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June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
Traditionally within engineering, the graduate school experience has focused on developing the research and technical skills of the graduate student. However, to successfully complete their graduate degree, there are broader skills that must be developed (Fischer & Zigmond, 1998). For example, students must make the critical transition from course-taker to independent scholar/researcher (Baker & Pifer, 2011; Lovitts, 2005). Developing these broader skills can be inconsistent across and challenging for individual faculty working with individual students. To address this challenge at the department level, our Engineering Science and Mechanics department is beginning to revolutionize the current graduate education being offered through a required first-semester, problem-based course for all new graduate students. The goals for the new course are: to prepare incoming Ph.D. students to quickly become independent researchers, to provide structured self-directed learning, to develop professional skills, to increase the number of PhD students in the program, and to develop reading and writing skills for conducting research. To achieve these goals, the new curriculum introduces students to a range of good research practices in Engineering. The planned content includes: 1) conducting research, including organizing research groups, problem identification and solution, connecting innovative ideas from disparate fields, laboratory safety and procedures, data management; 2) communicating research, including literature review, manuscript preparation, grant writing, or oral communication; and 3) other critical skills or considerations in conducting research, including collaborative skills, tool use, ethical and responsible conduct of research, the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in research. With the newly created and implemented curriculum being piloted in the 2019 Fall semester, this study aims to investigate student expectations and experiences of this course to inform course improvement. The course evaluation will include a formative assessment survey roughly 3 weeks into the course as well as a summative survey and focus group at the end of the course. There are currently 14 students enrolled in the pilot course, 11 of which completed the formative feedback survey. The survey is designed to seek feedback from students asking about 1) student expectations, 2) the important lessons they have learned so far, 3) their feedback, and 4) an overall rating of the value of this course to them so far. At the end of the course, the students will be asked to complete the survey again to track any changes from throughout the semester. Following the survey, the evaluation team will conduct a focus group with the students to allow for them to provide more detailed feedback about the course. The feedback received from the students as well as from reflective interviews with the faculty will help to inform course improvements moving forward. Providing a first-semester course for graduate students to help them understand what it means to be successful in graduate school as well as what it means to be successful within their specific department can help students to set clear expectations and succeed.
Cutler, S., & Xia, Y., & Lissenden, C. J., & Costanzo, F., & Gluckman, B., & Litzinger, T. A. (2020, June), Work in Progress: A Problem-based Curriculum in Support of Structured Learning Experiences to Prepare Ph.D. Candidates for Independent Research Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35599
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