Individuals become prepared for and learn the roles of their new position through appropriate socialization.1,2 Socialization is a structured process of learning one's role that may occur within schooling (professional socialization) or at the onset of taking a new position (organizational socialization).2 Institutions of higher education typically offer methods to socialize and acclimate their new faculty members into the academic culture.3 These measures, known as organizational socialization, have included planned procedures that are formal such as orientation sessions and workshops.1,2,4 They also included measures that are less formal, but still considered to provide important organizational socialization benefits, such as interactions with colleagues and mentors.1,4
Organizational socialization measures can assist in the transition to a faculty position. For practitioners, this has proven to be challenging due to the differences between their prior clinical setting and the higher education setting.5 Higher education environments can be perceived as unstructured and more flexible compared to a highly systematized, scheduled, and controlled clinical setting where practitioners are accustomed to working.5 Practitioners may experience further complications or confusion in their new positions if they did not have adequate orientation to the new role or perceived a lack of guidance and limited support systems. Steinert et al6 indicated that as new faculty members continued to adjust to their roles, they required ongoing opportunities for development and reinforcement, particularly as they experienced new roles and responsibilities within their position. Understanding the organizational socialization process for junior faculty members can assist institutions to identify positive and negative aspects of their current practices and empower and encourage administrators to address the challenges faced by junior faculty in the transition to their new job.
Unfortunately, most of the literature providing suggestions for socializing agents does not focus on physical therapy and athletic training junior faculty members. Physical therapy and athletic training programs might be housed in the same organizational units at institutions of higher education. The programs may rely on each other for Interprofessional Education opportunities. Therefore, understanding the experiences of junior faculty in both groups could assist those supporting them by providing valuable knowledge about their needs when transitioning and for future success. There are few published studies that focus on evaluating the experiences and perceptions of practitioners who choose to become educators in physical therapy and athletic training relating to their organizational socialization. Given the impact athletic training and physical therapy professionals have on the well-being and health of their patients, understanding the socialization phenomenon for junior faculty members can help to determine best practices in preparation of these educators. Understanding and assisting new faculty members may assist in a developing positive education environment that may impact generations of students and the patients to whom they provide care. The purpose of this study is to gain a better understanding of the organizational socialization process for physical therapy and athletic training practitioners who have received an academic doctoral degree and are newly engaged in a faculty role. Two research questions guided the study:
- How do new athletic training and physical therapy faculty members describe their experiences of organizational socialization?
- What factors and processes are viewed as critical to new athletic training and physical therapy faculty members in learning the faculty role in higher education?
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Organizational socialization activities are those that are arranged and dictated by the organization.4 Austin7 determined socialization did not end with graduate school but continued to allow future faculty members to succeed in their roles. Through dissemination of pertinent information, organizational socialization can show junior faculty members the institution's goals and values.8 Among physical therapy faculty members, the highest level of stress was during the transition to becoming a faculty member.9 Organizational socialization included learning about the preferred practices of an institution.10 Learning preferred practices will help a faculty member determine their responsibilities as well as understand the expectations of the institution, perhaps decreasing stress during their transitional period. Additionally, a thorough socialization process will identified discrepancies in the new faculty members' and University's expectations.1,4,10 For example, a junior faculty member may believe their new faculty role is primarily focused on teaching, only to learn their new employer highly values research productivity. These expectation discrepancies can be unearthed and rectified in an effective socialization process.1,4,10 Congruity between the values and expectations of the institution and the faculty member assists the faculty member in finding comfort and understanding their role.1
Schoening5 identified a model illustrating nurses' transition from clinical practice to faculty called the Nurse Educator Transition Model. The model has 4 stages: anticipation/expectation, disorientation, information seeking, and identity formation. The first stage, anticipation, describes a happy, positive phase for the educator where the junior faculty member is eager to make a difference and contribute to their profession.5 The second stage, disorientation, is a contrast to the anticipation and excitement stage as it is characterized by negative feelings. Here, the new educator feels lost due to a lack of structure. Disorientation is magnified for new educators if they have not received adequate orientation or appropriate mentorship. Without those two facets, they have no path to guide them through the challenges they face. The third stage of the model, information seeking, occurs when the junior faculty members become motivated to help themselves find the support and knowledge they are lacking. The disorientation experienced previously now motivates junior faculty members to pursue informal mentors for assistance. The final stage of the Nurse Educator Transition Model5 is identity formation. In this phase, junior faculty members have gained the information they were lacking and are able to integrate their previous clinical experience with their teaching role, resulting in the formation of a new identity. A similar model was described in athletic training which examined the socialization process for collegiate athletic trainers.1 Since some uncertainty during entry into a new position was likely, those who did not find stability were predisposed to leaving the job or even the profession prematurely.1 The employing institution can utilize organizational socialization methods to assist new faculty and address the challenges faced by new instructors as they are transitioning to their faculty position.
