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Professional Development: Shaping Effective Programs for STEM Graduate Students

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This report includes findings from a two-year CGS project (2014-2016), funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, to map the landscape of professional development programming at U.S. universities for graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and to identify opportunities to enhance student preparation for a full range of careers in the advanced STEM workforce.
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... According to a Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) report (2017), doctoral and masters' programs are narrowly focused on student's academic preparation at the expense of developing authentic leadership and professional skills (Denecke, Feaster, & Stone, 2017). ...
... In many cases, graduate students receive little or no authentic training in leadership skills and competencies that are required to help them thrive as leaders in their field. As such, graduate students are not adequately prepared to enter the workforce as vital contributors in industry, government, non-profits, entrepreneurial ventures, and as faculty (Denecke, Feaster, & Stone, 2017). The misalignment between the narrow preparation graduate students receive and the skills that the 21 stcentury workforce requires students to have to thrive as competitive leaders in the workforce has resulted in widespread calls for reform (Denecke, Feaster, & Stone, 2017). ...
... As such, graduate students are not adequately prepared to enter the workforce as vital contributors in industry, government, non-profits, entrepreneurial ventures, and as faculty (Denecke, Feaster, & Stone, 2017). The misalignment between the narrow preparation graduate students receive and the skills that the 21 stcentury workforce requires students to have to thrive as competitive leaders in the workforce has resulted in widespread calls for reform (Denecke, Feaster, & Stone, 2017). For example, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) professional associations such as the American Chemical Society (ACS, 2012) issued a report that called for universities to better prepare students with professional and leadership skills for careers after graduate school. ...
... Recommendations of desired professional skills competencies for doctorates have emerged from student surveys, employer surveys, committee reports, and workshops [4,5,9,[12][13][14]. A compilation of these recommendations is reported in Table 1. ...
... Evaluation of effectiveness of training was similar to recommendations by Denecke et al. [12], which align with the principals of the Kirkpatrick Four Level Model of Evaluation [16]. While originally developed as a tool for evaluation of human resources training, this evaluation model is widely used and has been adapted to assessment of higher education [17]. ...
... Leadership [9,[12][13][14] Communication [4,9,[12][13][14] Project management [4,9,12,13] Teamwork [4,5,[12][13][14] Critical thinking [12][13][14] Collaboration [4,5,12,13] Time management [5,12] Setting visions and goals [5] Managing others [5,14] Career planning/awareness [5] Networking [9] Interculture competency [12] Problem solving [12] Resilience [12] Entrepreneurship [12] Science policy [12] Page 3 of 14 Schaller and Gatesman-Ammer BMC Medical Education (2022) 22:419 would require direct measurements of the success of trainees at managing conflict and negotiating. The timing of training sessions and surveys for workshops and classes is illustrated in Fig. 1. ...
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Background Analysis of the biomedical workforce and graduate education have produced recommendations for modifications of pre-doctoral training to broadly prepare trainees for wider ranging scientific careers. Development of training in professional skills is widely recommended, but details of implementation are not widely available. In alignment with these recommendations, we have incorporated professional skills training into the biomedical science graduate curriculum at West Virginia University. An important component of the training is developing conflict resolution and negotiation skills. This training will provide useful skills for academic careers, non-academic careers and life situations outside of the workplace. Conflict resolution/negotiation skills are also relevant in managing issues in diversity, equity and inclusivity. We report our experience in developing this component of the training program, provide an overview of the approach to delivery and practice of skills, and provide an analysis of the reception and effectiveness of the training. Methods Evaluation of effectiveness of training used the principals of the Kirkpatrick Four Level Model of Evaluation. At the end of the course, students completed a questionnaire about their perceptions of training and were asked how they would respond to different scenarios requiring conflict resolution/negotiation skills. Several months later, students were surveyed to determine if they used some of these skills and/or witnessed situations where these skills would be useful. Results We report our experience in developing conflict resolution/negotiation training in our graduate curriculum, provide an overview of the approach to delivery and practice of skills, and provide an analysis of the reception and effectiveness of the training. The results suggest this training meets a need and is effective. Importantly, these materials provide a template for others wishing to implement similar training in their curricula. Conclusions Conflict resolution and negotiation training meets a need in graduate education. A mixed approach using didactic and interactive components spaced out over time appears to be an effective method of training.
