by Constance Davis | November 3, 2010
A mentor and I recently had a conversation about a mentee who just dug in his heels and did not want to accept any of the feedback the mentor and the committee provided him. Apparently the mentee insisted that HE was the expert and that clearly the committee members did not know what they were talking about.
The mentor asked me why some mentees demonstrate such vehement opposition to feedback. I really did not have much of an answer, but then I thought that maybe those are the mentees who are not really scholars and are not going to ever be scholars.
I think that many doctoral programs do have scholars and non-scholars—or those who are trying to obtain the degree for some other reason. The non-scholars are the ones who are most likely to reject feedback from the mentor and committee. Or, when they are finally forced to make some changes, they just take the mentor feedback, incorporate it, and wait for more feedback. They really do not get the “process.” All they do is “make corrections.” They are unable or unwilling to make connections and to reflect in a way so that they are actually driving much of the content.
On the other hand, a scholar is one who listens and wonders and who grows intellectually. I like to explain it as a mushroom cloud. I know that is a rather ominous term, but that is exactly how the intellect and curiosity should grow. It expands and expands and expands. And it never really stops growing.
A scholar will reflect on the mentor feedback and then find ways to build upon that feedback. As part of that building process, a scholar finds more and more information that is going to strengthen the dissertation. When that happens, the scholar is the one driving the content of the dissertation.
The completion of a dissertation is not the end of the learning, however, for a scholar. A scholar will remain curious all of his or her life. S/He will see research possibilities everywhere. A scholar is very likely to be heard saying, “I wonder if . . .”
This is only scratching the surface of what a scholar might be. How would you describe a scholar?