The structure of an organization is evident through its organizational socialization methods.11 When an organization's values and expectations are shared and align with those of a new faculty member, they feel welcomed and are able to become comfortable with their new role.1 When entering a new organization, employees are seeking to learn ways to fit in and decrease their anxiety; appropriate organizational socialization provides answers to new faculty members and eases their transition to their new role.8 Peer support and mentors also play a vital role in helping new faculty complete projects and acquire new skills.6 When those new to their positions exhibited a clear understanding of their role, demonstrated self-efficacy for job tasks and are accepted socially, they are more likely to be successful and performed their job with a positive attitude.8
Traditionally, allied health education programs relied upon competent, enthusiastic clinicians to easily transition to faculty roles, but this is no longer the case.12,13 In addition to the challenges of transitioning from the clinical setting to the education setting, junior faculty must also adjust to their institution's educational environment and support structures.12,14 One common way junior faculty members are shown these expectations is through orientation sessions.2,5,12,15 Orientations should be designed to provide a comprehensive, institution-specific description of the new faculty member's role.12 Yet, research in physical therapy,15 athletic training,16 and nursing5 show that current orientation workshops may not be thorough enough to adequately prepare new faculty.
Orientation sessions should not be the only avenue for support and development of junior faculty as they take on a new position, particularly if institutions are not adequately preparing the faculty member or there are discrepancies in expectations.1,8 An institution may also assist new faculty in adjusting to the new environment by creating positive relationships with other faculty. Interactions with colleagues and coworkers can take place in communities of practice. Communities of practice are formed by groups of people who collaboratively share and learn through working together and have been shown to assist junior faculty members into their new position.17 Being a member of a community of practice is helpful for junior faculty; those who have participated in such communities reported decreased feelings of isolation and increased feelings support.6 When new faculty members do not have the support of their colleagues or administrators, they are less productive.12
Another facet of organizational socialization that may be employed by institutions of higher education is mentoring. Mentoring has been found to benefit socialization into the academic culture, while increasing communication, collaboration, and providing legitimation for new faculty development.9 Mentoring relationships fall into two categories, formally assigned or informally sought out through personal networks.18 Recent findings suggest that it may be particularly beneficial when mentoring relationships emerge naturally in the work environment as this shows the formation of an instinctive and intuitive relationship.18 Regardless of the formal or informal genesis of the relationship, mentors are particularly beneficial for junior faculty as they have provided support for teaching and learning as well as scholarly productivity.19
Understanding the methods that are used for organizational socialization among physical therapy and athletic training junior faculty members may provide valuable information for universities and administrators responsible for integrating junior faculty members into their departments. Capturing the perspectives of junior faculty members regarding the beneficial aspects of their organizational socialization will fill the gaps of literature in these fields. Further, this will allow institutions to focus their energy and resources on those areas that junior faculty find most helpful while eliminating practices that are not seen as valuable or beneficial. Ultimately, appropriate integration of junior faculty members into their faculty roles can positively impact their job performance as well as the educational outcomes of the educational program.
