Mentoring Graduate Students for Faculty Roles

Cecilia Shore, Miami University

APS Teaching Institute, Atlanta, May 2003


I. The mismatch between doctoral training and expectations of new faculty

a. Graduate education generally

b. Graduate training in Psychology

II. What are we doing about it? 

a. General recommendations for improving the preparation of graduate students for faculty roles

b. Sample programmatic efforts to enhance professional development of future faculty


III.  Benefits/Effectiveness of academic professional development programs


I. The mismatches among graduate student expectations, doctoral training, and actual careers

(Gaff, 2002; Golde & Dore, 2001)


·        Reflect on the experiences of new faculty members

o     Trower, Austin & Sorcinelli (2001).  Early career faculty report “an incomprehensible tenure system, a lack of community, and an unbalanced life.”  

o     This personal cost is symptomatic of a broader malaise.


·        Graduate student expectations, and the training they receive, are not consistent with actual jobs available.

o       Of students who are interested in faculty careers, 54% of graduate students indicated that they would like to work at a large research-intensive university; only 4% preferred a comunity college.  (Golde & Dore, 2001)






“Doctoral students persist in pursuing careers as faculty members, and graduate programs persist in preparing them for careers at research universities… The result: Students are not well prepared to assume the faculty positions that are available…”  (Golde & Dore, p. 5)



·        Graduate students are not prepared for faculty responsibilities. 


What do primarily undergraduate hiring institutions expect of new faculty?

o                Teaching is a “must”. 

Generally 8-12 SCH/semester. 

Smaller class sizes.

Address needs of a wide variety of students without sacrificing academic rigor. 

Expectation of creative, active-learning pedagogy. 

Engage in course/ curricular design.

Supervise independent study, field work. 

Lower-division survey courses for majors and non-majors, interdisciplinary and general education courses. 

Integrate general undergraduate educational goals such as service learning, multicultural perspectives and information literacy.

May be expected to write grants for teaching equipment, engage in scholarship of teaching


o       Research:

Range from “stay informed about your field” to “develop fundable research that involves undergraduates”. 

May value applied research engaged with the community, or interdisciplinary work. 

Less time, resources & technical assistance

Fewer collaborators in your discipline


o       Service:

Availability to students for advising on a wide variety of issues

Commitment to institutional mission and role of institution in community.

Involvement in campus  or community events. 

Collegial—bring out the best in colleagues.

Committee service and governance requires awareness of issues such as curriculum, working conditions, distribution of resources, and concomitant internal political conflicts.


(Adams, 2002; Bushey, Lycan & Videtich, 2001, Meacham, 2002).


Are graduate students prepared to do these things? 

Survey of 4000 doctoral students at 27 universities  (Golde & Dore, 2001)



Have you been prepared by your program to:

% “very much”

(vs. somewhat, not at all)

Teach discussion sections


Teach lecture course


Create inclusive classroom


Develop teaching philosophy


Incorporate information technology in classroom


Teach specialized graduate courses




Have you been prepared by your program to:

% “very much”

(vs. somewhat, not at all)

Conduct research


Publish research findings


Collaborate in interdisciplinary research


How clearly do you understand customary practices regarding

% saying “very clear”

Using copyrighted material 


Biosafety, human/animal subjects


Order of authorship


Appropriate use of research funds


Refereeing academic papers fairly


When & how to publish papers




Have you been prepared by your program to:

% “very much”

(vs. somewhat, not at all)

Advise undergraduates


Apply expertise to community beyond campus


Review papers, serve on disciplinary society committees


Serve on departmental/university committees




But, surely, psychology is doing better than that—or are we? 

Survey of graduate students at 3 research universities (N=89) (Meyers, Reid & Quina, 1998)

On a 0-4 scale, students rated class management, academic life, ethical issues, psychology content and research training between 2.4 and 2.60 in importance to their preparation for a career in academia.  However, they rated the level of training they were receiving from 0.82 to 1.53. 

