Research

Below is a listing of publications and presentations. To download files, click on the citation.

Feldon, D. F., Maher, M. A., & Timmerman, B. E. (2010). Performance-based data in the study of STEM Ph.D. education. Science, 329(5989), 282-283.

Abstract: Understanding the scholarly development of Ph.D. students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is vital to the preparation of the scientific workforce. During doctoral study, students learn to be professional scientists and acquire the competencies to succeed in those roles. However, this complex process is not well studied. Research to date suffers from overreliance on a narrow range of methods that cannot provide data appropriate for addressing questions of causality or effectiveness of specific practices in doctoral education. We advocate a shift in focus from student and instructor self-report toward the use of actual performance data as a remedy that can ultimately contribute to improved student outcomes.

Feldon D.F., Timmerman, B.C., Maher, M.A. (2010) Science letter and response. Science 330, Letters Section.

Proceedings of the NARST 2009 Annual Meeting (Compiled)

This is a link to the complete collection of all of the articles listed below, presented at the 2009 NARST Conference in Garden Cove, CA.

Strickland, D., Timmerman, B.C., Maher, M.A., Feldon, D.F. (2009). The great debate: The effects of teaching and research on STEM Graduate students research skill improvement. Proceedings NARST  Annual Meeting, Garden Cove, CA.

Abstract: Little is known about the nature and developmental trajectory of scientific expertise in science and engineering graduate students (Davis & Fiske, 2001; Gaff, 2002), specifically to what extent students’ participation in teaching and/or research influences research skill development.  This preliminary study uses a multi-disciplinary, multi-method approach to inform an objective, rubric-driven evaluation of research skill with graduate students’ insights about their research skill development.  Results indicated that participation in research assistantships, year of matriculation, involvement in publication, and stability of research agenda were most highly related to students’ research skill development.  The effects of teaching on students’ research skill development appear to be more subtle.  A notable trend was the emergence of audience awareness. For a minority, the acts of translating and/or explaining their research to others stimulated reflection or insight which facilitated their research programs.  Implications for graduate education and research scientists, as well as college science teachers are discussed.

Steiglmeyer, C., Feldon, D.F. (2009). Do research experiences enhance the inquiry-oriented teaching skills of STEM graduate students? Proceedings NARST  Annual Meeting, Garden Cove, CA.

Abstract: Faculty often view teaching and research as competing priorities of which teaching is the less valuable (Bianchini, Whitney, Breton, & Hilton-Brown, 2001).  This adversarial relationship typically stems from the assumption that then required skill sets for teaching and research are unrelated (Hattie & Marsh, 1996; Seymour, 2001).   However, this assumption has rarely been tested or empirically confirmed.  This study reports quantitative and qualitative data which suggest that participating in research experiences actually enhances the development of graduate students’ inquiry-based teaching skills.  Participants’ teaching skills were assessed using RTOP rating of videotaped lessons, students reported experiences, and semi-structured interviews with participants.  Participants engaging in concurrent research and teaching experiences significantly improved their inquiry-oriented pedagogical skills over the course of an academic year and did so with significantly higher gains than participants in a comparison group who taught but did not also pursue research activities.

Gilmore, J., Hurst, M., Maher, M.A. (2009) Professional identity development in teachers of science, technology, engineering, math and science and math education. Proceedings NARST Annual Meeting, Garden Cove, CA.

Abstract: Much of the science education community has advocated for a new vision of instruction emphasizing inquiry-based teaching (National Research Council, 1996). Unfortunately, as Anderson (2002) notes, many science teachers are not adopting inquiry-based teaching practices for a variety of reasons such as that teachers commonly favor text-book approaches to instruction. To facilitate the adoption of reformed teaching, Luehmann (2007) argues that teacher education must address the development of one’s professional identity as a teacher. Unfortunately, little is known about the beliefs, values, experiences, and ways of acting and interacting that teachers in science and related fields use to form their professional teaching identity. Through repeated interviews with 18 graduate students who taught science and related disciplines, this study outlined generalizations defining the developmental trajectory of science educators’ professional identity. In general, for less experienced teacher participants,  one’s own experiences as a student were particularly influential in learning how to teach, while for more experienced teacher participants, coursework, self- reflection, professional development experiences, and the review of professional journals were influential to skill development.  Study results generally reflected the trajectory of teacher development (from teacher-centered concerns to student- centered concerns) put forth by Fuller and Bown (1975).  More detailed findings indicated, however, that co-teaching experiences may have assisted teachers in moving from more teacher-centered concerns, including a focus on one’s personality characteristics and ability to develop and implement engaging instructional activities, to more student-centered concerns, such as adjusting instruction to meet students’ needs and facilitating student investigations. Therefore, in this study, participants’ co-teaching experiences positively impacted their developing professional identities as inquiry-minded teachers.