Twenty-six junior faculty members completed the study, 13 physical therapists and 13 athletic trainers. There were seven male and six female physical therapy participants. Their average age was 39 (±6.8) years old. Six participants had their Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree, while five had a Master of Science in Physical Therapy and two had a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy. All physical therapy participants had academic terminal degrees, including 10 participants who had earned PhD's and 3 EdD's. The physical therapy faculty members averaged 3 (±1.4) years in their current position and 2.7 (±2.6) years of experience as full-time faculty members prior to taking on their current full-time faculty role.
There were 4 male and 9 female athletic trainer participants. The average age for the athletic training participants was 35.4 (±5.3) years old. All athletic training participants had earned their Bachelor of Science in athletic training and also held academic terminal degrees. Eleven had earned PhD's and two had EdD's. The athletic training faculty members averaged 1.5 (±.6) years in their current position and 1.7 (±.9) years of experience as full-time faculty members prior to taking their current position.
This study utilized the qualitative methodology of phenomenology.20,21 The benefit of a phenomenological methodology is the ability to address how a process occurs through the eyes of individuals who have participated in or experienced the process.21,22 Using phenomenology, researchers are able to explore and understand situations and experiences through the eyes of participants who have first-hand knowledge.23
Participants were identified by emailing the Program Directors of all Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) accredited physical therapy education programs at the Doctor of Physical Therapy level and Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) accredited athletic training programs at both the professional bachelors and masters degree levels. In the email, the Program Directors were asked to forward a second email containing an information sheet along with the researcher's contact information to any potential participants meeting the inclusion criteria. The inclusion criteria was listed as 1) employment in a full-time faculty position in a CAPTE or CAATE accredited program for 1–4 years, 2) on a tenure track or eligible for reappointment, 3) having earned an academic doctoral degree. We sought participants with at least one but not more than 4 years of experience as we wanted them to have experienced at least one full year in their position but not have reached a tenure or promotion period. Potential participants were asked to contact the researchers if they were interested in completing the study.
An interview guide (Table 1—Interview Questions) was developed through adaptation from previous research.7,24 Experts from the fields of faculty development in physical therapy and athletic training reviewed the interview guide to validate its content and cohesion with the research agenda. Upon approval from the Institutional Review Board, the interview guide was piloted prior to data collection to ensure appropriate order, flow, and understanding of the questions.25 One-on-one interviews were conducted over the telephone, by one researcher. The conversations, lasting 60 minutes on average, were digitally recorded. The audio recording was sent via secure server to a professional transcription agency.
Data were analyzed following the multistep inductive methodological framework of interpretive phenomenological analysis.21,26 Analysis began with immersive reading of each individual transcript. Multiple researchers built upon their understanding of the participants' perspectives by comparing each new transcript to the previous one.21,27 Coding followed immersion; codes are labels assigned by the researchers to identify key points of the data related to the research questions.21,28 The coded segments were then gathered and sorted into categories based on their similarities.26,29 Themes were derived from compiling, arranging, and connecting each of the categories and linking their contexts.27
Trustworthiness was ensured through expert review and pilot testing of the interview guide. Credibility in the data analysis process was guided first by ensuring data saturation and then by multiple analyst triangulation. Saturation was achieved as evidenced in the coding process when no new codes were generated by analysis of several successive transcripts.28 Multiple analyst triangulation was accomplished by each of the three researchers completing the coding and categorization steps, described above, individually. Following this process, the three researchers compared, discussed, and triangulated their findings at in-person meetings and telephone conversations. Through discussion and the presentation of multiple examples, the researchers were able to come to a consensus agreement on the final thematic outline. The use of multiple researchers decreased the likelihood of a single researcher's bias infiltrating the results. Further, researchers included a representative from each of the professional fields, athletic training and physical therapy, thereby eliminating the possibility of bias toward or against ones field. As a final credibility check, a summary of the results was sent to each participant for validation and confirmation.
Analysis resulted in two primary components related to the organizational socialization of junior faculty in athletic training and physical therapy. The first, orientation activities, describes the workshops and ongoing meetings faculty members participated in which served to familiarize them with their new institution. The second, collegial work environments, identifies the role of colleagues in supporting junior faculty members as they transition to their new jobs through informal and peer mentoring. These relationships allowed junior faculty to understand their roles at the institution and integrate into their departments (Figure 1—Components of Organizational Socialization).
