Effects of Inquiry-Based Teaching Experiences on Graduate Students: Research Skill Development

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

The purpose of this project is to investigate the impacts of inquiry-based science teaching experiences on the development of STEM graduate students as researchers. An array of relevant and contextualized data sources were used to assess the longitudinal trajectory and magnitude of change in teaching and research skills. It is expected that graduate students participating in both inquiry-focused teaching experiences and advisor-directed research experiences will demonstrate greater growth in science reasoning and research design skills than those lacking either experience.

Setting: 

Participants were enrolled as full-time graduate students in research-oriented master’s and doctoral degree programs in empirical STEM disciplines at one of three universities in the Eastern United States. One was a large, doctoral university (undergraduate enrollment ≈ 20,000; graduate enrollment ≈ 6,700), and two selectively offered research-intensive masters degrees in STEM fields. Of the two master’s institutions, one was large (undergraduate enrollment ≈ 14,000; graduate enrollment ≈ 4,000), and one was small (undergraduate enrollment ≈ 8,200; graduate enrollment ≈ 500). Data were collected from three annual cohorts between 2007 and 2010.

Research Design: 

The overall approach for the project is a mixed models (mixed methodologies) design, in which quantitative performance measures are contextualized within qualitative personal narratives, histories, and conceptualizations of individuals’ disciplines and necessary disciplinary skills. The research design for this project is both longitudinal and comparative, and is designed to generate evidence that is descriptive using observation, and associative/ correlational using quasi-experimental methods. This project includes an “intervention” which is engagement in inquiry-based teaching and/or advisor directed research. It should be noted that these conditions were not assigned by the study, so the researchers themselves have not “intervened.” And the comparison condition is engagement in inquiry-based teaching without engagement in research activities; engagement in research activities without engagement in inquiry-based teaching activities.

This project collects original data through a variety of methods including assessments of learning/ achievement tests, observation through videography, and survey research including paper and pencil self-completion questionnaires, and face-to-face semi-structured/ informal interviews. This study uses the ACT Test of Science Reasoning and the Lawson’s Test for Scientific Reasoning; rubric-based evaluation of student-generated research proposals as pre- and post-measures using the Universal Lab Rubric; pre- and post-intervention semi-structured, face-to-face interviews with participants and their faculty advisors; videotaped observations of teaching rated through the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol; and Learning Environment Inventory surveys of teaching participants and their students. Quantitative data are analyzed via appropriate inferential statistical methods; qualitative data are analyzed via coding processes and with the aid of NVIVO, a software analysis program.

Findings: 

Tentative findings suggest a synergy between simultaneous engagement in inquiry-oriented teaching and research skill development at the graduate student level. Graduate students who describe, explain, and scaffold the construction of research processes and outcomes with learners tend to show stronger gains in scientific reasoning and writing skills. Likewise, participating teachers/instructors who also were involved in research tended to be more effective in engaging students with inquiry-oriented instruction. The connection between research and teaching is strengthened when graduate students teach in areas most directly related to their own line of research inquiry.

Additional findings suggest that graduate students develop self-concept as teachers and as researchers along a limited range of trajectories. Further, graduate students’ understandings of their personal strengths and weaknesses in relation to research competencies align poorly with both their advisors’ views of students’ individual strengths and their overall views of important abilities and dispositions to develop within a STEM graduate program.

Publications & Presentations: 

Maher, M. A., Timmerman, B. E., Feldon, D. F., & Strickland, D. (in press). Factors affecting the occurrence of faculty-doctoral student coauthorship. The Journal of Higher Education.

Timmerman, B., Feldon, D. F., Maher, M., Strickland, D., & Gilmore, J. A.  (in press). Performance-based assessment of graduate student research skills: Timing, trajectory, and potential thresholds. Studies in Higher Education.

Feldon, D. F., Peugh, J., Timmerman, B. E., Maher, M. A., Hurst, M., Strickland, D., Gilmore, J. A., & Stiegelmeyer, C. (2011). Graduate students’ teaching experiences improve their methodological research skills. Science, 333(6045).

Feldon, D. F., Maher, M., & Timmerman, B. (2010). A call for performance-based data in the study of STEM graduate education. Science, 329, 282-283.

Gilmore, J., Strickland, D., Timmerman, B., Maher, M., & Feldon, D. F. (2010). Weeds in the flower garden: An exploration of plagiarism in graduate students' research proposals and its connection to enculturation, ESL, and contextual factors. International Journal of Educational Integrity, 6(1), 13-28.

Hurst, M., Feldon, D. F., & Maher, M. (2011). Motivation, goal commitment, and performance among graduate students in the science, technology, and mathematics fields. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. Washington, DC: August 4, 2011.

Feldon, D. F., & Stiegelmeyer, C. (2011). Inquiry-oriented teaching skills and research skills: Competing or compatible skills? Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA: April, 2011.

Maher, M., Hurst, M., Timmerman, B., Feldon, D., & Gilmore, J. (2011). “I start with turning to the literature”: Opening the door to research skill development. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA: April, 2011.

Maher, M., Timmerman, B., & Feldon, D. (2011). Do you want to write with me? Factors influencing faculty mentor – graduate student writing activities. Paper presented at the Eastern Educational Research Association, Sarasota, FL: February 2011.

Maher, M., Hurst, M., & Feldon, D. (2011). So what do I need to know to succeed? Mentors’ advice to graduate students. Paper presented at the Eastern Educational Research Association, Sarasota, FL: February 2011.

Maher, M., Timmerman, B. Feldon, D. F., & Strickland, D. (2011). Faculty mentor-graduate student coauthoring: The precursors, processes, and outcomes of 'scholarly bricklaying' as a stand-alone paper. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching. Orlando, FL: April, 2011.

Hurst, M., & Feldon, D. F. (2010). The [mis]perceptions of graduate student research skills. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Denver, CO: March, 2010.

Gilmore, J., & Feldon, D. F. (2010). Measuring graduate students’ teaching and research skills through self-report: Descriptive findings and validity. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Denver, CO: March, 2010.

Feldon, D. F., & Stiegelmeyer, C. (2010). Synergistic effects of teaching and research activities for graduate students. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Denver, CO: March, 2010.

Stiegelmeyer, C., Maher, M., Feldon, D. F., & Timmerman, B. (2010). Factors that facilitate inquiry-based teaching. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching. Philadelphia, PA: March 20-24, 2010.

Timmerman, B., Maher, M., Strickland, D., & Feldon, D. F. (2010). Crossing the threshold concept: A transformative view of research skill development. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching. Philadelphia, PA: March 20-24, 2010.

Strickland, D. C., Timmerman, B. E., Maher, M., & Feldon, D. F. (2009). The value of teaching and research in graduate student research skill development. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching. Garden Grove, CA: April, 2009.

Maher, M., & Feldon, D. F. (2009). Finding connections between STEM graduate students’ teaching and research identities and skill sets. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching. Garden Grove, CA: April, 2009.

Stiegelmeyer, C., & Feldon, D. F. (2009). Do research experiences enhance the inquiry-oriented teaching skills of STEM graduate students? Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching. Garden Grove, CA: April, 2009.