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ERIC Number: ED553232
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Apr
Pages: 8
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Essential Competencies for Interdisciplinary Graduate Training: Summary Report. GS-10F-0086K
Gamse, Beth C.; Espinosa, Lorelle L.; Roy, Radha
Abt Associates
The Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program represents a substantial investment by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to improve the quality of graduate education, and ultimately, to increase the number of graduates better prepared to address our nation's 21st century scientific and technological needs. The IGERT program supports education and research that integrates multiple disciplines by drawing purposefully from different disciplines' approaches both to research and to emerging research questions that the scientific community has had neither the knowledge base nor technology to address. IGERT further emphasizes the preparation of skilled graduates who can communicate complex ideas to laypersons and work well in team settings. The program meets its goals by providing grants to institutions of higher education to support U.S. citizens or permanent residents in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields who are seeking interdisciplinary graduate research training in emerging interdisciplinary science and engineering areas. Funded IGERT projects offer their graduate trainees both financial support and a wide range of interdisciplinary research and educational enrichment experiences. Most IGERT projects are led by a Principal Investigator (PI) in a single discipline, often in partnership with other co-PIs from collaborating departments or institutions working in common interdisciplinary fields. The projects' PIs design a set of educational and training activities that include interdisciplinary courses and seminars, cross-department laboratory experiences, team-based research projects, and off-campus internships, among other activities. The National Science Foundation (NSF) contracted with Abt to conduct a study focused on the first broad goal of the IGERT program by exploring the ways in which institutions are preparing Ph.D. students to conduct interdisciplinary research. This study builds on a series of studies Abt has completed that examine other important aspects of the IGERT program. An important first step for the Abt study team was to delve deeper into the literature on interdisciplinary research to learn whether specific sets of knowledge, skills or abilities-also referred to as interdisciplinary "competencies"--have been identified as essential for conducting interdisciplinary scientific research in particular. Based on an in-depth literature review, and close consultation with NSF and the study's advisory committee, the study team identified six core competencies essential for conducting interdisciplinary research. They are: (1) Depth of knowledge in one discipline or field of study; (2) Ability to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of multiple disciplines; (3) Ability to apply the approaches and tools from multiple disciplines to address a research problem; (4) Ability to work in a team with individuals trained in different disciplines; (5) Ability to communicate research based in one discipline or field of study to academic researchers trained in different disciplines; and (6) Ability to communicate about interdisciplinary research to both general and non-academic audiences. The study uses this group of competencies as a starting point to understand whether IGERT participants perceive this set, and perhaps others, as important for conducting interdisciplinary research, and how IGERT projects develop trainees in these six areas. The study's key research questions are targeted explicitly on whether and how this group of competencies is the focus of IGERT projects. Study Questions examine: (1) Whether and in what ways do IGERT participants (PIs and trainees) perceive the knowledge, skills or abilities drawn from the literature as important to conducting interdisciplinary research; (2) What activities do projects implement to develop trainees' interdisciplinary research capacity, as characterized by these knowledge, skills or abilities; How do projects assess trainees' development as interdisciplinary scientists; (3) How helpful do trainees perceive their IGERT training to be in developing their capacity to conduct interdisciplinary research as characterized by the six areas; (4) How confident are IGERT trainees of their knowledge, skills, and abilities in these six areas; and (5) What challenges do trainees encounter with the IGERT traineeship? The study team collected data directly from two key respondent groups: IGERT Principal Investigators (PIs) and IGERT trainees, from a set of 40 IGERT projects initially funded in 2007 and 2008. Data come from interviews with 39 of the 40 PIs and from 431 trainees across the 40 projects. This exploratory study's findings inform a collective understanding of how interdisciplinary research competencies are defined, operationalized and experienced in IGERT settings, and hopefully it also can offer insights and directions for future inquiry. There is evidence that IGERT PIs and trainees perceive the study's six interdisciplinary competencies similarly. PIs indicated that they rely on distinct training activities, and IGERT students described those activities as helpful in developing interdisciplinary research skills. The study findings may also provide useful program knowledge for NSF about how PIs conceptualize interdisciplinary training, and how trainees experience IGERT activities as vehicles for becoming interdisciplinary researchers.["Essential Competencies for Interdisciplinary Graduate Training: Summary Report. GS-10F-0086K" was prepared for the National Science Foundation. To view "Essential Competencies for Interdisciplinary Graduate Training in IGERT: Final Report. GS-10F-0086K" please see ED553183.]
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Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Abt Associates, Inc.