The primary method used by higher education organizations to initially socialize junior faculty members was an orientation session. All junior faculty members participated in an orientation session Kira, an athletic trainer, felt her orientation allowed her to learn about her new position and the expectations of her role, “They had New Faculty Orientation Day, and then they also start the year with a faculty day for the University, so that actually was a good way to learn a lot about my position.”
Orientation sessions also served as a way to help junior faculty member's transition into their new role. Ava, an athletic trainer, described her new faculty role and the impact of an orientation in assisting with her transition to a new place of work. She shared,
I think when you become a faculty member, there is a different expectation and things like that. So, to come to a completely new institution where you're not sure of whatever's going on and everybody's different, to have that [orientation] was really helpful. And to meet people, to put faces to names and to meet the other new faculty so that if you saw them around…you're in the same boat together.
As Ava identified, her orientation provided an avenue for her to learn not only about her role, but also about the resources available at their University. Geneva, a physical therapist said, “The University has some general orientation activities. Seemed like it was just a few days. Yeah, it was helpful. It was general university policy, procedures, how to get things done, what the different departments did and how they work together.” Learning about general policies and procedures allowed the junior faculty members to become familiar with their new institution's expectations. Similarly, Tom, a physical therapist, described the orientation process at his university and the variety of topics that were explored,
The University itself has a very structured orientation process over the course of a few days in the start of the fall semester, just to get oriented to the University. Mostly the benefits, reviewing the benefits and where to find information on the benefits and how to use the portals and how to use the learning management system for the University. How to use that system where you put your grades in and do all of that. How to communicate with information technology if you have something that needs to be addressed. Where to find the people that are higher up, that you might need in academic affairs or those types of offices.
Tom described an orientation process that was not only about general policies but seemed to cover a variety of topics that new faculty members may need to use in their new positions.
Other participants also described a variety of topics they learned about in their orientation workshops. In addition to general policy and procedural outlines, participants mentioned a variety of informational sessions on topics such as technology, human resources, tenure, and promotion. Amiya, an athletic trainer, referenced these resources saying,
There was a new faculty orientation and it was 3 days, about a week and a half before classes started. Most of it was orienting folks to resources on campus, our learning management systems, some pedagogy strategies, but mostly getting people kind of settled and acquainted with their fellow new faculty members and kind of ready to roll for the start of classes.
Amiya also discussed the importance of her orientation in getting her acquainted with the University and fellow new faculty members while providing her with strategies for success. Similarly, Vidal mentioned the topics that were covered in his session as well as the important role his orientation played in making him feel welcomed by his new employer,
We have a new faculty orientation here on campus. It was health insurance stuff, how to manage your time, how to say yes and no to committees, how to get along with your colleagues, it was well set up. I think might have been three days. So, that was really tremendous. It really, really was. It made us feel welcomed by our president, by our provost, by other faculty, other departments. It showed a lot more cohesiveness than I think I've ever thought that I would have.
All participants identified that their orientation served as the foundation for understanding the expectations of their faculty role. Junior faculty indicated their orientations sessions ranged from 1 day to 2 weeks with a few which lasted throughout the entire year. The participants indicated that their orientation sessions served not only as a place to gain information about important policies, procedures and expectations, but also as a venue where they could learn about culture of their new institution and its values.
Many participants reported their institutions offered ongoing meetings to the junior faculty cohort. Salma, an athletic trainer, shared this process,
The orientation is a full year, so a faculty who starts in September would be enrolled in that orientation from September through May. I think the fact that they actually commit to a full year of an orientation shows they really value that.
Sam, a physical therapist, described a similar process at his institution, “We had a new faculty workshop that we went to every week for the entire year. That was fantastic.”
Participants shared that these ongoing meetings were often hosted or attended by various members of the upper-level administration and occurred throughout the entire first year of employment. Rachel indicated these sessions helped her to feel comfortable and connected to the upper-level administration saying,
We did have meetings with our school director. We had one at the beginning of the semester and then we had one probably about every month, and if we need it more we could have more. So, the new faculty would go to her office and she would talk a lot through different things. So, that was helpful because it was just with our school director.
