Investigating the Impact of Professional Development Programming for Graduate Students

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Mary Ellen Kelm, Dean of Graduate Studies

Project Team: Nicole White, Head, Research Commons, Library, and Sue Hampton, Coordinator of Professional Development Programs, Graduate Studies, Stephan Struve and Juliana Yeung, research assistants

Timeframe: August 2015 to September 2016

Funding: $5,000

Area addressed: APEX Program and Research Commons

Final report: View Mary-Ellen Kelm's final report (PDF)

Description: At SFU there are multiple units offering non-credit professional development programming to graduate students. According to the literature, professional development increases a student’s success in graduate school as well as contributes to their successful transition from graduate work into both academic and non-academic careers. However, the impact of these programs is not systematically evaluated at SFU. Two of the units involved in the development of programming for graduate students, the Research Commons and the Dean of Graduate Studies office, would like to investigate the impact of their programming. Our inquiry focuses on evaluating student learning and student experience—in particular how student success, experience, and sense of agency are enhanced by the types of professional development programming delivered through the APEX program and through the programming of the Research Commons.

Questions addressed:

  • What definitions of “impact” circulate in the literature, amongst program developers, and amongst our students?
  • How are other established professional development programs in higher education assessing their programs’ impact on students?
  • What types of evaluative mechanisms are appropriate to develop for our purposes?
  • Looking at our own programs, what impact does our programming have on graduate students?

Knowledge sharing: We plan to share the results of our impact evaluation with our partners at SFU (other professional development providers), as well as with academic units and graduate programs.  Many units will benefit from our experience in designing this impact evaluation. Graduate students will also benefit as the results of the inquiry will result in revisions to programming.

McLaughlin, S., White, N., Cameron, A., & Kelm, M.E. (2017, March). Building community and enabling student success: 5 reasons why graduate students love thesis boot camp. Panel session at the Association of College & Research Libraries (ARCL 2017), Baltimore, MD.

Keywords: professional development; graduate students