Dr. Kara Dawson

Associate Professor

UF School of Teaching and Learning

2012-2013 UF Doctoral Mentoring Award Winner

My mentoring philosophy stems from the belief that doctoral students learn through an apprenticeship model (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989) in which they take legitimate peripheral participation (Lave and Wenger, 1991) in the Educational Technology community from the beginning of their program. I use a variety of strategies to this end; many of which I outlined in two invited editorials about mentoring strategies (Dawson & Ferdig, 2010; Bull, Bell, Thompson, Schrum, Dawson & Knezek, 2006).

Several of these strategies are designed to support individual reflection and growth. For example, new doctoral students write a teliography, or a future fictional autobiography (Howard, 1996; McAdams, 1995). This teliography guides our discussions and helps us make decisions about relevant projects and activities. Around the second year of the program, my doctoral students create an identity chart. The chart helps them identify research interests, dig deeper into these interests and determine whether their projects and activities are aligned with their professed research interests. Very often, students discover a disconnect between what they say they are interested in and how they spend their academic time. Around the third year of the program, students identify jobs for which they would like to be competitive and determine their strengths and weaknesses related to the job announcements. This helps further focus our work together. During the third or fourth year, my students develop and share an “elevator speech” or a 30 second description of who they are as an Educational Technology scholar. This is important because scholars should be able to clearly and concisely articulate their work in a short timeframe (i.e. the time it takes to ride an elevator six floors at a conference). This requires students to further reflect on who they are and what they want to be.

Throughout all this time, I provide students with opportunities related to teaching, research, and service activities. While the activities vary by student, I try to make sure every doctoral student has the experiences needed to help him/her attain career goals. This may involve helping students secure post-secondary teaching opportunities (paid or unpaid), participate in the grant writing process, collaborate on a research study or become involved in a professional association.

I also encourage students to seek the advice and guidance of other faculty members and colleagues during their program. This is often referred to as composite mentoring (Packard, 2003) and stands in stark contrast to the historical notion that doctoral mentoring involves an exclusive one-to-one experience. I believe students should take full advantage of all the talent and resources around them. While I believe each student needs one person committed to seeing him/her through the doctoral process, I also believe the notion of one student learning solely from one advisor is antiquated and detrimental to both the student’s growth and to the growth of the field.

While mentoring is a highly personalized endeavor that looks different with each student, there are some overarching questions I ask myself as I seek to continuously evaluate my doctoral mentoring. These questions are listed below, with evidence outlining how well I have mentored my students.

Question: Was I able to provide opportunities for the student to participate in the Educational Technology community? (i.e. legitimate peripheral participation)

Evidence of Success (Since 2004):
• More than 25 refereed articles and book chapters co-authored with doctoral students
• 100% of doctoral students participated in service activities
• 100% of doctoral students presented at conferences

Question: Did the student complete the Ph.D. program or willfully choose a different degree option?

Evidence of Success (Since 2004): Approximately 90% of my doctoral students
have completed their degree or determined their career goals were more in line with an Ed.S. degree.

Question: Did the student earn a job at an institution of his/her choice?

Evidence of Success (Since 2004): 100% placement rate at a range of post- secondary institutions (including Ohio State University, Brown University, North Dakota State University, Georgia Southern, University of Puerto Rico, University of North Carolina- Charlotte, Assumption University (Thailand), K-12 positions (including district-wide director of technology, Assistant Superintendent and curriculum coordinator positions) or other positions (Promethean Company, Director of Research at iNACOL, Research Associate for non-profit).

Question: Is the student successful at and satisfied with his/her job?

Evidence of Success (Since 2004):
• 100% satisfied based on personal communications
• Former student received 2011 AERA outstanding dissertation award
• Former student received 2010 AECT Young Scholar Award
• Former student profiled in the Chronicle of Higher Education
• Former student recently publishes a book about mentoring in virtual schools
• Former student serving in leadership in FCITL (Florida Council for Instructional
Technology Leaders)

I believe mentoring is a process of continual improvement and I learn something new about this process from each student with whom I work. While I am far from perfect in this or any other endeavor, I find the process of working with students and seeing them graduate and achieve their goals to be the most satisfying part of my work as a faculty member. It is an honor to be considered for an award that recognizes this passion.


Bull, G., Bell, L., Thompson, A., Schrum, L., Sprague, D., Maddux, C., Dawson, K. & Knezek, G. (2006). “An Invitation to Join an Early Career Mentoring Network in Technology and Teacher Education,” Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 14(4), 817 -827.

Brown, J.S., Collins, A., and Duguid, P. (1989). “Situated Cognition and the Culture of Learning,” Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32-42.

Dawson, K. & Ferdig, R.E. (2010). “Mentoring gaming and simulation graduate students for life outside academia (Part II)” in International Journal of Gaming and Computer­ Mediated Simulations, 2(2), i-vii.

Howard, G.S. (1996). Understanding human nature: An owners manual. Notre Dame, IN: Academic Publications.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation.Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

McAdams, D.P. (1995). “What do we know when we know a person?” _Journal of
Personality,_ 63(3), 365-396.

Packard, W. (2003). “Student training promotes mentoring awareness and action,”
Career Development Quarterly, 51(4), 335-345.