Hurst, M., Gilmore, J., Maher, M. (2009) Exploring the professional identity development of researchers in science, technology, engineering, math and science education. Proceedings NARST Annual Meeting, Garden Cove, CA.

Abstract: This study explores factors shaping the development of graduate students’ professional research identity in science, technology, engineering, math, and science education disciplines. Informed by qualitative data, this study attempted to formulate generalizations about the development of graduate student researchers. Study results suggest that graduate researchers generally learn about conducting research through interactions with advisors/mentors, through trial and error, and through participation in a research community of practice. Students often drew upon professional development experiences and collaboration with peers and professional researchers to improve their research skills. Implications of these findings as they pertain to graduate education across academic disciplines are discussed.

Maher, M.A., Feldon, D.F. (2009) Finding Connections between STEM graduate students’ teaching and research identities and skill sets. Proceedings NARST Annual Meeting, Garden Cove, CA.

Abstract: This paper synthesizes findings from the four previous papers to examine the nature and extent of connections across graduate students’ emergent identities as teachers and as researchers, and between their developing teaching and research skill sets.  The paper first provides a contextual perspective of the development of graduate student researcher and teacher skills and identities, and then focuses broadly on the design and analyses used across the four papers and common emergent findings, concluding with a discussion of “next steps” in this line of inquiry.

Gilmore, J. & Feldon, D. (April, 2010). Measuring graduate students’ teaching and research skills through self-report: Descriptive findings and validity. Presented at American Educational Research Association, Denver, CO.

Abstract: This study extends research on graduate student development by examining descriptive findings and validity of a self-report survey designed to capture graduate students’ assessments of their teaching and research skills.  Descriptive findings provide some information about areas of growth among graduate students’ in the first years of their graduate studies.  Validity is examined using a retrospective think-aloud method and by exploring the relationship between responses to the self-report survey and other measures of participants’ teaching and research skills.  Findings indicate that several factors contribute to graduate students’ perceptions of their research and teaching skills such as their personal values and research and teaching practices. Additionally, participants’ self-reported teaching and research skills were inconsistent with the perceptions of their students and researchers, respectively.  These findings support previous research indicating that the interpretation of personal efficacy instruments may be problematic (Tshannen-Moran et al., 1998).

Gilmore, J., Hurst, M., & Maher, M. (February, 2009). Exploring teacher identity development in STEM. Presented at South Carolina Educators for the Practical Use of Research, Columbia, SC.

Abstract: This study explores factors shaping the development of graduate students’ professional research identity in science, technology, engineering, math, and science education disciplines. Informed by qualitative data, this study attempted to formulate generalizations about the development of graduate student researchers. Study results suggest that graduate researchers generally learn about conducting research through interactions with advisors/mentors, through trial and error, and through participation in a research community of practice. Students often drew upon professional development experiences and collaboration with peers and professional researchers to improve their research skills. Implications of these findings as they pertain to graduate education across academic disciplines are discussed.

*This study was presented in more than one venue.

Gilmore, J., Hurst, M., & Maher, M. (March, 2009). Exploring teacher identity development in STEM. Presented at the Museum of Education’s AERA Showcase, Columbia, SC.*

Gilmore, J., Hurst, M., & Maher, M. (April, 2009). Exploring teacher identity development in STEM. Presented at National Association for Research on Science Teaching, Garden Grove, CA.*

Gilmore, J. & Hurst, M. (March, 2010) An exploratory study of factors influencing the development of STEM graduate students’ teaching skills. Paper presented at National Association for Research on Science Teaching, Philadelphia, PA.

Abstract: Graduate students in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, represent an important link in current reforms emphasizing inquiry-based learning and teaching, as they represent the future of the STEM professoriate. Although graduate students commonly hold teaching assistantships, they rarely receive training on how to teach (Prieto & Meyers, 1999) and even less frequently on inquiry-based teaching methods. Thus this study explored the factors that facilitate the development of inquiry-based teaching skills among 17 STEM graduate students. Graduate students who made gains in inquiry-based teaching skills across an academic year were more likely to regularly discuss their teaching with their mentors, graduate student peers, or practicing K-12 teachers. Graduate students who showed gains in inquiry-related teaching skills also emphasized the importance of having their students’ develop their own research questions and engage in critical thinking when unexpected results arise during experimentation.

