GCU Mentors in Research Training of Counseling Psychology Students Review The Role of Faculty Mentors in the Research Training of Counseling Psychology Doc

GCU Mentors in Research Training of Counseling Psychology Students Review The Role of Faculty Mentors in the Research Training of Counseling Psychology Doctoral Students Journal of Counseling Psychology
2002, Vol. 49, No. 3, 324 –330
Copyright 2002 by the American Psychological Association, Inc.
0022-0167/02/$5.00 DOI: 10.1037//0022-0167.49.3.330
The Role of Faculty Mentors in the Research Training of Counseling
Psychology Doctoral Students
Merris A. Hollingsworth and Ruth E. Fassinger
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
University of Maryland
This study investigated research mentoring experiences of counseling psychology doctoral students as
predictors of students’ research productivity. The authors also assessed the research training environment
and research self-efficacy as influences on research productivity. Participants were 194 third- and
fourth-year counseling psychology doctoral students. Results indicated that the research training environment predicted students’ research mentoring experiences and their research self-efficacy. Both
research mentoring experiences and research self-efficacy mediated the effect of the research training
environment on research productivity. Analyses showed no significant differences in these relationships
by student gender or scientific stature of training programs.
and students’ research productivity. For example, Krebs et al.
(1991) found a positive relationship between students’ perceptions
of the research training environment and subsequent research
productivity. Investigations also supported positive relationships
between the research training environment and students’ research
self-efficacy (Bishop & Bieschke, 1998; Phillips & Russell, 1994).
Further analyses suggested that research self-efficacy mediates the
relationship between the research training environment and students’ research productivity; that is, the training environment
affects productivity indirectly, through the influence of the training
environment on students’ research self-efficacy (Brown, Lent,
Ryan, & McPartland, 1996; Kahn & Scott, 1997).
In addition, previous research suggests that student gender moderates the research training environment, self-efficacy, and productivity relationship, with significantly different relationships
existing between these variables for men and for women. Specifically, Brown et al. (1996) found that research self-efficacy had a
significantly stronger effect on research productivity for male
students than for female students; in contrast, the research training
environment had a greater direct effect on productivity for female
than for male students. Evidence from Kahn and Scott (1997) also
supports student gender as a possible moderator, with males reporting higher research self-efficacy than females.
The literature also supports expressed interest in research as a
predictor of research productivity (Kahn & Scott, 1997; Parker &
Detterman, 1988; Royalty & Magoon, 1985). Although the research training environment and research self-efficacy appear to
influence students’ interest in research (Bishop & Bieschke, 1998;
Kahn & Scott, 1997), students also have had interest and experiences with scientific inquiry that they developed prior to their
doctoral program training (Gelso, 1997). Varied levels of prior
research interest reflect individual differences that students bring
to their doctoral programs. Although data have supported the
effects of the research training environment in changing students’
level of research interest (Mallinckrodt et al., 1990; Royalty et al.,
1986), the extent to which prior levels of research interest may
influence students’ later research productivity is unclear.
Although mentoring is not a specific focus of the research
training environment literature, faculty mentoring emerges as a
consistently important undercurrent in the research training envi-
Research training of counseling psychology doctoral students
has received increased scrutiny in the last 2 decades. This scrutiny
stems, in part, from the observation that few counseling psychologists conduct research after completing their doctoral requirements despite training in a scientist–practitioner model (Brems,
Johnson, & Gallucci, 1996). Although research suggests that individual factors, such as personality and interests, play a major role
in research attitudes and productivity (e.g., Kahn & Scott, 1997;
Krebs, Smither, & Hurley, 1991; Mallinckrodt, Gelso, & Royalty,
1990), theorists have also proposed that the research training
environment plays an influential role in shaping counseling psychologists’ perceptions of research (Gelso, 1997).
To describe the role of the research training environment, Gelso
(1997) has proposed and empirically tested a model. The research
training environment model hypothesizes nine themes central to
research training, which include (a) teaching students that all
research is flawed, (b) teaching students to look inward for research ideas, (c) helping students understand the connection between science and practice, (d) teaching varied methodologies, (e)
teaching statistics in ways that are relevant to research applications, (f) faculty modeling of appropriate scientific behavior and
attitudes, (g) providing positive reinforcement of scientific activity, (h) involving students in research activities early in graduate
training, and (i) viewing participation in science as a partially
social activity. A number of empirical studies have indicated that
the research training environment model describes critical elements that differentiate between research training programs
(Gelso, Mallinckrodt, & Judge, 1996; Kahn & Scott, 1997; Royalty, Gelso, Mallinckrodt, & Garrett, 1986).
Studies also consistently show positive relationships between
the research training environment, students’ research self-efficacy,
Merris A. Hollingsworth and Ruth E. Fassinger, Counseling and Personnel Services, University of Maryland.