... CREATE has worked within a limited budget to increasingly prioritise this as the program has developed. Professional development and networking opportunities as recommended by specialists in academic development [9,12,18] and those with a particular interest in ECRs in health and medical research [19,20] have been offered in via a mentoring program, conferences and symposia, presentation opportunities, and on-line training, as described below. ...
... Consistent with recommendations regarding the benefit of a range of networking activities with peers and with senior researchers [19,20] these CREATE Symposia have provided the ECRs with the opportunity to meet, share ideas and showcase their work and have offered the opportunity for all involved in the CRE-PF network to meet with informal time for discussion. CREATE ECRs have also had the opportunity to meet international leaders in pulmonary fibrosis research attending the larger meeting. ...
... Feedback from the group indicated a strong desire to wait and hold an in-person event, now planned for November 2021. The weekend will offer intensive researcher development on topics recommended by organisations such as Vitae in the UK [25,26] and the Council of Graduate Schools in the USA [19]. This will include educational and upskilling sessions on topics selected by the ECRs as their areas of need, along with networking and collaboration building opportunities; and team building experiences. ...
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Background The purpose of the National Health and Medical Research Council Centre of Research Excellence in Pulmonary Fibrosis (CRE-PF) is to improve and extend the lives of patients living with pulmonary fibrosis through the development of a comprehensive and integrated program of basic and clinical research and education across Australia. A key objective of the CRE-PF was establishment of a unique national training scheme, CREATE, for early-career researchers (ECRs) in respiratory research. CREATE ECRs are broadly drawn from two main fields of researchers: clinicians and scientists, where clinicians tend to be involved in part-time translational research and scientists are involved in broad scientific research including laboratory or genetic research, health economics or population research. Methods We describe the CREATE Program which, with limited budget and the assistance of key organisations, has provided funding opportunities (scholarships, fellowships, prizes, travel and collaboration grants), professional development (mentoring program, symposia, presentation opportunities and on-line training) and fostered a connected, supportive research community for respiratory ECRs. Results The CREATE program has successfully fostered the development of the supported researchers, contributing substantially to the future of pulmonary fibrosis research in Australia. During the life of the program the CRE-PF has offered 10 PhD scholarships and five postdoctoral fellowships, awarded 13 travel grants and three grants to promote collaboration between ECRs from different institutes. A mentoring program has been established and CREATE Symposia have been held in association with key meetings. During COVID-19 restrictions, a series of virtual research meetings has offered 12 CREATE ECRs from seven universities the opportunity to present their research to a national audience. CREATE research-related achievements are impressive, including over 80 first-author publications by ECRs, and many conference presentations. Contributions to the research community, measured by committee membership, is also strong. Conclusions In spite of a very limited budget, wide geographic distribution of participants and the multi-disciplinary nature of the cohort, we have succeeded in providing a unique, supportive academic development environment for CREATE ECRs. Lessons learned in the process of developing this program include the importance of leveraging funding, being flexible, building networks and seeking and responding to ECR input.
... This authorship team-faculty and staff collaborating across different institutional, disciplinary, and programmatic contexts-had to grapple with defining a flexible notion of "good" writing applicable across a variety of STEM disciplines, taught to STEM faculty, practiced by STEM students, and ultimately supported by STEM administrators and funding agencies. Because we were in communication throughout that process, we share our experiences in this collaborative piece to build on continued calls for the development of STEM writing and communication skills as part of the education and professionalization of STEM undergraduate and graduate students (Fuhrmann et al., 2011;Denecke et al., 2017). We use the terms writing and communication here to encompass all modes of building, sharing, and reinforcing knowledge. ...
