Graduate Identity Formation through Teaching

By Julianne Wenner, PI

A principal goal of U.S. graduate education is to prepare independent researchers by focusing students on learning content and conducting research, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Students have primarily been prepared for academic career paths although a significant proportion of STEM graduate students go on to non-academic careers. Therefore, it is vital to focus graduate education efforts on preparing a new type of scholar – one with a strong professional identity and a flexible set of tools – rather than preparing a person for a specific type of career. Although often neglected in traditional graduate education, the development of a student’s professional identity is proven to raise retention rates and promote academic success, particularly for underrepresented students.

Boise State University tested an educational model that supported the cultivation of STEM graduate students’ professional identities through collaboration with undergraduate education majors and elementary students in STEM learning. The teaching and communication skills that graduate students developed through the project will be transferable to diverse career paths.