Participants felt a helpful aspect in their socialization was the existence of the ongoing meeting structure, which continued after the initial orientation and onboarding experience through the first year of employment. When asked about his orientation, Jackson described it as a series of ongoing meetings that included a variety of content,
Yes, they did, I think, it was biweekly, as well, and they had a bunch of institutional technology issues, book clubs. So, they had a bunch of opportunities to mingle with new professors and faculty about, how do you enter all that stuff? What are your teaching rules, and how you get more student engagement and all that stuff. So there were a bunch of issues that were discussed in that biweekly. It was like every Friday afternoon.
Participants, who reported having just one or two orientation meetings rather than the ongoing format described above, mentioned that they felt additional sessions could have been a more helpful format. Lee and Janelle, both athletic trainers, felt the orientation should be ongoing. Lee said, “But it needs to be more than just a one-day process,” while Janelle identified the complexities of the program director role saying, “If I were a new person, just starting as a program director, [I'd prefer] a 6 month to a year transition process. You have a lot of unique things [to go] through.” Both Lee and Janelle's comments indicate the importance of a thorough and ongoing orientation and onboarding process to help junior faculty in their transition.
Collegial Work Environments
The second theme related to the organizational socialization aspects of junior faculty, collegial work environments, describes how interactions with colleagues played a key role in the socialization of the new faculty. Participants reported that when their workplace was supportive and collegial, they felt more comfortable in their new position. Elin, an athletic trainer, said,
The faculty was so collaborative and open, they were really good at showing me the ropes. I actually share an office with another colleague who had been at the University for years so they knew everything already about ins and outs of our program and they were a huge help.
Likewise, Maria, a physical therapist said of her colleagues, “Very supportive. People were very friendly, very willing to sit down and discuss any issues that I had. If I was trying to get help in an area that I wasn't sure of. Everybody was open to helping me.” As Elin and Maria stated, the collegiality of their fellow faculty members helped them learn about their new roles and responsibilities.
Much of this collegiality was developed through informal mentoring. This involved junior faculty members seeking answers to their own questions from those they felt comfortable approaching. Amiya, an athletic trainer, discussed the importance of her colleagues in helping her in her new role,
I have informal mentors within my department who are very helpful to me and they are very invested in my growth and how satisfied and happy I am being here. But that's just because they're good people and I work with them on a daily basis and they care. We all work really well together. I think we complement each other really well, I just things that we collaborate really well. In terms of being a faculty member and just understanding what it means to be a member of the university community I think our department is very supportive.
Some participants indicated they sought out trusted colleagues for advice while others indicated asking their supervisors specific questions. Collegial work environments were prevalent with a large number of participants. The environment was facilitated by kindness and willingness of senior faculty to help junior faculty, which resulted in junior faculty feeling welcomed and included. Ethan said,
It is very collegial and very laid-back. I've been impressed with how willing everybody here is to help each other and just even people giving me guidance and kind of sit me down and meet with me, asked me how things are going and helping me out with different things or filling me in on the background of why things are the way they are, how different things should be done, just based on their own experiences.
Though some participants indicated they had been assigned formal mentors, this was not prevalent in the majority of participants and was not found to be beneficial. Those who did not have formal mentors or whose formal mentors were perceived as ineffective sought information on their own from colleagues they trusted or had access to. For Roger, a physical therapist, an informal relationship developed through collaboration with a researcher who was a colleague,
It is sort of unofficial, but I have basically been assigned a senior faculty member as a mentor, we have been meeting somewhat regularly. Somebody who does basic science research like I do and has been able to guide and help me navigate through this initial period of learning and becoming acclimated with the school and the program. I have never had somebody specifically tell me that this person has a responsibility to be my research mentor. However, she has had that role so that why I say it is unofficial.