... During rubric development, we considered interdisciplinary sources such as impact measures in science communication and engagement (Coppola, 1999;Bucchi, 2013;Fischhoff, 2013;Denecke et al., 2017;of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine et al., 2017), specialist assessment work being done in engineering undergraduate writing (Boettger, 2010), researcher oral presentations (Dunbar et al., 2006), and public science communication rubrics (Mercer-Mapstone and Kuchel, 2017; Murdock, n.d) as well as best practices in writing assessment (Rutz and Lauer-Glebov, 2005;Huot and O'Neill, 2009;Adler-Kassner and O'Neill, 2010). This diverse list of sources points to the disjointed and siloed nature of discussions taking place in science writing, science communication, rhetoric, and teaching and learning practices more broadly. ...
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We respond to a surging interest in science communication training for graduate scientists by advocating for a focus on rhetorically informed approaches to STEM writing and its assessment. We argue that STEM communication initiatives would benefit by shifting from a strategic focus on products to a flexible understanding of writing as a practice worthy of attention and study. To do that, we use our experience across two universities and two distinct programmatic contexts to train STEM graduate students in writing and communication. We draw from cross-disciplinary conversations to identify four facets of “good” STEM writing: (1) connecting to the big picture; (2) explaining science; (3) adhering to genre conventions; and (4) choosing context-appropriate language. We then describe our ongoing conversations across contexts to develop and implement flexible rubrics that capture and foster conversations around “good” writing. In doing so, we argue for a notion of writing rubrics as boundary objects, capable of fostering cross-disciplinary, integrative conversations and collaborations that strengthen student writing, shift STEM students toward a rhetorically informed sense of “good” writing, and offer that kinds of assessment data that make for persuasive evidence of the power of writing-centric approaches for STEM administrators and funders.
... Postdoctoral Training: Over the past decade, leaders in STEM education have called for career and professional development (CPD) to become an essential part of PhD and postdoctoral training (Denecke et al., 2017;Hitchcock et al., 2017; Committee on Revitalizing Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century et al., 2018; Committee on the Next Generation Initiative et al., 2018;Bixenmann et al., 2020;Brandt et al., 2020;Mitic and Okahana, 2020). CPD education programming and resources target transferable competencies essential for academic, scientific, and career success. ...
Article
National reports and funding mandates have called for trainee-centered PhD and postdoctoral training and the need to support diverse career outcomes. As a result, career and professional development (CPD) resources have expanded at several institutions. Despite the growth of innovative and impactful CPD resources, access to and awareness of resources have been inconsistent and inequitable for graduate and postdoctoral trainees. In the current model, core education occurs in two unconnected ways: faculty research mentors provide scientific competencies training, while CPD educators provide transferable competencies training, which is separate from the curriculum and optional at most institutions. Research mentors are influential in supporting trainee engagement with CPD programs; however, most are either unaware of the rapidly growing opportunities or may not see the direct benefit to scientific development and productivity. Due to this disconnect, some trainees can be inadvertently distanced from CPD resources, leading to more inequities among groups. To bridge this gap, here we propose a realignment of the current model via a set of practical and collaborative solutions providing benefit to all stakeholders. With greater awareness and collaboration, research mentors and CPD educators can complement each other’s expertise to better support trainee experiences and outcomes.
... For example, doctoral students not only build their disciplinary foundation but also demonstrate capability of conceptualizing and conducting research through their dissertation. Experts agree that successful doctoral programs mentor dependent students [1][2][3][4] and develop them into independent scholars. 2,[5][6][7] However, today is a challenging time for many doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers, regardless of discipline. ...
