Date of Award

Fall 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


STEM Education & Professional Studies

Committee Director

Jill E. Stefaniak

Committee Member

Tian Luo

Committee Member

Christopher Glass


Graduate students encounter specific career difficulties in making career decisions, and turn to various sources of assistance, help-seeking resources and guidance (Gati, Gadasi & Shemesh, 2005). Previous research into graduate student career needs have not sought to better understand the specific differences between international and domestic graduate students in instructional design. As a result, the factors that influence and impact graduate students in the context of their career decision making within an instructional design graduate program remain unexplored.

This mixed methods study captured actual career related difficulties of graduate instructional design students through a conceptual framework based on Bandura (1986) and Lent’s (1994) social cognitive career theory, emphasizing the importance of interactions with key factors such as career readiness, access to career information and consistent and reliable career information. Participants recorded their levels of career decision-making difficulty through an online survey, the Career Decision Making Questionnaire (CDDQ), (Gati, Kraus & Osipow, 1996). The CDDQ was used to measure: 1) lack of readiness, 2) lack of information and 3) inconsistent information. Independent t-tests compared mean scores per question in each category among the domestic and international student groups, indicating statistical significance. A demographic questionnaire added to the CDDQ captured participant’s demographic information and resources utilized. A sample (n=20) of the participants completed semi-structured follow up interviews.

This study indicates that the current level of support for graduate students in instructional design may not be robust enough to support their needs. It also demonstrates the value of mixed method approaches toward better understanding instructional design students, their avenues for accessing career information, and the benefit of assisting students with career decision-making. The results demonstrate that graduate students have specific career needs and experience career decision-making difficulty regardless of country of origin, primarily in the pre-decision making phase and in working through internal and external sources of conflict. The psychosocial mechanisms revealed by this study can help educators (including professional organizations, university practitioners and academic advisors) better understand both domestic and international student’s challenges, and eventually facilitate their academic and career success.


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