Though the genesis of the research mentor relationship was in an unofficial capacity, Roger indicated that a coworker had played a key role in assisting his socialization into the department and university. Samar, an athletic trainer, also believed that the support of colleagues, supervisors, and peers were integral in increasing her comfort level with her new role,
People like to work together, even interdisciplinary. I work well with a lot of other exercise science faculty in trying to collaborate on projects or advice and teaching and mentoring, all those other facets of being a faculty member that you don't learn about until you are one.
Through the relationships Samar formed with fellow faculty members, Samar was able fill in some of the gaps in her understanding of her position. Many faculty members described similar processes occurring in their jobs. The collaboration between junior and senior faculty assisted our participants in feeling supported and valued in their new jobs as well as being integrated into the department and university. Junior faculty members felt the informal relationships they were able to form with their colleagues assisted them in gaining a clear picture of their role as well as provided them with valuable support and advice.
The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of the organizational socialization process for physical therapists and athletic trainers' practitioners who are newly engaged in a faculty role. We wanted to know how they described the organizational socialization process they experienced, including which socialization methods they believed were most critical to learning their faculty role. Junior faculty member descriptions of their experiences of organizational socialization focused on two critical areas: orientation activities and collegial work environments. These two areas allowed our participants to understand their individual roles, the expectations of the institution and provided a means to socially integrate into their departments.
The first socialization mechanism participants described was orientation activities. The orientation activities included both initial onboarding workshops as well as ongoing meetings, which helped socialize them to their new role and institution. These findings are in contrast to published reports in the allied health sciences. In a commentary piece about athletic training education, the authors stated, “Your new orientation, if you have one, will not even scratch the surface of what you need to know.”p.90, 16 Similarly, in a study of new nurse educators, all participants identified a perception of poor or even nonexistent orientation to their roles and responsibilities.5 In that same study, nursing educators who had received an orientation described the sessions to be as short as just a few hours.5 According to previous research, the orientation sessions limited to one session may not be effective.13 Our participants described a wide range of orientation programming lengths, from just a few days to weekly sessions occurring throughout their first year.
Though some orientation programs in allied health sciences are lacking, there are examples of positive findings within our fields. In a study of graduate students beginning their first job as a credentialed athletic trainer, orientation sessions were found to be valuable in aiding practitioner's transition to their new role.2 Just as the workshops our participants described, the workshops the graduate athletic trainers attended provided foundational job-related information and outlined the employer's expectations.2 Also like our cohort, the graduate athletic trainers studied by Walker et al2 reported their orientations sessions were structured with information that assisted their transition to their new position. The junior faculty in our study felt their orientation sessions were beneficial in providing them with both their employers' expectations as well as technical (learning management systems, audiovisual equipment, grading submission platforms, etc.) and practical (health insurance, benefits, human resources, etc.) information integral to their new position. Other findings similar to ours described orientation programs for nurse educators had a positive impact on future faculty development and assisted the new faculty member in integrating into their new position.12 As our participants stated, their orientations made them feel welcome and valuable.
The junior faculty members in our study described a number of topics being covered in their orientation sessions. Previous suggestions for the development of orientation programs have included providing information related to the institution's specific mission and philosophy as well as the introduction of necessary practical applications such as equipment and technology.12 New faculty members may not be familiar with the institutions learning management systems, web-based applications used for instruction, and grading or specific teaching tools in the classroom. The junior faculty in our study indicated that their orientation programming included these topics as well as information regarding health insurance and required service to the institution. The faculty indicated that learning about these items answered questions they had prior to the workshop and eased their stress. Further, the faculty felt the orientation demonstrated that their institution valued them and cared about their integration into the campus community.
As mentioned previously, some of the junior faculty indicated their orientation programming was ongoing, in some cases lasting a full year. While providing junior faculty members with the appropriate opportunities and resources for success in their new position is valuable, many of our participants felt doing so in an ongoing manner was a more effective model. The participants valued having a continually available avenue for pursuing answers to their questions as a means to continue their development. This finding fits with previous literature identifying the importance of new faculty orientations focused on continued growth and the ongoing process of development.12 Institutions offer a plethora of resources that junior faculty must become acquainted with. The orientation workshop is a valuable time for junior faculty to learn about and understand their role and expectations placed on them by the university.
