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Elizabeth Che defends her dissertation proposal!

Elizabeth Che (second from the left) presenting at her highly attended proposal defense

Congrats to Elizabeth Che who successfully defended her dissertation proposal titled “Identifying Factors that Predict Graduate Student Instructors’ Emphasis on Teaching Employable Skill in their Courses.” Her proposal defense was attended by many supporting students (three students are missing from the screenshot above)!


Concerns have been raised that colleges are not adequately developing the skills students need to succeed in a globally competitive workforce (Davidson, 2017). This dissertation asks whether graduate students embarking on careers as undergraduate instructors aim to teach employable skills in their courses. Using online surveys distributed to graduate students teaching across college disciplines, we ask whether self-reported teaching of employable skills relates to their approaches to teaching (Trigwell & Prosser, 2004), awareness of their students’ goals, teaching strategies, teaching challenges, pedagogical training, connection with students, and their own experiences as students. The survey also includes professional development in the form of content acquisition podcasts that illustrate ways to incorporate skills development in online courses (e.g., teaching students to analyze data using Excel, make posters, record presentations). We then ask participants about obstacles that prevent them from focusing on employable skills in their courses.

We will use regression models to identify relations between the four domains of the Teaching Employable Skills Survey and other measures (approaches to teaching, awareness of their students’ goals, teaching strategies, challenges, training, connections with students). Based on prior work (Schwartz et al., 2020), we expect graduate students to endorse a student-centered teaching approach but rely mostly on lecturing. The lack of alignment between their preferred teaching approach and actual teaching practices has implications for professional development. Additionally, how graduate students cope with teaching remotely and whether they include skills development in their online courses is unknown. Even though graduate students are the future of the professoriate, they are rarely included in studies of undergraduate teaching. Focusing on their experiences as novice instructors will inform professional development emphasizing the broad skills training students need for employment after college.

Committee Members:

Patricia J. Brooks (Committee Chair), Professor, Educational Psychology, College of Staten Island / The Graduate Center, CUNY

Joan M. Lucariello, Professor, Educational Psychology, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Bruce Homer, Associate Professor, Educational Psychology, The Graduate Center, CUNY

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