Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Transformative Research-Based Pedagogy Workshops for Chemistry Graduate Students and Postdocs

Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Transformative Research-Based Pedagogy Workshops for Chemistry Graduate Students and Postdocs

Article excerpt

Today's graduate students are tomorrow's professors. For a long time, the model for future faculty preparation has been to mentor students to become good scientists and trust that some will have the mix of personality, desire, and ability to also become good teachers. Believing that this should not be left to chance, some programs and departments in the last 20 years developed Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) programs through which doctoral candidates could also study educational issues, investigate curricular changes, and engage in teaching practice (Council of Graduate Schools, n.d.; Lambert & Tice, 1993; Tanner & Allen, 2006; Walker, Golde, Jones, Bueschel, & Hutchings, 2008). On many campuses, one can hear a call for moving the center of intellectual activity to students by means of "inquiry" or "student-centered" models of instruction, including in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) classrooms (Ebert May & Hodder, 2008; Siebert & Mclntosh, 2001). Yet, if you walk the halls of most colleges and universities, stopping outside STEM classroom doors to watch, you rarely see students talking and working with other students. The instructor is still the focal point. We are hard-pressed to claim that much transformation has occurred in classrooms. A systematic review of the literature on STEM faculty change and lack thereof (Henderson, Beach, & Finkelstein, 2011) recommends that strategies for established faculty should deliberately focus on changing beliefs, must involve long-term interventions, and should be structured with institutional context in mind. The first is difficult, the second takes time, and the last suggests there may be as many answers as there are institutions. This combination of barriers is an imposing challenge.

There may be an easier place to intervene. The faculty of the future, our current graduate students and postdocs, may be different. Their beliefs about teaching and learning could be more malleable, and they are not yet in a fixed institutional context where barriers to change are well defined. Their immediate barriers consist of the challenge of trading off research progress for the attention given to teaching development programs and whether their research mentors would be supportive of that diversion (Benbow, Byrd, & Connolly, 2011). Consequently, short-duration professional development opportunities would fill a need for students who want to explore their commitment to teaching and learning.

We present here evidence regarding a one-day clinic for graduate students and postdocs that shows promise for informing and transforming their knowledge and thinking about teaching and learning, such that seeds will be planted that might be harvested when they become faculty. A limited number of more expansive programs exist that create opportunities for graduate students and postdocs (Ebert-May, 2009). Often, there is a reliance on inform-then-practice models--students hear or read about pedagogic theories or approaches and then have the chance to create lessons or modify curricula in an attempt to apply that knowledge. Stronger versions of this approach involve scholarly teaching: a cycle of lesson creation, trial, assessment, reflection, and adaptation (Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning, www.cirtl.net; National Association of Geoscience Teachers, n.d.). All of these require substantial commitment of personnel and time, and face the tension that exists regarding devotion of time to an activity that research mentors might consider of secondary importance.

FIGURE 1

Survey questions provided to participants regarding the workshop
and themselves before the workshop, immediately after the workshop,
and 6 months later.

Preworkshop survey (completed at time of online registration)

* Name of the institution from which you received your
undergraduate degree?

* What are your current career plans?

* If you are in a graduate degree program, please indicate how long
you have been in your program, and list your remaining
requirements. … 
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