The second process that was viewed as critical to the socialization of physical therapy and athletic training junior faculty members was the existence of a collegial work environment. The supportive work environment allowed junior faculty members to consult their colleagues through informal and peer mentoring relationships that served to clarify their roles and responsibilities while providing advice and encouragement throughout their transition. These findings are similar to an arrangement of a mentoring-type relationship that occurs with peers. Peer mentoring has been used in education settings, particularly among students, as they reported feeling open and safe with their peers when receiving guidance or in vulnerable situations.17 For example, when one doctoral student who has published a manuscript provides guidance and availability to assist and mentor another doctoral student who is writing their first manuscript for publication. This example is similar to the description of collegial relationships our participants experienced with their coworkers. Mentors did not always have many more years of experience than their mentee. Findings in nursing have pointed to the benefits of peer mentors who have identified with and provided support for junior faculty members in the form of advice on strategies specific to their shared workplace.5 In this instance, a colleague, who may be the same age as a junior faculty member but who has been at the institution longer, may assist the new educator with integrating into the culture of the University. This is indeed the model articulated by our participants as they described their colleague's willingness to answer their questions and provide help.
Research in allied health sciences education demonstrated the positive effects of mentoring relationships.9,18,30,31 In a study of new nursing educators, several positive outcomes were identified in a mentor program.31 The success of the program was evident through increased job satisfaction among new faculty, higher rates of retention of the faculty, and an improvement in quality of the educational product.31 This matches a study in physical therapy whereby new faculty who experienced mentoring were found to be more committed and satisfied in their jobs, remained at their institutions longer, and provided a better learning atmosphere for their students through the use of research and practical examples.9 Like the findings in nursing and physical therapy, our participants indicated their coworkers assisted them through general guidance, answering questions, sharing teaching strategies, or assisting on research initiatives. Given the importance and weighty goals of physical therapy and athletic training programs to prepare highly competent professionals, capitalizing on any measures that may increase the quality of the educational product is important.
Though there are many positive benefits of mentoring, and it is a strategy that will assist new faculty in their transition to become educators, it may not be occurring at all institutions. In a study by Harrison and Kelly,30 new physical therapist educators articulated a need for more help and support from seasoned and experienced colleagues. Zipp et al,9 in a study of 66 new, nontenured physical therapy faculty members, found that only 15 reported having a mentor (though all participants indicated a mentor could have helped them). The physical therapy faculty members in Zipp et al9 study specifically identified that they believed a mentor was needed to provide support and guidance to understand the academic culture. The few participants who reported the presence of mentoring stated that those relationships focused on teaching strategies as well as research, university-specific aspects, service, and promotion.9 Most of the participants in our study also reported their relationships with colleagues served in this capacity, helping them to understand the University structure while providing them a supportive setting in which to learn and grow.
Mentoring relationships are more beneficial to institutions when they are not just a one-way flow of support for a mentee. The mentoring, or collegial relationship, can be reciprocated between mentor and mentee.18 In addition, working in an environment that stimulated that type of reciprocity initiated a cyclical process that benefited future colleagues as well.18 Findings in athletic training indicated that when one received a positive mentoring experience, it can create a cycle where they are more likely to serve as a mentor and pass along what they learned.17 Further, a collegial environment fuels collaboration and feeling of community. In medical education, when coworkers interacted to solve problems, it can led to the creation and promotion of collegial networks or “communities of practice.”6 When the workplace environment resembled a community, junior faculty members have reported feeling more supported, less isolated,6 and more productive.12 Physical therapy and athletic training programs should continue to leverage these socialization strategies to assist their junior faculty members.
