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Another approach to the issue of legitimacy is to consider, like reputational studies, those institutions and programs that have higher national rankings. If these are the programs others aspire to mimic, then do they use cohorts? Definitive answers to this question are also lacking. The best information available is the mixed results of the Barnett et al. (2000) and McCarthy and Kuh (1997) studies. As noted earlier Barnett et al. found cohorts to be used more extensively by institutions considered to be“higher”in academic categorization (i.e., larger, research institutions). However, McCarthy and Kuh found that the use of cohorts was not a variable that differentiated between comprehensive, doctoral, and research institutions.

Therefore, while the condition of uncertainty would suggest that the widespread use of cohorts has occurred in part due to educational leadership programs mimicking each other or the more prestigious professions, no data provide clear support for this conclusion. However, if mimicking behavior is indeed occurring, even less is known about what programs are serving as models for others and on what basis they are judged to be more legitimate and successful. These are questions that need to be addressed empirically.

Also, if modeling is occurring, the content of beliefs about cohorts, as well as linkages made between these field logics, need exploration–i.e., what beliefs are actually embedded in this modeling behavior and how are these linked to other belief systems? For example, some researchers (e.g., Cordeiro, et al., 1993; Weise, 1992; Saltiel&Russo, 2001; Barnett, et al., 2000) have suggested that cohorts are seen as mechanisms that provide program coherence and integrity, support student recruitment, and provide an effective way to organize students and limited faculty resources. Faculty opinions about the strengths and weaknesses of cohorts indeed appear to center as much or more on logistical and administrative issues as on their impact on learning and leadership performance (Barnett, et al., 2000). Therefore, is this field logic more about logistical arrangements and connected more to issues of effective and efficient resource utilization? If so, then how has it become connected to issues of learning outcomes, professional performance, and reform of educational leadership preparation programs? Also, how has this particular form of the field logic been promulgated throughout the field–i.e., more by administrators than by faculty members? These too are questions that need to be addressed.

Normative processes

"Organizations in a structured field…respond to an environment that consists of organizations responding to an environment of organizations' responses," (Powel&DiMaggio, 1991, p. 65)

We have argued so far that the use of cohorts in doctoral leadership preparation programs is ubiquitous (Barnett, et.al., 2000; Hart&Pounder, 1999; McCarthy&Kuh, 1997; Norton, 1995). We have also articulated that little conclusive evidence exists that clearly delineates that their use and implementation are principally the result of coercive processes, nor does the extant literature indicate that their frequency is solely a mimetic function. This leaves open the possibility that cohort structures are popular in these settings due also to normative forces.

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Source:  OpenStax, The handbook of doctoral programs: issues and challenges. OpenStax CNX. Dec 10, 2007 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10427/1.3
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