Doctoral education differs significantly from the previous learning stages as it moves away from the usual model of classes and assignments. Thus, students have to unlearn many of the well-developed skills and enter the studying prepared to face challenges (Pifer & Baker, 2016). Some of the issues are related to student autonomy, responsibility, and isolation (Berry, 2017a; Pifer & Baker, 2016). This paper aims to evaluate the challenges presented in the article by Pifer and Baker (2016). It will then give strategies to overcome the problems that may arise on the doctoral journey.
The first challenge that I anticipate to appear during my education is learning a new role as a doctoral student and researcher. As Pifer and Baker (2016) note, the doctoral degree presents the student with a different way of knowledge consumption and exposes them to great amounts of information. While I understand the value of this learning, I am anxious that I fail to assume the identity that fits my new level of education adequately. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) students are no longer just professional nurses, but future leaders and educators with in-depth analytic knowledge (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2006). This shift in priorities and skills is a daunting task that I need to face.
My second potential challenge is the lack of structure in the completion of tasks. Pifer and Baker (2016) write that assignments and classes are replaced with check-ins and meetings to discuss the work that the student completes on their own. Therefore, doctoral learning will test my ability to work alone without supervision and small deadlines, adhering to my own schedule. Moreover, I am likely to feel isolated as I will not have a similar connection to my peers or instructors when writing or researching information.
To overcome the first challenge, I will participate in disciplinary meetings and engage with my supervisor to discuss my goals and objectives and better understand the expectations in this program. As Pifer and Baker (2016) and Berry (2017a) suggest, interaction with people in a guiding role helps establish connections early and assimilate. Acquiring more knowledge about my role as a doctoral student should assist me in defining myself in the new position. Moreover, I will aim to evaluate my acquired skills and see which can be changed or used in doctoral education (Gigliotti & Ruben, 2017). Such attention to my strengths and weaknesses can alleviate my stress, as I will see what I can accomplish.
I will focus on my time-management skills to deal with the second problem, the lack of structured tasks. I already use a type of schedule to map out my studying, but this new education stage may require more diligence in planning. Sverdlik et al. (2018) note that self-regulatory skills are foundational to improving students’ performance and well-being. Furthermore, I will aim to connect with peers, as communication is a potent way of enhancing motivation and a positive outlook (Berry, 2017b). Although I am likely to have less time for social interaction, even small instances can support me in my journey.
I anticipate challenges when moving towards a doctoral degree, as it is a difficult venture. This stage of education requires substantial time and self-reliance that are new to many students and professionals. However, I know which strategies can help me on the way, and I plan on integrating them into my life. The methods outlined in this paper make me feel more ready to learn in a new way about my profession and research as a whole.
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2006). The essentials of doctoral education for advanced nursing practice. Author. Web.
Berry, S. (2017a). Building community in online doctoral classrooms: Instructor practices that support community. Online Learning, 21(2), n2. Web.
Berry, S. (2017b). Student support networks in online doctoral programs: Exploring nested communities. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 12, 33. Web.
Gigliotti, R. A., & Ruben, B. D. (2017). Preparing higher education leaders: A conceptual, strategic, and operational approach. Journal of Leadership Education, 16(1), 96-114. Web.
Pifer, M. J., & Baker, V. L. (2016). Stage-based challenges and strategies for support in doctoral education: A practical guide for students, faculty members, and program administrators. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 11(1), 15-34. Web.
Sverdlik, A., Hall, N. C., McAlpine, L., & Hubbard, K. (2018). The PhD experience: A review of the factors influencing doctoral students’ completion, achievement, and well-being. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 13(1), 361-388. Web.