Using collaborative autoethnography to explore online doctoral mentoring: Finding empathy in mentor/protégé relationships

Jennifer O'Connor Duffy 1, Leah Wickersham-Fish 2, Linnea Rademaker 2, Elizabeth Wetzler 3

AM J QUALITATIVE RES, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp. 57-76

OPEN ACCESS   1823 Views   1298 Downloads

Download Full Text (PDF)


We used collaborative autoethnography (CAE) to investigate how we, in our prior work as doctoral mentors at an online institution that assigned students to dissertation chairs, navigated the challenges associated with relationship deterioration with some of our student protégés. We explored how the process of reflection and interrogation might shape our future responses to conflict so that we might improve our strategies for successful and satisfying mentoring outcomes. We applied Rusbult, Zembrodt, and Gunn’s (1982) framework, with constructs Exit, Voice, Loyalty, and Neglect (EVLN), to examine specific cases from our work as dissertation mentors. Originally created to help explain responses to romantic relationship deterioration, we applied this framework to the dissertation mentor-protégé relationship in order to reflect on ways to improve student progress. Two themes from our analysis of each case emerged from the data. Each theme tied to the student’s behavior and the impact that behavior had on our collective perception. Implications are provided for mentoring students in online doctoral programs.

Keywords: Collaborative autoethnography, online doctoral mentoring, mentor-protégé relationships