoring roles, they failed to see a need erational differences. The significances of these subthemes to address social and communication issues related to possible were the lack of focus on short-term goals and the employ- generational preferences. Participants described themselves as ment of transformational leadership. Subthemes are outlined supportive guides who helped students successfully complete in Table 3. the dissertation-writing process. P3 shared, “Chair/student Participants expressed the need to predominately focus on relationships are developed based on creating a trusting and long-term goals. Based on maintaining positive experiences caring mentorship. I see myself as a guide or a shepherd, with online students, participants did not feel a need to 6 SAGE Open Table 3. Overview of Subthemes for Theme 3. Table 4. Overview of Subthemes for Theme 3. Subthemes Subthemes Long-term goals versus short-term goals Long lasting communications Lack of need for understanding generational differences. Professional pride Sense of timeliness Professional benefits Going the extra mile examine individual student cultural beliefs or generational differences. how online chairs could stay grounded and be whole heart- Theme 3: Meeting Professional Goals Versus edly engaged in making sure students graduated. Student-Centered Goals Participants noted they were “willing to go the extra mile” to make sure online students completed the dissertation pro- Participants felt that reflections on how to maintain long-last- cess. However, chairs broadly interpreted what “going the ing communications with students after graduation were extra mile” meant. Overall, “going the extra mile” was inter- important. Overall, participants commented that they worked preted as caring for students, being available to students, and to create lifelong bonds with online students after graduation, respecting students. Interview responses did not include spe- such as communicating with former doctoral students via cific ways participants would be “willing to go the extra emails and holiday cards. P1 commended, “I reflect on how mile” if generational issues occurred. to establish professional relationships that can be maintained Four subthemes were identified in Theme 3. Those sub- throughout the dissertation-writing process and beyond. I themes were long lasting communications, professional love it when former students call to tell me what they are pride, sense of timeliness, professional benefits, and going doing.” Participants expressed a personal sense of pride felt the extra mile. The significance of these subthemes was the when students successfully completed the dissertation-writ- use of reflective mentoring practices to advance chairs’ pro- ing process. P2 noted, “To me, reflections are important after fessional standings. The Theme 3 subthemes are listed in my students graduate. I reflect back over how my guidance Table 4. benefited students and how my guidance and expertise helped Participants affirmed they felt a sense of pride when stu- add to the field.” A majority of participants discussed the dents successfully completed the dissertation-writing pro- importance of reflecting after students graduated, and one cess. Meeting the needs of changing individual student’s participant explained that her reflective experiences were cross-cultural or generational needs was not directly con- “exalting, even joyous” after a student graduated. nected to participants’ sense of pride. Participants discussed the unimportance of age or back- grounds in the online classroom. The consensus was “a sense of timeliness” existed. P5 felt, “I never know how old my Implications online students are, nor do I care! I feel a sense of timeliness online.” Furthermore, participants agreed that age was not a Though online chairs may have years of experiences in guid- factor in building ongoing chair/student relationships. P7 ing doctoral students through the online dissertation-writing commented, “In my opinion, bonding based on communicat- process, they may be unprepared to understand the impact of ing with students from different generational backgrounds is chairing Generation Z students. Unless higher education not part of my chairing or my reflective process. I treat all leaders prepare online chairs for possible changes, chairs students the same.” The online learning environment might may tend to ignore changing generational behavior trends. have been a factor in how participants responded to age and Online chairs who are concerned with graduation timelines generational differences. and graduation rates must be convinced that a new reflection Participants centered on meeting personal goals and uni- model will benefit them, universities, and students. Therefore, versity expectations for chairs. P1, P3, and P8 concluded, leaders must establish long-range standards for helping “When reflecting, online chairs need to focus on conflicts online chairs understand and demonstrate an appreciation for about university policies to make sure that they meet stan- Generation Z learning styles and connectivity (Doloriert dards.” Plus, four other participants noted that online chairs et al., 2012). must reflect on “personal profits” and “how leading students Professional satisfaction may be adversely affected if to completion will benefit them professionally.” One partici- online chairs fail to incorporate and address short-term goals pant commented that university leaders expect chairs to make and immediate feedback specifically designed to meet the sure that students graduate. P2 stated, “If leaders thought that needs of Generation Z students. Generation Z students have generational differences were important, policies would be used Internet sites since early childhood, and, characteristic put in place, and expectations would be clearly established.” of their generation traits, they expect a clearly defined short- Overall, participants agreed reflections should be pivoted on term approach to receiving feedback and meeting timetables. Fedock 7 Generation Z students demand immediate, continuous, and likely include a proportionate number of Generation Z stu- positive feedback. Generation Z students may urge and dents. To prepare online chairs to meet the needs of expect online chair to provide specifics