Critical and creative thinking and rubric calibration in a first-year doctoral course sequence
The first year of the doctoral program is critical to the preparedness and retention of students. Although the number of students who have completed their earned doctoral degrees has recently increased, the attrition rate for doctoral students demonstrates that between 50 and 80 percent of students still do not complete their doctoral degree programs. Researchers have discovered myriad of reasons as to why doctoral student abandon their studies. Included in these reasons is the result of insufficient preparation within students’ first few courses, a lack of clarity and expectation of course knowledge and skills related to the fundamental aspects of doctoral study, and poor connections between career preparation and doctoral course work. Preparing students’ doctoral demeanor and critical writing, creativity, thinking, and researching skills has been found to be crucial for success in doctoral programs. To support development of these core skills, a cohesive doctoral faculty feedback calibration cycle can be implemented to support faculty feedback within the core programmatic student learning areas. This framework of faculty professional development is based on Dewey’s Constructivist Learning Theory and Tinto’s Persistence Theory in Higher Education. Use of this cycle in an online doctoral program has resulted in a 20% increase in student retention during the first year of the program.