Applying the Challenge-Hindrance Stressor Framework to Doctoral Education

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Doctoral education is inherently stressful for students. While the implications of stress on employees has been heavily investigated within the management literature, what we know about stress has not yet been applied to doctoral education. We take initial steps toward using the stress literature to examine stress in doctoral education by applying the challenge-hindrance stressor framework to the doctoral education context. We briefly define both challenge and hindrance stressors and list common stressors for both related to prototypical learning experiences in doctoral education. Next, we point out that student responses to stress vary because of individual differences, influencing the extent to which students appraise stressors as more hindrance or challenge focused. We also provide rich examples of learning experiences within doctoral education that demonstrate how these experiences incorporate hindrance and challenge stressors. Through these examples, we illustrate how educators can design major learning experiences in doctoral education to address (or at least minimize) hindrance stressors and integrate more challenge stressors. Last, we provide theory-driven recommendations for doctoral educators to capitalize on the positive effects of challenge stressors, and we discuss ways to establish a future research agenda to empirically test the challenge-hindrance framework in the doctoral education context.

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