The next generation of college and university faculty is now being educated in doctoral programs in American research universities. The continued health of higher education institutions depends on attracting a diverse and talented group of doctoral students to the professoriate. It also depends on these new faculty members being able to ethically perform the range of roles required of professors.
While doctoral programs do an exemplary job of training graduate students as researchers, preparation for the other roles faculty members play—teaching, advising, and university governance—is generally not as rigorous. Furthermore, the ethical dimensions and core values of the profession are not well communicated to prospective faculty members. The health of the profession, and its ability to maintain autonomy through self-regulation, is thus endangered.
While existing data provide evidence of the numbers of doctoral degrees granted each year and the career tracks that new Ph.D.s pursue, we lack an understanding of how well prepared new faculty are for the careers they face. We have neither a clear picture of the experiences of doctoral students, nor an understanding of how these experiences vary by field and by institution. Such information will give us greater insight into the process of doctoral education and provide direction for improving it.
The Research Project
This study is a cross-sectional survey study of advanced graduate students in eleven disciplines at the 28 institutions listed below. The survey took approximately 30 minutes to complete. It was sent to students in hard copy, as well as being available in a Web-based version. It was distributed in late spring and summer of 1999. Initial results were presented in 2000, and the project report "At Cross Purposes: What the experiences of today's doctoral students reveal about doctoral education," will be released in January, 2001.
The Survey Instrument
The survey has five sections: (a) experiences as a graduate student, (b) description of program and department, (c) career plans, (d) expectations of the faculty job, and (e) background information. The data will be analyzed by descriptive, comparative, and multivariate relational analyses. Some free-answers were also sought, and these data will be analyzed using qualitative techniques.
The instrument was designed to answer these questions:
Why are doctoral students pursuing the Ph.D.?
How effective are doctoral programs at preparing students for the wide range of careers they pursue, both in and out of the academy?
Do students understand what doctoral study entails before they enroll and once they begin their studies?
Do students understand what is expected of them during their programs and how to adequately meet those expectations?
Are the day-to-day processes of doctoral programs sufficiently clear so that student can concentrate on developing knowledge and skills?
Doctoral students who began their studies in the Fall of 1996 or earlier comprise the survey sample. Students from eleven disciplines were surveyed: art history, English, philosophy, psychology (non-clinical), sociology, history, molecular/cellular biology, ecology, chemistry, geology, and mathematics. We received 4,114 completed surveys; a 42.3% response rate.
The following 27 institutions and one cross-institution program participated in the study. They represent institutions that are leading producers of scholars in the disciplines, and universities participating in the
Preparing Future Faculty program.
Arizona State University
University of California, Los Angeles
Institutions provided directory information on doctoral students who began their studies in 1996 or earlier in the eleven fields. Students were then directly mailed information on the survey, and had the option to take the survey electronically <www.phd-survey.org> or in a paper version. 51.6% completed a paper survey and 48.4% responded via the web.
The study is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The principal investigator is
Dr. Chris M.
Golde, formerly Assistant Scientist at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at
the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and currently Senior Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Dr. Timothy M. Dore,
Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Georgia, is the co-investigator. A graduate research assistant at the University of Wisconsin
was also part of the team.
We are partnered with the Preparing Future Faculty program, a collaborative effort between The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS).
The project can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or at 650/566-5513.
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