Impact of Professional Development Programs on Future STEM Scholars: A Mixed-Methods Longitudinal Study

This study, under the leadership of co-PIs Mark Connolly (UW-Madison), explores the preparation of future scholars in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields for their role as researchers and teachers of undergraduates who will become the next generation of professionals in these fields.

Our project is a 6-year, multi-institutional examination of the short- and long-term effects of teaching-focused professional development (TD) on STEM doctoral students and their early-career performance. The work builds on 3 years of research supported by the NSF-funded Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL).

We address six research questions:

(a) What are the general characteristics of future-faculty professional development (TD) programs, and which characteristics are most strongly correlated with positive and negative participant outcomes?

(b) What characteristics distinguish TD participants from nonparticipants, and what encourages and discourages participation?

(c) What do doctoral students gain from TD programs that helps prepare them for diverse academic careers?

(d) What influence does participation in TD programs have on the kinds of careers that STEM PhDs choose?

(e) What impact, if any, does participation in TD have on indicators of early career performance? and

(f) What degree of investment in TD must a doctoral student make, and for what length of time, to receive modest but significant benefits?

To address these questions, the project uses a longitudinal, mixed-methods design to follow two groups of STEM doctoral students from three research universities over 6 years.

Analysis of the interview and survey data sets will produce findings about the effects of TD programs that will make important contributions to the scholarly literature on postsecondary faculty. The study will produce useful information about the characteristics of TD programs, factors that influence participation, benefits of participating in TD programs, and broad trends in where STEM PhDs take jobs. Study findings will enable those involved in STEM graduate education and the preparation of future faculty to respond better to the pressing needs of undergraduate STEM education.


National Science Foundation/Transforming Undergraduate Education in the Sciences program

Project Website


Completed on August 31, 2015

Contact Information

Mark Connolly, PhD
Phone: (608) 263-4233