National Association of Graduate-Professional Students Survey Results










                                             % positive responses (Agree, Strongly Agree)

TAs in my program are appropriately prepared and trained before entering the classroom.




TAs in my program are appropriately supervised to help improve their teaching skills




Doctoral students in my program receive effective placement assistance and job search support for positions in academia





In a recent national survey of psychology graduate departments:

94% use TAs, 57% give TAs full course responsibility. 

43% offer a teaching seminar,

14% gave NO training or supervision to their TAs. (Meyers & Prieto, 2000).    


Preparation for the realities of faculty life:

Psychology faculty respondents indicated that TA training does not typically encourage TAs to develop skills and attitudes that have been found to be congruent with new faculty teaching success and satisfaction.

1 (very great) to 5 (very little)

Skill/Attitude (Boice, 1991,1992)



Involvement (immersion in campus life and faculty activities)



Regimen (apportioning one’s time,

regimen of moderation, efficiency)



Self-management (learning to solve the right problem and attend to the right task at the right time)



Social networks

(socializing on and off campus)



(Mueller, Perlman, McCann & McFadden, 1997)


We’re all above average…

National survey of psychology faculty

“New college professors often experience adjustment problems because graduate training has not oriented them properly toward their many job responsibilities”

65% agree or strongly agree

“The typical graduate of a conventional doctoral program is well prepared to teach”

57% disagree, strongly disagree

                                                  ↕ ?

Nonetheless, 70% report their TAs are adequately or very adequately prepared for a faculty career (teaching, scholarship, and other responsibilities) (M = 2.3, SD = 1.0, where 1 = very adequately prepared and 5 = very inadequately prepared).

(Mueller, Perlman, McCann & McFadden, 1997)


II. What are we doing about it?

General recommendations for improving the preparation of graduate students for faculty roles

(Adams, 2002; Boyer Commission; Council on Undergraduate Research, 2003; Golde & Dore, 2001; Meyers et al. 1998)


Items with * noted as particularly valuable by alumni (DeNeef, 2002)



o       Give students time to adapt to graduate school before teaching.

o       Recognize developmental changes in teaching competence--Provide doctoral students with successively more independent teaching experiences (Sprague & Nyquist, 1989).

*        If possible, provide opportunities to teach at a different institution, to teach different types of classes—lecture/lab/discussion, both majors and non-majors, and/or interdisciplinary courses. 

o       Provide one or more of the following supports: seminars in teaching, thoughtful supervision from the professor assigned to the course, mentoring by experienced teachers, and regular discussions of classroom problems with peers.

o       Familiarize graduate student teachers with new pedagogies (e.g., active learning), and curricular goals such as service-learning, multiculturalism, information literacy.

*        Help graduate student teachers learn to address the learning needs of students from diverse backgrounds. 

*        Provide opportunities to observe/learn from outstanding teachers, particularly those at predominantly undergraduate institutions.

o       Compensation for TAs should reflect more adequately the time and effort expected. Financial awards should be established for outstanding teaching assistants.

*        Assist students to articulate their philosophy of teaching, assess their own effectiveness & develop a professional portfolio. 

o       Legitimatize teaching and the scholarship of teaching by inclusion in the colloquium/brown-bag schedule. 

o       Familiarize graduate student teachers with resources to support their development as teachers, e.g., campus teaching-learning center, STP. 


o       Of course, doctoral students should have experience in conducting publishable research, presenting it at conferences and writing it for refereed journals.  They should also have experience in writing grant proposals.

o       Raise awareness of potential limitations on research time & support at hiring institutions.  Encourage students to consider how to adapt, e.g., use alternative methods.

o       Doctoral students should have exposure to lab management issues such as hiring, ordering supplies, scheduling, etc.

o       Introduce graduate students to involving undergraduates in their research, and mentoring  student projects. 

o       Introduce graduate students to professional standards concerning authorships, refereeing of manuscripts, use of human subjects, etc.

o       Provide opportunities to learn from, and, ideally,  collaborate with, researchers in other disciplines and/or at institutions where this is not the primary focus. 



