Can we anticipate graduate student success if we can’t assess it?

How we choose the next generation of scientists is at the root of a sustainable scientific enterprise. The true value of a PhD may therefore be in training leaders who can advance science, while also gaining the necessary skills to succeed both during and after graduate school. A successful graduate of a PhD program must be able to contribute expertise or knowledge to advance a particular field. To attain this goal, they must possess skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, perseverance, conviction, and adaptability. These traits cannot be assessed by certain quantitative measures which graduate schools rely on during the initial stages of the admissions process. This practice eliminates otherwise promising candidates from the pool of applicants considered competitive for graduate school.


Lenient Grades, Unreliable Grades

Professors love to hate grade inflation, saying course marks aren’t as meaningful as they used to be. A new paper makes the case that easy grading is actually a symptom of poor assessment practices rather than a cause and that, either way, reducing leniency in grading may lead to more accurate assessment.


Female-only “Nerd” Dorm Helps Keeps Women in Engineering

Coming from a small school district in Ohio where few girls took part in intensive mathematics or science classes, Callie Zawaski was an outlier. “I may have been the only person in my grade who was excited by STEM classes,” she says.

After being accepted into Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, the school’s dean encouraged her to join a female-­only dorm designed to keep women in engineering majors until graduation. Ms. Zawaski blanched at first.

“I really didn’t want to join up,” she says. “I was worried about being surrounded by nerds all the time.”


How to Handle Three Common Demands from Students in Large Courses

I recently had a conversation with a faculty member about the midterm feedback she had received from the students in her course. Her response to their suggestions echoed one I often hear in my work in faculty development: “Really, I can’t believe all the things students want me to do for them nowadays—they expect to be spoon-fed. This isn’t grade school!” As faculty we can indeed feel beset by student demands today. No wonder—the students attending our colleges and universities come from more diverse backgrounds than ever before, and they may be more focused on attaining credentials for a job than expanding their minds.

But not all of our students’ demands are unwarranted. Sometimes our students are expressing the needs and frustrations of novice learners in our fields. They know that something isn’t working for them, but they may not know the real basis for their problems nor the best way to fix them. In these cases, we need to translate their comments into the language of learning (Hodges and Stanton 2007). Only then can we decide whether—and how—to change our teaching to accommodate an apparent student need.


AAU Mini-Grant Recipients – Drs. Gina Poe, Megan McEvoy, and Erin Sanders: UCLA to Enhance Undergraduate STEM Education

Pictured above are Director of the mini-grant Dr. Gina Poe (middle), and Co-Directors Drs. Megan McEvoy (right) and Erin Sanders (left).

UCLA is among 12 universities nationally to be awarded a grant from the Association of American Universities to fund workshops on campus over the next year to assess all programs that support and retain undergraduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Read more in the UCLA Newsroom.