on how they are Generation Z students, change leaders must convince all doing on short-term goals, and they may insist on receiving stakeholders that change is necessary (Fullan, 2006). constant snapshots on how they are doing (Fry, 2015). An increased number of digital age learners enter the Given the number of Generation Z students who may global workplace and higher education system each year, enroll in online doctoral programs by the mid-2020s, the and, according to study findings, Generation Z students may needs of online chairs must be anticipated (Weber, 2013). not be willing to follow established social norms. Digitally Online doctoral leaders must provide opportunities for dis- connected Generation Z students may tend to openly engage sertation chairs to create and redesign reflective mentoring in disagreements with instructors, and they may fail to listen models, and they must encourage ongoing research on the to counter arguments or constructive feedback. Generation effects of digital age learners in the classroom. Though edu- Z students who spend most of their time connected to multi- cators should be careful to avoid stereotyping generational media sites may speak their mind and express uncensored learners, online leaders must be open and willing to examine opinions. This generation may express decreased regard for and evaluate the impact of generational changes, especially what instructors say, and they may do not pay attention to digitally age changes. instructors. Generation Z students may show increased respect for learning via technology rather than from rela- tionships and shepherding or guidance from online chairs. If Limitations of the Study research finding trends continue, Generation Z students may One limitation of this qualitative case study was that the demonstrate a decreased appreciation for the role education findings of a small qualitative research sample usually can- and work play in their lives, and they may fail to see educa- not be generalized to a larger group (Yin, 2003). In this study, tion as a “means of survival” but a way to meet short-term the perceptions expressed and themes found may not reflect goals. the views or experiences of online doctoral chairs in other institutions. In addition, the use of open-ended interview Summary questions may have been a limitation. Participants were not asked quantitative questions, such as the effects of reflective When online doctoral chairs fail to integrate reflective men- mentoring or specific age-related profiles of students. In this toring and relationship building, the likelihood of doctoral study, online chairs from an online university were simply student disengagement increases during the dissertation- asked to share their perceptions. writing process (Kemp et al., 2014). In the mid-1990s, online Qualitative researchers are limited by the format of the doctoral programs expanded, and most of these students data collection and the data analysis process. Therefore, the were Generation X and Y students. Generation X and Y stu- duplication of this qualitative study by other researchers may dents were willing to sacrifice time and money to seek career be difficult to conduct. In this study, doctoral chairs’ views advancement for a better work/life. Generally, these students on the role of reflective mentoring practices and changing sought attention, feedback, and guidance from online chairs. student cross-cultural and generational worldviews were Generation X and Generation Y students seldom openly dis- examined. Though the online chairs in this study may not be regarded chair guidance or opinions (Doloriert et al., 2012). significantly younger or older than the students they chair, Generation Z students were born around 1994, and they the focus was on chairs’ perceptions of the problem. Online grew up connected to the Worldwide Internet. Generation Z chairs in this study may not yet mentor digital learners; how- students were known as the connected generation, and their ever, during interviews, participants were invited to share proclivities to expect immediate results changed interactions their views on the topic. with educators. Therefore, when Generation Z students enter online doctoral programs, online chairs and students may experience a type of disconnection that is characteristic of Significance of the Study Generation Z (Fry, 2015). The significance of the study was the need for higher educa- According to Fullan (2006), changes models need to be in tion leaders who work with doctoral chairs to create a change place to help stakeholders effectively transition to changes process. Study findings show the need to investigate the within an educational organization. Based on research find- impact of digital age students’ changing work ethics and ings related to Generation Z students’ learning characteris- communication styles on relationships with educators. tics, a change in how online doctoral chairs view generational Therefore, higher education leaders who supervise online learners may be needed. Though participants in this study doctoral chairs may want to consider the implementation of may lack experiences in chairing Generation Z students, this a change program. By the mid-2020s, almost half of the situation will change. To understand the possible effects of workforce will be Generation Z workers (Weber, 2013), and chairing Generation Z students, a new model for reflective the number of students enrolling in doctoral programs will mentoring may be needed. 8 SAGE Open Declaration of Conflicting Interests Hansen, J. I., & Leuty, M. E. (2012). Work values across genera- tions. Journal of Career Assessment, 20, 34-52. The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect Holley, K. (2011). A cultural repertoire of practices in doctoral edu- to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. cation. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 6, 79. Hyatt, L., & Williams, P. (2011). 21st century competencies for Funding doctoral leadership faculty. 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SAGE Open – SAGE
Published: Apr 28, 2017
Keywords: online dissertation chairs; reflective mentoring practices; digital generation; Generation Z students; shepherd leadership
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