The data were collected by Merris A. Hollingsworth as part of her
doctoral dissertation.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Merris
Hollingsworth, who is now at the Center for Counseling and Student
Development, 261 Perkins Student Center, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware 19716. E-mail: merrish@udel.edu
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
ronment. For example, Gelso (1993) outlined specific faculty
behaviors associated with good research-related mentoring. In this
description, faculty offer interpersonal reinforcement for research
activity, express enthusiasm for science and research, acknowledge the inevitability of flaws in research, expose students to a
variety of research methods, model a balance of science and
practice, and use relationship skills that communicate empathy,
positive regard, and genuineness to students.
However, some researchers have critiqued research training
environment theory in regard to mentoring, suggesting that faculty
mentoring should be a more explicit element of the research
training environment. For example, Hill (1997) compared the role
of the faculty–student mentoring relationship in research training
to that of the working alliance between the counselor and the
client, which prompted her suggestion that the faculty–student
mentoring relationship itself may be an essential ingredient in the
research training environment. Similarly, Mallinckrodt (1997) recommended a systemic perspective, in which each advisor–student
relationship is considered as a “micro-environment” that exists
within the larger contexts of a department and institution.
Other researchers have voiced similar support for the important
role of mentors in research training, although not within the
specific context of the research training environment. For example,
Royalty and Reising’s (1986) data indicated that research activities
involving interaction with role models or an advisor were among
the strongest positive influences on interest in research. O’Brien
(1995) and Gelso (1997) both noted that student responses to
open-ended questions about critical incidents in their research
training often focused on their relationships with faculty members.
Several studies suggest that faculty modeling or mentoring in
research activities corresponds with higher rates of research involvement and productivity among psychology students and recent
graduates (Cronan-Hillix, Gensheimer, Cronan-Hillix, & Davidson, 1986; Galassi, Brooks, Stoltz, & Trexler, 1986; Krebs et al.,
Despite these associations, no studies could be identified that
focused specifically on research-related mentoring in counseling
psychology. The literature suggests that graduate students believe
that having a mentor is a critical component of graduate training
(Atkinson, Neville, & Casas, 1991; Lark & Croteau, 1998; Luna &
Cullen, 1998). Many psychology graduate students also appear to
have mentors during their training; two studies among this population found that more than half of respondents reported having a
mentor during their graduate work (Cronan-Hillix et al., 1986;
Mintz, Bartels, & Rideout, 1995). Furthermore, Atkinson et al.
(1991) surveyed ethnic minority psychologists and found that
respondents recalled their faculty mentors’ encouragement related
to research involvement as important and useful.
A few studies have investigated outcomes associated with
research-related mentoring in other academic disciplines. Green
and Bauer’s (1995) study of doctoral students in the physical
sciences showed little relationship between research mentoring
and students’ research productivity after controlling for participants’ research interest prior to graduate school. In contrast,
Cronan-Hillix et al. (1986) found a significant relationship between receipt of mentoring and several measures of research
productivity. The lack of additional studies in academic settings
that explore outcomes associated with mentoring contrasts sharply
with studies of mentoring in business settings, where measures
such as rate of promotion, salary increases, and job satisfaction are
consistently correlated with receipt of mentoring (e.g., Bahniuk,
Dobos, & Kogler Hill, 1990; Bowen, 1985; Turban & Dougherty,
1994; for a more complete review of this literature, see Noe,
The current study extended the investigation of research training
in counseling psychology by exploring the role that faculty research mentoring plays in predicting student research productivity,
above and beyond the contributions of the research training environment, students’ research self-efficacy, and students’ past research attitudes. Five research questions guided our work:
1. Does the research training environment predict students’
research mentoring experiences, their research self-efficacy, or
their research productivity?
2. Do students’ research mentoring experiences mediate the
relationship between the research training environment and
3. Do students’ self-efficacy beliefs mediate the influence of the
research training environment on research productivity?
4. Does controlling for students’ past attitudes toward research
significantly change the relationships between research training
environment, self-efficacy, research mentoring, and research
5. Are relationships between these variables moderated by students’ gender or by the scientific stature of their training program?
Participants were 194 (135 women and 59 men) third- or fourth-year
students enrolled in 25 APA-approved counseling psychology programs.
Only students working toward a PhD participated in the study, and the
response rate was 70%. The majority of the participants identified themselves as European American (71%), and 12% identified as African American/Black, 5% as Hispanic/Latino/Latina, 4% biracial, 3.5% Asian American, 2% international students, and 1.5% unspecified. Ninety-five percent
of the respondents categorized themselves as third- or fourth-year doctoral
students, whereas the remaining 5% included second-, fifth-, and sixth-year
students. The ages of the participants ranged from 23 to 58 years
(M ⫽ 31.08 years, SD ⫽ 6.36 years). Participants from high and medium
research productivity programs comprised the majority of the sample (38%
and 36%, respectively), with 26% coming from low research productivity
programs. More than half of the respondents (57.5%) indicated that they
currently participated in an active research team, and 72% considered
themselves as currently having a research mentor. Students who did not
have a research mentor were instructed to “consider the faculty relationship
that has been most important in your research training while in your
current doctoral program” when answering questions.
