Education ForumGraduate Education

Performance-Based Data in the Study of STEM Ph.D. Education

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Science  16 Jul 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5989, pp. 282-283
DOI: 10.1126/science.1191269

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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.