Article
Background: As greater career development support for doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers has been emphasized, the individual development plan (IDP) has become a recommended mentoring tool. However, little is known about the effect of IDPs on mentoring and career development. This study proposed two conceptual models to examine the interrelationships among the use of IDPs, mentoring support, and career preparedness with a diverse sample of doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers in the life sciences. Methods: The data leveraged for this study was collected over a three-month period, March 2016 to June 2016, as part of a cross-sectional, online survey. The survey was distributed through social media and direct email to participants enrolled in life/biological/medical or physical/applied doctoral programs at U.S. institutions. To test the proposed conceptual models, this study employed the design-based multilevel structural equation modeling. Results: The analytic sample comprised 660 doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers in the life sciences from 91 institutions. The results suggested that 1) using the IDP could enhance mentoring support and career preparedness of doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers; 2) greater mentoring support and career preparedness would motivate mentees to continue utilizing the IDP with their principal investigator (PI) or advisor; and 3) females, postdoctoral researchers, and international scholars might need more support throughout the mentoring and career development process. Conclusions: This research offered empirical evidence for how an IDP, mentorship, and career preparedness interact. Findings revealed the IDP enhances mentoring support and career preparedness, as well as mentoring support and career preparedness predict IDP use. We conclude the IDP is an important mentorship tool that enhances trainees’ overall career preparation.
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Purpose Recent research on graduate students’ diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) socialization found that graduate colleges play a role in supporting graduate students’ DEI professional development (Perez et al. , 2020), but more studies are needed about how graduate colleges facilitate DEI socialization. One graduate college at a large, selective, research-intensive, public university in the Midwestern US created a graduate certificate for professional development in DEI to expand graduate students’ capacities to contribute to inclusion and equity in higher education. The purpose of this multi-method program evaluation is to assess whether the certificate program created significant learning about DEI and developed intercultural competence among graduate students. Design/methodology/approach The authors rely on multiple methods to evaluate the impact of the professional development DEI certificate. First, the authors used the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) pre and postassessment to measure the growth of participants in the first three years of the program. Second, the authors designed a reflection tool to assess significant learning after each component of the program. Finally, we conducted focus groups with graduates of the program to understand what program components were most valuable for DEI-related significant learning. Findings The authors found that the DEI professional development program increased students’ intercultural competence as measured by the IDI. Students reported perceptions of significant learning in every domain of learning we assessed using a self-reflection tool and in focus groups. Originality/value To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study that demonstrates how graduate colleges contribute to DEI socialization by preparing graduate students to interact across differences and contribute to inclusive climates both within and beyond academe.
Article
bold xmlns:mml="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML" xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink">About the case: First-generation Latinx students in technical and professional communication (TPC) and other graduate programs represent a growing percentage of students, yet stories of their experiences within higher education remain muted. We analyzed 10 Latinx testimonios (culturally situated narratives) wherein they voice their experiences as first-generation students in US graduate programs. Testimonialistas expressed how they navigate the complexities of being first-generation students and described how they persist and enact social justice. Situating the case: TPC programs may examine the relationship between social injustices and student retention and recruitment efforts, yet there is a dearth of literature regarding specific obstacles that Latinx students face. We examined how they build success through coalitional action and culturally informed tactical decision-making. Methods: We recruited participants who self-identified as first-generation Latinx students in TPC and other graduate programs. We conducted and recorded semistructured interview sessions based in testimonio and intersectional feminist methodologies. We used qualitative data coding and MAXQDA coding software to assemble and map social justice themes at work across the testimonios . Results: Analysis suggests that first-generation Latinx graduate students draw on complex informal and formal networks to aid their success, desire more effective culturally responsive mentorship, and develop tactical decision-making skills to circumvent oppressive behaviors. Conclusions: We suggest that directors, mentors, administrators, faculty, and Latinx students begin with a social justice framework to better listen to, understand, and address first-generation Latinx college experiences and build cohort-based support mechanisms into programmatic objectives and professional development sessions.