Independent variables. The research training environment was assessed by a modified version of the Research Training Environment
Scale—Revised (RTES–R; Gelso et al., 1996). The original instrument
contains nine subscales measuring the following: teaching relevant statistics, facilitating students “looking inward” for research ideas, teaching that
all experiments are flawed and limited, focusing on varied investigative
styles, wedding science and clinical practice, faculty modeling of appropriate scientific behavior, faculty reinforcement of student research, students’ early involvement in research, and science as a partly social experience. Items ask students to rate their doctoral program in each of these
areas. Test–retest reliabilities for each subscale range from .74 to .94, and
the subscales consistently correlate with changes in research attitudes
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
during graduate training and with research self-efficacy (Gelso et al.,
1996). The current study used a modified 16-item version of the RTES–R.
First, the three items with the highest factor loading on each subscale were
selected for this study on the basis of factor analyses conducted by Kahn
and Gelso (1997), in which all items were forced to load on one of the nine
subscales. This step yielded an abbreviated version with 27 items. To avoid
a potential problem of item overlap between this instrument and the
Research Mentoring scale (described below), we omitted 11 additional
items from the RTE measure because they addressed the role of the faculty
advisor (e.g., “I feel that my faculty advisor expects too much from my
research projects”). Participants responded on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 to 5, with higher numbers indicating a greater level of agreement with each statement. Responses were added to yield a total score,
with potential scores ranging from 16 to 80. Cronbach’s alpha for the RTE
measure was .87 in the current study.
We measured research mentoring experiences with the Research Mentoring Experiences Scale (RMES), a measure created for this study that is
based on comparable instruments developed for business settings (e.g.,
Noe, 1988b; Ragins & McFarlin, 1990). The RME included two subscales.
The first subscale, Psychosocial Mentoring, includes 13 items that explored
the affective aspects of research training, focusing on the personal elements
of the relationship between faculty member and student. Participants indicated the extent to which a specific faculty member expressed emotional
support, communicated respect and personal regard, and modeled positive
attitudes toward research. The second subscale, Career Mentoring, investigated faculty members’ efforts to help students acquire specific information necessary to complete research tasks successfully. The 16 items on this
subscale explored faculty members’ teaching of research skills, giving
advice, and providing research opportunities. For both psychosocial and
career mentoring, instructions asked respondents to rate their relationship
with the faculty member whom they considered most important in their
current doctoral research training. Possible responses ranged from 1 (faculty member pays very little attention to . . . ) to 5 (faculty member pays a
great deal of attention to . . . ). Responses to items were added and divided
by the number of items to generate a total score. Possible scores ranged
from 1 to 5. The RMES was initially tested and revised in a pilot study (n ⫽
25); Cronbach’s alpha in the current study was .74.
Research self-efficacy, hypothesized as a second mediating variable, was
measured by a shortened version of the Self-Efficacy in Research Measure
(SERM; Phillips & Russell, 1994). As previously adapted by Kahn and
Scott (1997), the shortened version of Phillips and Russell’s measure
includes 12 items asking doctoral students to describe their confidence in
applying four types of research-related skills: research design, practical
research skills, quantitative and computer skills, and writing skills. In this
study, participants indicated their responses on a 5-point Likert scale,
ranging from 1 (no confidence) to 5 (total confidence). Each response was
added to yield a total score, with potential scores ranging from 12 to 60.
This instrument yielded high internal consistency (.90) in previous research
(Kahn & Scott, 1997) and in the current study (␣ ⫽ .87).
Past attitudes toward research was measured by the four items constructed by Royalty et al. (1986). These items measured counseling psychology students’ recalled interest in conducting research prior to their
enrollment in the doctoral program. The items included the following: (a)
“I would have preferred to have the option of completing my doctoral
training without being required to complete research projects” (Preference), (b) “I had a strong interest in doing research” (Interest), (c) “I placed
a high value on the place of research in my future career” (Value), and (d)
“Participating in research activities after graduation was not a major
priority for me” (Priority). Participants rated their level of agreement with
each item, using a 5-point Likert scale, which ranged from 1 (strongly
disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), and the first and last items were reversescored. Responses were added, then divided by the number of items to
produce a final score, with a potential range from 1 to 5. Previous research
shows good internal consistency for the scale, with alpha ranging from .87
to .90 (Gelso et al., 1996; Kahn & Scott, 1997; Royalty et al., 1986), and
the test–retest correlation for this measure was .93 (Royalty et al., 1986).
Cronbach’s alpha in the current study was .89.
Dependent variable. The dependent variable, research productivity,
was assessed using Kahn and Scott’s (1997) 8-item measure. These items
provided a broad measure of students’ involvement in research-related
activities, including collection and analysis of data, development of manuscripts, participation in public presentations, and attendance at research
conventions (Kahn & Scott, 1997). Students responded to each item by
providing a number indicating the number of projects for which they are
currently collecting or analyzing data, the number of manuscripts they have
completed or are now working on, and so forth. Responses were summed
to obtain a total number, with potential scores ranging from zero to infinity.
The current study yielded responses ranging from zero to 40, with a modal
score of 6. Internal consistency coefficients (K-R 20) for this scale ranged
from .59 to .72 (Kahn & Scott, 1997), an…
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