*        Discuss issues such as: academic politics, the impact of a visiting/term position on one’s career, problems experienced by “token” faculty.

*        Involve students in governance and application of expertise to the community. Attend faculty meetings at non-doctoral institution. 

o       Provide information about advising and career paths for undergraduate majors. 

*        Provide opportunities to learn from faculty at non-doctoral institutions about service expectations, evaluation, reward & tenure systems.  Shadow a partner faculty member through a day. 


Career placement

o       Establish connections between career planning office and department for workshops etc.

o       Allow opportunities for grad students to practice job talks, both research presentations and teaching a sample class. 

o       Provide information/examples of cover letters, vitas, teaching and research statements geared to different types of institutions.

o       When writing letters of recommendation, be aware of the type of institution and its desiderata.

o       Assess the effectiveness of your department in preparing students for job searches. 

*        Provide opportunities for students to discuss hiring practices with faculty/chairs from predominantly undergraduate institutions. 


o       Assess departmental availability of professional development opportunities and mentoring in all areas of faculty life. 

o       Explicitly discuss professional ethics.

o       Encourage students to do interdisciplinary coursework and collaboration.

o       Graduate courses need to emphasize oral and written communication skills.

o       Encourage students to use technology in creative ways.

*        Discuss connections among teaching, research and service, and possibilities for integrating these.

o       Peer mentoring not only assists the junior student, but also allows mentors to reflect on and articulate their strategies.

o       Make students aware of multiple types/pathways of academic careers, e.g., part-time work, community colleges, virtual universities, corporate universities, and continuing education programs. 

o       Give students “permission to talk” about their questions and concerns about the profession they are entering.

Sample programmatic efforts to improve doctoral students’ preparation for faculty roles. 

o       First step: Mentor novice teachers into greater independence and deepening reflection. 

§         Typical TA responsibilities and contents of TA-training programs

·        Topics: Learning & Motivation, Leading Discussions, Ethics and Professionalism, Grading.  Practice: Writing lesson plans, Lecturing, Exams.  (Lewis, 2003; Mueller, Perlman, McCann & McFadden, 1997).

§         UNH has fully integrated preparation for teaching into their psychology graduate curriculum. 

·        Students initially give oral presentations and assist faculty with teaching.  In the third year, they teach Intro and take a teaching seminar that includes supervision.  Fourth-years are supervised while teaching a course in their specialty area.  (Benassi & Fernald, 1993.) 

o       Professional development programs, e.g., the Preparing Future Faculty national initiative: American Association of Colleges and Universities, and the Council of Graduate Schools (Gaff, Pruit—Logan & Weibl, 2000).

§         Build on TA training; emphasize balance among teaching, research and service; create partnerships with non-doctoral institutions; mentor students in their roles as future faculty (Tice, 1997).

§         American Psychological Association nurtured 4 model PFF programs: UNH, Colorado, Georgia, and Miami. 

§         Miami’s program

o       Our partner institutions: Miami’s regional campuses, in nearby Hamilton and Middletown, College of Mount Saint Joseph, Northern Kentucky University, Earlham College

o       All members of the department may participate in: colloquia on teaching, visits from alumni, “Tri-State symposium”—undergraduate poster sessions, partner undergrads learn about grad school, grad students learn about partner faculty roles. 

o       Second-year students: Teaching Seminar/Practicum

o       Optional Continuing Supervision of Teaching

o       Advanced students may be chosen as “APA PFF scholars: go to teaching conferences, do placement & receive mentoring on partner campus, do individualized project


 III.  Benefits/Effectiveness


TA training programs

o       Increase TA confidence

o       Improve the quality of lectures

o       Increase TA ability to engage students

o       Increase student ratings

Lewis (2003)


Benefits of PFF programs to grad students (Pruitt-Logan, Gaff & Weibl, 1998): understanding faculty roles, awareness of diverse institutions, ability to compete in the job market, teaching knowledge, institutional governance, ability to work with diverse students. 

