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Disambiguation: Through the Looking Glass - From Debriefing to Process Improvement

Summary: Based on a 2007 article in this journal, three members of a dissertation committee conducted a debriefing of an advisee's dissertation at the Graduate Center for Research and Retention at Western Michigan University. The advisee’s first dissertation committee had fallen apart due to her inability to align her dissertation with the objectives of the committee chair. Despite three years of work by the advisee and the other two committee members, the chair did not accept any of her proposals as advancing the scholarship of her field. After years of frustration and a perceived inability to communicate with the committee chair, she suggested a move to another department; the committee chair approved, wondering why she had not suggested this years earlier. The dissertation committee and the advisee never met as a group to discuss how to bring the dissertation into alignment with the chair’s goals. Neither the advisee nor the two committee members ever approached the chair to find out why their proposals were failing. The committee chair did not provide sufficient vision to allow the advisee to formulate an acceptable proposal. The advisor for the advisee’s second dissertation committee was largely unaware of her difficulties, but encouraged communication between the committee members and the advisee. At the debriefing, the second committee made a number of recommendations to facilitate communication, to educate advisees and committee members and to provide advisees with opportunities to pursue research while still engaged in course work. Additional advice on coaching from a number of sources is available online at

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  • Topics: Process Management
  • Keywords: Case study, Coaching, Communication, Dissertation, Higher education, Process improvement, Research, Vision
  • Author: Di Pierro, Marianne
  • Journal: Journal for Quality and Participation