Longitudinal Study of Future STEM Scholars

About Our Study

The Longitudinal Study of Future STEM Scholars (LSFSS) investigates the preparation of future STEM faculty and academics who teach and mentor undergraduate students.  Specifically, this seven-year, multi-institutional impact study examines the effects of teaching-focused professional development programs designed for “future STEM faculty” (i.e., STEM doctoral students with academic aspirations).

Its overarching research question is this:  
What are the short- and long-term effects of teaching development (TD) programs on doctoral students’ teaching-related skills, knowledge, attitudes, and career choices?

The study’s various components are guided by the following six sub-questions:

A. TD Program Description & Design 
1. What are the variations of TD programs for STEM doctoral students?
2. What elements of TD programs should be considered in their design and evaluation?

B. TD Program Participation 
3. Who participates in TD programs, and why?

C. TD Program Impacts 
4. What influence does participation in TD programs have on the kinds of careers that STEM Ph.D.s pursue and ultimately choose?
5. What skills and knowledge do STEM doctoral students gain from TD programs that help prepare them for a diverse range of academic careers?
6. What influence, if any, does participation in TD have on indicators of early-career performance (e.g., satisfaction, peer and student feedback, use of research-based instructional approaches) as academics?

Study Design and Methods
To address these questions, our study uses a longitudinal, mixed-methods design. Via surveys and interviews, we followed a cohort of STEM dissertators (initial N = 3,060) from three participating research universities. This population was surveyed in Year One of the study (2009, n = 2,163; 71% response rate), in Year Three (2011, n = 1,445; 67% response rate), and finally again in Year Five (2013, n = 1,414; 66% response rate). A subsample of this group—75 TFPD participants who completed their doctorate and were working in a postsecondary setting—were interviewed in 2010-2011.

We examined students' teaching experiences and TD participation (if any) during the doctoral program, their career pathways as long as five years after receiving their doctorates, and the short- and long-term effects of their participation in doctoral TD on their knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Our analysis of the study’s rich interview and survey data produced findings about the effects of TD programs that is not only making important contributions to the scholarly literature on postsecondary faculty, but also producing useful information about the characteristics of TD programs, factors that influence participation, benefits of program participation, and broad trends in STEM Ph.D.s’ career paths.
 
Key Findings and Recommendations
Our study shows that TD engagement during the doctoral program is an effective way to prepare skilled STEM instructors. Overall, we found that TD offers numerous short- and long-term benefits for doctoral students related to their journeys to becoming effective STEM instructors. TD participation had these principal outcomes for our study participants:

  • A moderate amount of TD engagement and type of TD (formal TD courses and intensive TD activities) had a positive impact on:
    • short-term teaching competency, knowledge, and skills;
    • short- and long-term college teaching self-efficacy beliefs; and
    • long-term self-reported teaching behaviors.
  • TD had a greater impact on women than men overall; women who participated in TD were more confident in their teaching abilities than women non-participants.
  • The more an individual participates in TD programs, the greater the impact on their college teaching self-efficacy beliefs.
  • TD participation created a sense of community and network of likeminded peers.

Our study’s results show that investing time and resources in TD programming has great potential to transform undergraduate STEM education. Getting people who are involved in doctoral education to take teaching development seriously remains a major hurdle, however. Overcoming faculty resistance and making TD a higher priority will require systemic change across national, institutional, departmental, and individual levels. Reducing political, financial, structural, and cultural barriers to student engagement in doctoral TD must occur across all levels. Our report, Building a Better Future STEM Faculty, offers recommendations to help stakeholders lower these barriers.

Final Public Report

To review our key findings and recommendations, visit our public, summative report page.

Mobilizing STEM Education for a Sustainable Future