Suggestions for Further Socialization
Through a greater understanding of the successful facets of their existing organizational socialization endeavors, institutions and administrators can create programs and offer opportunities that will continue to help their newly hired educators. Such programs will assist junior faculty members to integrate into their new environment and will increase the educational output of the program while easing stress and anxiety for the faculty member. Orientation sessions must continue to be offered along with careful consideration of the content within each sessions. Institutions must include those aspects of their culture that are of primary importance for the junior faculty member to know while also providing opportunities for the faculty member to gain an understanding of their position and exposure to resources on campus who can assist them in their first few years of employment. The implementation and maintenance of a collegial culture within the workplace will also assist junior faculty. Program administrators can ensure seasoned, experienced faculty members are available, open, and willing to encourage and assist junior faculty members as they transition to the new position. While orientation sessions and collegial networks can ease a faculty member into their new position and support them throughout their transition, there are other methods highlighted in the literature that did not appear to be present for a majority of our participants.
One such strategy institutions can implement to assist a junior faculty members' socialization is team-teaching.19,32 When new instructors are paired with one who is experienced in teaching a given course, they can share the load and responsibilities. Sharing the load decreases the volume of materials that must be prepared by the new educator. Additionally, this arrangement created an environment that allowed the junior faculty member to watch and learn from a seasoned educator, gaining both valuable insight and an opportunity for feedback.19,32 As the participants in our study indicated, their coworkers did provide them with guidance and support. The addition of team-teaching pairs would further bolster those relationships and provide greater benefits.
Another example of a socialization strategy that could be implemented is to allow junior faculty to have an adjusted workload or gradual role acceptance.5,19,32 Gradual role acceptance can be implemented by allowing the junior faculty member release time from the standard workload in their first semester or year. Therefore, rather than teaching four courses each semester, perhaps they would only teach three. Peterson and Sandholtz19 suggest the decreased teaching load allows the junior faculty member more time to prepare materials for their new classes, a process that has been identified as extremely time intensive and burdensome. Results from a study in nursing showed that when new educators gradually accepted responsibilities of their new position, they had an easier time integrating into their new roles and formed positive identities.5 A few faculty members in our study reported being afforded release time, in the form of decreased teaching load, to allow more time for administrative or research related duties. However, there was not a consistent or standard model of release time structure among our participants.
For a release time structure to be approved or implemented, administrators in charge of assigning workload must facilitate the execution of this workload alteration.19 Indeed, many strategies that can be enacted to assist junior faculty members must be designed or identified by the institution and the administrators supervising the faculty. The lack of institutional and administrative support for faculty development has specifically been identified as a potential barrier.6
Limitations and Future Research
Though the objective of our study was achieved, our sample size was small. We believe there is further information that can be gained from continued study of this population. We discussed with our participants the topics covered within their orientation sessions but did not ask them for a complete list of activities or to rate the importance or usefulness of each topic. Further information on important content and topics within organizational socialization initiatives could be gathered since the usefulness and application of various topics is yet to be determined. This knowledge would streamline the orientation process and ensure that faculty members receive only vital, pertinent information in those sessions. Our study focused on collecting, qualitatively, a holistic impression of the overall organizational socialization process. We believe this builds an important foundation upon which further information can be added. For example, a larger group of new faculty could be sampled and a variety of outcome measures could be collected with quantitative metrics, such as satisfaction with organizational socialization activities, overall job satisfaction, commitment to continue in a new role, or success of the junior faculty member in the role. Finally, individual characteristics such as personality or self-efficacy could be could be examined as they too may have an impact on the junior faculty members' experience in their new role.
We set out to gain a better understanding of the organizational socialization process for physical therapy and athletic training junior faculty members with newly earned academic doctoral degrees. In learning more about their experiences of organization socialization and the critical processes they participated in, we found two overarching themes. The junior faculty members indicated that orientation activities and collegial work environments were most important in the organizational socialization process. These two avenues of organizational socialization assisted our participants in understanding their role as a faculty member in the context of their department and the greater university. Schoening's5 Nurse Educator Transition Model points to a period of disorientation experienced by junior faculty members that may be unavoidable. The experiences of our participants point to the useful nature of orientation sessions and the creation of collegial work environments as being helpful in their socialization. Institutions must not be satisfied with minimal organizational socialization programming. The more opportunities that can be pursued to help junior faculty members integrate into the culture of the organization and understand their new role, the better the educational product will be.