Benefits to doctoral institutions (Lee, 2000)

Impacts indices of graduate program quality:

·        Placement and quality of placement of alumni

·        Alumni satisfaction

·        Recruiting high-caliber students

·        Student diversity


Benefits to partner institutions

Opportunities for undergraduates to interact with graduate students:  youthful enthusiasm, specialized expertise, role models and mentors for undergraduates.  Doctoral institutions should seek out opportunities to benefit partners.  


Reflection by APA PFF scholar:

In my two years of participation in PFF, I have gained a lot of valuable experience with, and knowledge of, all that being a college professor entails. I have taught and been involved at two local colleges, and have thus been afforded the opportunity to see what being a faculty member is like in a variety of settings, and just how much faculty life can differ by institution. I feel I am better prepared for the job search and how to best match my interests and qualifications; I know what I want in a job and feel better prepared to get it. Many of the things I have learned through PFF-related activities I had never even thought to consider before; they were things I didn’t know that I didn’t know. I would recommend PFF for anyone even considering an academic career.

Useful web links:

Preparing Future Faculty

Council of Graduate Schools" target="_blank"

APA's website on faculty development has links to resources on topics such as: academic careers, mentoring, and teaching portfolios.

Re-envisioning the Ph.D." target="_blank"

Research on teaching and professional development by psychologists Baron Perlman & Lee McCann.

Society for Teaching of Psychology

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an excellent Career Network area with advice

Miami’s psychology PFF program



Adams, K. A. (2002) What colleges and universities want in new faculty.  Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities. 

Boice, P. (1991 ).New faculty as teachers. Journal of Higher Education, 62, 150-173.

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Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in Research Universities. Retrieved from on May 23, 2003.

Bushey, N., Lycan, D. E., & Videtich, P. E. (2001). How to get a tenure-track position at a predominantly undergraduate institution: Advice for those in the scientific fields.  Washington, DC: Council on Undergraduate Research. 

Council on Undergraduate Research (April, 2003).  Preparing future faculty members for careers at  primarily undergraduate institutions.  Washington, DC. Council on Undergraduate Research. 

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Gaff, J. Pruitt-Logan, A. & Weibl, R. (2000) Building the faculty we need: Colleges and universities working together.    Washington DC: American Association of Colleges and Universities. 

Golde & Dore, 2001.  At cross purposes: What the experiences of today’s graduate students reveal about doctoral education.  Philadelphia: the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Lee, R. E. (2001).  Justifying preparing future faculty programs.  Liberal Education 87(2) 46-51.

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Meyers, S. A. & Prieto, L. R. (2000).  Training in the teaching of psychology: What is done and examining the differences.  Teaching of Psychology, 27(4), 258-261. 

Meyers, S. A., Reid, P. T., & Quina, K. (1998) Ready or not, here we come: Preparing psychology graduate students for academic careers.  Teaching of Psychology, 25(2) 124-126.

Mueller, A. Perlman, B., McCann, L. I., & McFadden, S. H. (1997). A Faculty Perspective on Teaching Assistant Training.   Teaching of Psychology, 24, 167-171.

Nerad, M & Cerney, J (1999) From rumors to facts: Career outcomes of English PhDs.  Communicator, XXXII, Special issue, September. 

Pruitt-Logan, A. , Gaff, J.  & Weibl, R. (May, 1998) The impact: Assessing experiences of participants in the Preparing Future Faculty Program 1994-1996.  Preparing Future Faculty: A series of occasional papers. No. 6  Washington DC: American Association of Colleges & Universities, Council of Graduate Schools. 

Sprague, J. & Nyquist, J. D. (1991).  A developmental perspective on the TA role. In Nyquist, Abbot, Wulff & Sprague, Preparing the professioriate of tomorrow to teach, pp. 295-312.  Dubuque, IA: Hendall/Hunt Publishing Company. 

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