The impact of teaching development programs on doctoral students’ career trajectories

Doctoral students are key members of a course teaching team, particularly in large enrollment early years undergraduate courses. Many undertake a range of formal and informal teaching development activities, but relatively little is known about the impact of these activities on their roles supporting undergraduate learning and on their own career trajectories. And in particular, little is known as to whether engaging in teaching and teaching development activity might assist or harm their future chances of securing academic appointments as tenure track faculty.

A recent study spanning 7 years from the Wisconsin School of Education Research of over 3000 STEM doctoral students who teach sought to investigate these issues. The project titled Building a Better Future STEM Faculty: How Teaching Development Programs Can Improve Undergraduate Education was produced by Mark R. Connolly, Julia N. Savoy, You-Geon Lee and Lucas B. Hill. Amongst their key findings was that higher levels of teaching development engagement during the doctoral program made graduate students more likely to subsequently obtain a tenure-track or non-tenure-track faculty position. Controlling for other factors, more than 55 hours of teaching development activity significantly increased the likelihood of moving into a faculty position within five years after completing the Ph.D, regardless of whether the participant completed a postdoc appointment.

A detailed presentation of the full findings is available from the project final report and a video presentation of the findings. These findings signal clear and varied benefits of engaging in teaching development activity for doctoral students. They have implications for teaching development units regarding provision of appropriate programs and for Department Chairs and Heads in their roles to support and champion teaching development activities for doctoral students. As a member of CIRTL, UBC is creating multiple support pathways for doctoral students to engage in teaching development: you can browse here.