Article
There are long‐held concerns about how graduate research programs prepare engineering PhD students for professional practice. Suitable instruments are lacking to effectively assess how research experiences contribute to the success of graduate students becoming professionals. The purpose of this work is to examine evidence of internal reliability and validity of using the research experiences instrument (REI) scores as a measure of engineering PhD students' professional practice opportunities in their research experiences. REI was constructed using an ontological framework. REI was administered twice to engineering PhD students, once to a single university (n = 236) and once to multiuniversities (n = 215). Psychometric analyses were conducted related to validity and reliability evidence, including exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, and group score comparisons between genders, race/ethnicity, and engineering disciplines. Results of both factor analyses aligned with the theoretical five‐factor structure, with a second‐order Opportunity factor. Mean scores were the same between women and men, and for three engineering disciplines, but significantly lower for racially/ethnically minoritized groups. Factor scores indicate that students often lack opportunities to engage with professionals, a likely cause of students' professional practice struggles. Evidence of validity has been provided to justify the use of REI to assess the unique research experiences of engineering PhD students as these relate to preparedness for professional practice. REI scores can be used for gender and race/ethnicity comparisons and are generalizable across engineering disciplines. Where students' REI scores show a lack of opportunities, remedial strategies can be implemented.
Article
Purpose Program evaluation stands as an evidence-based process that would allow institutions to document and improve the quality of graduate programs and determine how to respond to growing calls for aligning training models to economic realities. This paper aims to present the current state of evaluation in research-based doctoral programs in STEM fields. Design/methodology/approach To highlight the recent evaluative processes, the authors restricted the initial literature search to papers published in English between 2008 and 2019. As the authors were motivated by the shift at NIH, this review focuses on STEM programs, though papers on broader evaluation efforts were included as long as STEM-specific results could be identified. In total, 137 papers were included in the final review. Findings Only nine papers presented an evaluation of a full program. Instead, papers focused on evaluating individual components of a graduate program, testing small interventions or examining existing national data sets. The review did not find any documents that focused on the continual monitoring of training quality. Originality/value This review can serve as a resource, encourage transparency and provide motivation for faculty and administrators to gather and use assessment data to improve training models. By understanding how existing evaluations are conducted and implemented, administrators can apply evidence-based methodologies to ensure the highest quality training to best prepare students.
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Based on a year-long study, this report provides an overview about what is known about PhD career pathways, and provides recommendations about how to learn more.
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Today's doctoral programs continue to prepare students for a traditional academic career path despite the inadequate supply of research-focused faculty positions. We advocate for a broader doctoral curriculum that prepares trainees for a wide range of science-related career paths. In support of this argument, we describe data from our survey of doctoral students in the basic biomedical sciences at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Midway through graduate training, UCSF students are already considering a broad range of career options, with one-third intending to pursue a non-research career path. To better support this branching career pipeline, we recommend that national standards for training and mentoring include emphasis on career planning and professional skills development to ensure the success of PhD-level scientists as they contribute to a broadly defined global scientific enterprise.
Article
An early consensus in the ongoing discourse about graduate student preparation for diverse careers was that graduates lacked competencies relevant to non-academic professional settings. Lists of missing “skills” were developed that universities and agencies sought to address, most commonly by the offering of generic (transferable) skills workshops or courses. In this paper, we critique this framing of the issue and discuss the limitations of the common approaches taken to address it. We propose a more integrated approach, where students’ thesis research itself is oriented to their possible futures (a practice already occurring in many areas), and where assessment of the competencies so developed is integral to the awarding of the degree. We illustrate the concepts through the stories of two students, and discuss policy ramifications and the substantial challenges to its realization presented by a highly competitive research environment and established ways of assessing success in faculty and students.
