Preparing Future Faculty to Assess Student Learning

New Council of Graduate Schools publication highlights effective strategies and best practices

Washington, DC – The next generation of faculty will be better prepared to help their students learn, thanks to a new Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) report released today. Strategies to Prepare Future Faculty to Assess Student Learning is the product of a three-year project to identify models for infusing undergraduate learning assessment skills into existing Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) programs. With support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Teagle Foundation, and in collaboration with seven funded institutions and 19 affiliates, the project involved nearly 1,300 graduate students and 200 faculty across the humanities, social sciences, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).


The Many Paths of the Would-Be Professoriate

The goal of one of the longest-running professional-development programs for graduate students and postdocs is baked right into its name.

Preparing Future Faculty, which started in 1993, was designed to introduce Ph.D. students and postdocs on campuses nationwide to the realities of being a professor. The program exposes them to what faculty life looks like at the kinds of colleges where they’re most likely to be hired. One of the first institutions in the program was Duke University.

Its participants, known as fellows, visit nearby institutions that are starkly different from Duke, including private liberal-arts colleges, a historically black college, a community college, a women’s college, and a sprawling land-grant institution, where they sit in on undergraduate classes and talk with faculty members, administrators, and students. Faculty mentors on those campuses talk frankly to them about the demands of academic life, and provide insider tips on conducting academic job searches, among other things.

In the end, not every fellow becomes a professor, but that outcome is not unexpected.


Documenting What Ph.D.s Do for a Living

The idea that a Ph.D. can prepare you for diverse careers — not just for the professoriate — is now firmly with us.

Most doctoral students in the arts and sciences start out with the desire to become professors. But that’s not where most of them end up. By now, most graduate advisers understand that their doctoral students will follow multiple career paths. And increasing numbers of professors and administrators are trying to help students do that.


It’s Not Just About Work-Life Balance

It’s also about a better balance in your work life, says Lynn Talton.

One of the most enduring impressions of my graduate school and postdoctoral experience was a pervasive feeling of guilt whenever I wasn’t working on my research. I see evidence of similar feelings in the graduate students and postdocs with whom I interact now. Recently, I was talking with a graduate student about exploring the entrepreneurial side of research as a possible career path. After I explained the wide range of organizations and opportunities available on campus, he sighed and repeated a familiar refrain: “That all sounds great, but I just don’t have time.”

We’ve all been there — I bet you’ve uttered this very phrase in the last few days. The truth is that no matter your current position or your future career path, there will always be more work you can do. So now is the time to develop the skills to strategically balance your work priorities — and to do so in a way that improves your career prospects.


How Student Learning is Affected By Small Group Dynamics

Active learning in college classes and participation in the workforce frequently hinge on small group work. However, group dynamics vary, ranging from equitable collaboration to dysfunctional groups dominated by one individual. To explore how group dynamics impact student learning, the authors asked students in a large-enrollment university biology class to self-report their experience during in-class group work.


Online Tool Assists Underrepresented Students, Faculty in STEM

For underrepresented students, it can be difficult to find mentors and role models in their academic fields with whom they can connect. This can be especially true at larger universities, where the prospect of identifying a mentor among hundreds, if not thousands, of faculty and staff can be overwhelming. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) — home to more than 43,000 students and approximately 2,500 faculty members — the task of finding a mentor in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines has become streamlined thanks to an innovative new resource designed specifically for underrepresented students.