Department of Educational Administration


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Niehaus, E., Garcia, C. E., & Reading, J. (2018). The road to researcher: The development of research self-efficacy in higher education scholars. Journal for the Study of Postsecondary and Tertiary Education, 3, 1-20.


(CC BY-NC 4.0) This article is licensed to you under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


Aim/Purpose: Understanding how students develop a sense of efficacy as researchers can pro-vide faculty members in higher education doctoral programs insight into how to be more effective teachers and mentors, necessitating discipline-specific research on how graduate programs are and can be fostering students’ research self-efficacy (RSE). Thus, the purpose of this study was to explore how doctoral pro-grams and early research experiences contribute to the development of RSE in higher education scholars.

Background: Participants identified elements of the formal and “hidden” curriculumt pro-moted and inhibited RSE development.

Methodology: We employed multiple case study analysis of 17 individual early career scholars in higher education and student affairs.

Contribution: Findings indicate that the development of RSE is complex, but that Bandura’s four main sources of efficacy are a useful way to understand the types of experi-ences that students are and should be having to promote RSE. Our findings also highlight the importance of the research training environment in RSE develop-ment.

Findings: We found that the formal curriculum of participants’ doctoral programs – their research methods coursework and the process of writing their dissertations – were important facilitators of their RSE development. However, we also found that the “hidden curriculum” – the availability of extracurricular research oppor-tunities, faculty and peer mentoring, and the overall research culture of the doctoral programs – were influential in participants’ development.

Recommendations for Practitioners: Our findings point to a number of implications for higher education graduate programs seeking to improve students’ RSE. First, with regard to coursework, our findings point to the importance of recognizing the negative experiences students may bring with them to their doctoral programs, particularly related to quantita-tive methods, and of finding ways to help them see quantitative methods in dif-ferent ways than they have before. Second, our findings suggest important impli-cations for how faculty members as teachers, advisors, and mentors can think about providing feedback. Finally, our findings suggest the importance of under-standing the “hidden curriculum,” and how faculty members can influence stu-dents’ experiences outside of coursework and dissertations.