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The labor market increasingly rewards social skills. Between 1980 and 2012, jobs requiring high levels of social interaction grew by nearly 12 percentage points as a share of the U.S. labor force. Math-intensive but less social jobs-including many STEM occupations-shrank by 3.3 percentage points over the same period. Employment and wage growth were particularly strong for jobs requiring high levels of both math skill and social skills. To understand these patterns, I develop a model of team production where workers "trade tasks" to exploit their comparative advantage. In the model, social skills reduce coordination costs, allowing workers to specialize and work together more efficiently. The model generates predictions about sorting and the relative returns to skill across occupations, which I investigate using data from the NLSY79 and the NLSY97. Using a comparable set of skill measures and covariates across survey waves, I find that the labor market return to social skills was much greater in the 2000s than in the mid-1980s and 1990s. © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press, on behalf of President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved.
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For decades, top scientists in colleges and universities pursued a clear path to success: enroll in a prestigious graduate program, conduct research, publish papers, complete the PhD, pursue postdoctoral work. With perseverance and a bit of luck, a tenure-track professorship awaited at the end. In today’s academic job market, this scenario represents the exception. As the number of newly conferred science PhDs keeps rising, the number of tenured professorships remains stubbornly stagnant. Only 14 percent of those with PhDs in science occupy tenure-track positions five years after completing their degree. Next Gen PhD provides a frank and up-to-date assessment of the current career landscape facing science PhDs. Nonfaculty careers once considered Plan B are now preferred by the majority of degree holders, says Melanie Sinche. An upper-level science degree is a prized asset in the eyes of many employers, and a majority of science PhDs build rewarding careers both inside and outside the university. A certified career counselor with extensive experience working with graduate students and postdocs, Sinche offers step-by-step guidance through the career development process: identifying personal strengths and interests, building work experience and effective networks, assembling job applications, and learning tactics for interviewing and negotiating―all the essentials for making a successful career transition. Sinche profiles science PhDs across a wide range of disciplines who share proven strategies for landing the right occupation. Current graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, mentors, and students considering doctoral and postdoctoral training in the sciences will find Next Gen PhD an empowering resource.
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The following values have no corresponding Zotero field: Research Notes: Richard Roberts hat bei seinem Kolloquiumsvortrag am 2010-07-02 aus dem Bericht ein paar Daten gezeigt, um die Bedeutung nicht-kognitiver Fähigkeiten zu belegen (Table 5, S. 21). Für mich ist eher interessant, dass die employers zu 64 Prozent Mathematik als very important für den beruflichen Erfolg von Berufseinsteigern einschätzen (auf einer Skala von not important, über important zu very important; bezogen auf Four-Year College Graduates). Damit wird Mathematik zwar als weniger wichtig als etwa die Muttersprache eingeschätzt, aber bleibt der Befund, dass die Fähigkeiten offenbar beim Einstieg in viele Berufszweige eine wichtige Rolle spielen. Das kann ich als Beleg für die Bedeutsamkeit von Mathematikkompetenz auf im Berufsleben heranziehen. ID - 648
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This paper explores the growing demand for collaborative innovation that is arising out of global growth opportunities. Collaborative innovation is changing institutions and academic disciplines in specific ways. Institutions are shifting towards open from closed. Disciplines are shifting towards integration from specialization. For example, holistic engineering and service science are both examples of integrative disciplines, as opposed to merely new specializations. In conclusions, we will show that institutions and disciplines can be viewed as part of a rapidly evolving ecology of service system entities.
Advancing Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences Retrieved from https
American Chemical Society, ACS Presidential Commission on Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences. (2012). Advancing Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences. Retrieved from https://www. acs.org/content/dam/acsorg/about/governance/acs-presidential-graduate-education-commission-fullreport.pdf
The National Higher Education and Workforce Initiative: Forging Strategic Partnerships for Undergraduate Innovation and Workforce Development
Business-Higher Education Forum. (2013). The National Higher Education and Workforce Initiative: Forging Strategic Partnerships for Undergraduate Innovation and Workforce Development.
The Graduate School Mess
  • L Cassuto
Cassuto, L. (2015). The Graduate School Mess. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.