Gilmore, J., Strickland, D., Timmerman, B., & Maher, M. (October, 2009). Surprising plagiarism among graduate student in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Presented at the Annual International Conference on Academic Integrity, St. Louis, MI.

Poster Presentation: No Abstract Available

Gilmore, J., Strickland, D., Timmerman, B., Maher, M., & Feldon, D. (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 for Educational Integrity, 6(1).

Abstract: Existing literature provides insight into the nature and extent of plagiarism amongst undergraduate students (e.g., Ellery, 2008; Parameswaran & Devi, 2006; Selwyn, 2008). Plagiarism amongst graduate students is relatively unstudied, however, and the existing data are largely based on self-reports. This study investigated the rates and potential causes of plagiarism amongst graduate students in master’s and doctoral programmes in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and science or mathematics education by examining actual research proposals written by graduate students. Results indicate that plagiarism is a prevalent issue at each of the three university sites sampled and across all of the investigated disciplines. Fine grained analyses suggest that this plagiarism may be largely unintentional and due to a lack of disciplinary enculturation. Specifically, participants that plagiarised had approximately one less semester of research experience than graduate students who did not plagiarise. Furthermore, participants who lacked primary literature in their research proposals were significantly more likely to plagiarise and often used inappropriate citation styles. Follow-up correspondence with participants indicates that participants plagiarised, in part, because they lacked an awareness of the role of primary literature in the research process. This suggests that explicit training in the role and use of primary literature may provide an opportunity for programmes or mentors to accelerate the development of graduate students’ research skills. This study also revealed that plagiarism was more common amongst English as a Second Language (ESL) participants. Potential causes of plagiarism and solutions to address plagiarism among the ESL population will be discussed.

This paper is based on an earlier version presented at The Center for Academic Integrity 2009 Annual International Conference.

Glab, P., Gilmore, J., Maher, M. & Timmerman, B. (April, 2010). Graduate students’ views of the relationship between teaching and research across the disciplines. Presented at University of South Carolina Discovery Day for Undergraduate Research, Columbia, South Carolina.

Abstract: The purpose of the current study is to explore graduate students’ conceptualizations of the research teaching relationship.  To date, few studies have been undertaken to investigate graduate students’ perceived connection between teaching and research activities (but see Deen & Lucas, 2006; Maher, et al., 2009; Robertson & Blackler, 2006).  This study will also examine the extent to which graduate students’ conceptualizations differ across academic disciplines, as researchers have noted that disciplinary contexts impact graduate students’  values and expectations (Austin, 2002).  Three-hundred and eight graduate teaching assistants attending a required two-day teaching workshop were asked to complete a survey eliciting their perceptions of the teaching-research relationship.  Most participants reported a positive relationship between teaching and research. When asked to characterize this relationship in their own words, over 15% of participants described teaching and research as having a bi-directional or reciprocal relationship.  Participants also commonly characterized the teaching-research relationship as unidirectional with more participants reporting that research improves teaching (28.2%) as compared with the percentage of participants who described teaching improving research (13.0%).  Participants in the engineering and formal science fields (math) held the most antagonistic views of the teaching-research relationship. This information may be useful for improving graduate students’ experiences.

*This study was presented in more than one venue.

Glab, P., Gilmore, J., Maher, M. & Timmerman, B. (February, 2010). Graduate students’ views of the relationship between teaching and research across the disciplines. Presented at South Carolina Educators for the Practical Use of Research, Columbia, South Carolina.*

Hurst, M., Maher, M., Timmerman, B., & Gilmore, J. (April, 2009). Research values revisited: The next phase of defining research values and attributes across the academic spectrum. Presented at American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA.

Abstract: This study, informed by qualitative data collected from doctoral faculty advisors and doctoral students from across science, engineering and education disciplines, identifies and defines research skills valued by research faculty and doctoral students.  Several anticipated research skills were observed as being valuable, including a strong sense of context, the ability to logically build conclusions from data, and strong methodological and data analysis skills, suggesting the existence of a common research skill set across disciplines.  However, advisors agreed that research skills alone were not enough, but must be augmented by key attributes which students failed to identify.  Implications of these findings as they pertain to doctoral education across academic disciplines are advanced.

Hurst, M., Feldon, D., Maher, M., Gilmore, J., Timmerman, B., Strickland, D, & Stiegelmeyer, C. (2010, April). The [Mis] Perceptions of graduate student research skills. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association,Denver, CO.

Abstract: The mismatch between the academic preparation and realistic career prospects of graduate students has been highlighted frequently in education literature (Golde & Dore, 2001; Nyquist et al., 1999; Nyquist & Woodford 2000).  Minimal attention, however, has been placed on the mismatch between how graduate students and their mentors perceive the students‘ research skills and the students‘ actual research skills (Leggett et al., 2004).  Using a mixed-method approach, this study investigates the level of agreement between faculty mentors and their students‘ self-perceptions of research skills, knowledge, and dispositions.  Further, it compares both faculty and student assessments against independent ratings of the students‘ work products.  Results indicate that faculty mentors and their students address non-overlapping facets of developing knowledge and skills at least 80% of the time.  However, when they do address the same issues, they agree less than two thirds of the time.  Neither faculty mentors‘ nor students‘ assessments predicted strength or weakness on performance-based measures of research proficiency at levels better than chance for most categories.  Further, despite the common assumption that mentors play a large role in students‘ research skill development, collaboration with mentors is cited less frequently by graduate students compared to other academic and social experiences.  Implications for graduate mentorship as both a facet of educational practice and as an area of research are discussed.

Maher, M., Crotwell-Timmerman, B., Hurst, M., & Gilmore, J. (April, 2009). Graduate students’ descriptions of teaching-research relationships across academic disciplines: Conflicted, balanced or integrated identities? Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA.

Abstract: This study, informed by qualitative data collected from graduate students from across science, engineering and education disciplines, explores students’ conceptualizations of the research-teaching relationship.  Finding connections between the multiple identities of researcher and teacher is fundamental to the development of students’ professional identities as scholars.  Study results suggest that students generally start by perceiving little research-teaching integration, but through teaching and research assistantships, can begin to identify connections.  Implications of these findings as they pertain to doctoral education across academic disciplines are discussed.

Maher, M., Gilmore, J., Crotwell-Timmerman, B., & Stiegelmeyer, C. (April, 2010). Doctoral students’ perception of teaching and research integration. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Denver, CO.

Abstract: This cross-case study of four doctoral students uses the doctoral socialization framework proposed by Weidman et al., (2001) to explore how environmental factors related to teaching and research (i.e., departmental practices, faculty and peer interactions, and knowledge acquisition opportunities) shape students’ perceptions of teaching, research, and their potential for integration.  All students were in the first or second year of a science or engineering doctoral program.  All were engaged in both teaching and research activities over the course of an academic year.  Study data were gathered through semi-structured interviews with students and their advisors at the beginning and end of the academic year.  Results indicate that the environmental factors under investigation heavily influence students’ perceptions of the value of teaching, research, and the potential for their integration.

Maher, M., Thompson, S. I Needed a Seventh Grader to Teach Me That:Science and Engineering Graduate Students’ Experiences in a Middle School Classroom.

Abstract: Experiences of graduate level scientists immersed in middle school science classrooms over a year served as a unique lens through which to view students, teachers, and teaching processes defining these classrooms.  In depth interviews with scientists revealed they were struck by the range of student diversity and the resulting need for teachers to adapt quickly to suit a situation.  Scientists further realized that their experience in this fluid, unpredictable learning environment, while more challenging than expected, brought unanticipated benefits including increased skills in time management, communication, leadership, instruction, and increased confidence.  Scientists developed a new appreciation for the work and lives of K-12 educators.

Maher, M., Gilmore, J., Timmerman, B. & Steigelmeyer, C. (April, 2010).The Influence of Environmental Variables on Doctoral Students’ Perception of Teaching and Research Integration. Presented at American Educational Research Association, Denver, Colorado.

Abstract: This cross-case study of four doctoral students uses the doctoral socialization framework proposed by Weidman et al., (2001) to explore how environmental factors related to teaching and research (i.e., departmental practices, faculty and peer interactions, and knowledge acquisition opportunities) shape students’ perceptions of teaching, research, and their potential for integration.  All students were in the first or second year of a science or engineering doctoral program.  All were engaged in both teaching and research activities over the course of an academic year.  Study data were gathered through semi-structured interviews with students and their advisors at the beginning and end of the academic year.  Results indicate that the environmental factors under investigation heavily influence students’ perceptions of the value of teaching, research, and the potential for their integration.

Steigelmeyer, C. & Gilmore, J. (February, 2010). An Exploratory Study of Factors Influencing the Development of STEM Graduate Students’ Teaching Skills. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Eastern Educational Research Association, Savannah, Georgia.

Abstract: Graduate students in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, represent an important link in current reforms emphasizing inquiry-based learning and teaching, as they represent the future of the STEM professoriate. Although graduate students commonly hold teaching assistantships, they rarely receive training on how to teach (Prieto & Meyers, 1999) and even less frequently on inquiry-based teaching methods. Thus this study explored the factors that facilitate the development of inquiry-based teaching skills among 17 STEM graduate students. Graduate students who made gains in inquiry-based teaching skills across an academic year were more likely to regularly discuss their teaching with their mentors, graduate student peers, or practicing K-12 teachers. Graduate students who showed gains in inquiry-related teaching skills also emphasized the importance of having their students’ develop their own research questions and engage in critical thinking when unexpected results arise during experimentation.

Timmerman, B.E., Strickland, D.C., Maher, M., Hurst, M. and Gilmore, J. (April, 2009). Arc and trajectory: Patterns in how graduate students in science, engineering and social science fields develop research skills. Annual Meeting of the American Association of Educational Research. San Diego CA, April 13-17.

Abstract: Little is known about the nature and developmental trajectory of scientific expertise in science and engineering graduate students (Davis & Fiske, 2001; Gaff, 2002; Golde, 2001), specifically, what skills graduate students may already possess when they enter a program, which skills are more challenging to acquire, and how students best attain expertise and scientific skill.  This study investigates the competencies initially held by graduate students in science, engineering, and education by identifying which skills appear early in graduate student development and which come later.   These observations are a pre-requisite to delineating the full arc and trajectory of doctoral student research skill development.  Using a multi-method approach, student perceptions of the mechanisms and obstacles to improvement are also explored.  Corresponding recommendations for accelerating graduate student development are also offered.

Timmerman, B. E. C., Strickland, D. C., Johnson, R. L., & Payne, J. R. (2010). Development of a universal rubric for assessing undergraduates’ scientific reasoning skills using scientific writing. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. DOI: 10.1080/02602930903540991 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02602930903540991.

Abstract: We developed a rubric for measuring students’ ability to reason and write scientifically. The Rubric for Science Writing (Rubric) was tested in a variety of undergraduate biology laboratory courses (total n = 142 laboratory reports) using science graduate students (teaching assistants) as raters. Generalisability analysis indicates that the Rubric provides a reliable measure of students’ abilities (g = 0.85) in these conditions. Comparison of student performance in various biology classes indicated that some scientific skills are more challenging for students to develop than others and identified a number of previously unappreciated gaps in the curriculum. Our findings suggest that use of the Rubric provides three major benefits in higher education: (1) to increase substance and consistency of grading within a course, particularly those staffed by multiple instructors or graduate teaching assistants; (2) to assess student achievement of scientific reasoning and writing skills; and (3) when used in multiple courses, to highlight gaps in alignment among course assignments and provide a common metric for assessing to what extent the curriculum is achieving programmatic goals. Lastly, biology graduate students reported that use of the Rubric facilitated their teaching and recommended that training on the Rubric be provided to all teaching assistants.

Timmerman, B., Maher, M., Strickland, D. and Feldon, D. (2010). Crossing the Threshold Concept: A Transformative View of Research Skill Development. Annual Meeting of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching. Philadelphia, PA March 22-24.

Timmerman, B., Strickland, D., Maher, M., Hurst, M., & Gilmore, J. (April, 2009). One Piece of the Puzzle: research skill development in STEM and social science graduate students. Presented at American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA.

Abstract: Little is known about the nature and developmental trajectory of scientific expertise in science and engineering graduate students (Davis & Fiske, 2001; Gaff, 2002; Golde, 2001), specifically, what skills graduate students may already possess when they enter a program, which skills are more challenging to acquire, and how students best attain expertise and scientific skill. This study investigates the competencies initially held by graduate students in science, engineering, and education by identifying which skills appear early in graduate student development and which come later.   These observations are a pre-requisite to delineating the full arc and trajectory of doctoral student research skill development.  Using a multi-method approach, student perceptions of the mechanisms and obstacles to improvement are also explored.  Corresponding recommendations for accelerating graduate student development are also offered.

Funded by a Research and Evaluation on Education in Science and Engineering (REESE) grant from the National Science Foundation (DRL #0723686)

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