Novel Courses for the Professional Development of Graduate Students: Results and Reflection

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


The Paul-Elder model of critical thinking has been adopted as the pedagogical framework for two, one-credit graduate courses for engineering (STEM) graduate students at the University of South Carolina. The courses aimed at explicit instruction in development of critical reading and writing skills. Course 1 is for new graduate students who need to develop an understanding of the literature for their research projects. This course focuses on finding, assessing, and critically reading the research literature relevant to their new project. Course 2 is for graduate students who are preparing to write or present their work in a professional venue. The second course focuses on writing, in the standards of the discipline, but with an explicit view of meeting critical thinking standards. These courses were developed to address common faculty concerns about their graduate students, e.g. poor writing skills; inability to comprehend and act on the literature; inability to develop independence of thought; etc. This paper summarizes course syllabi and typical assignments and approaches to assessing student work. Work has begun on the efficacy of these courses, addressing several key questions concerning skill development. Preliminary assessment addresses the extent to which the two-course sequence promotes (a) level of mastery of information literacy skills and written communication skills; (b) the ability to produce high-quality research communications; (c) the development of scholarly independence; (d) the student’s self-perception of their research capabilities and (e) ability to apply critical thinking skills. This particular implementation of the Paul-Elder framework could be adapted to different graduate program environments.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

APA Citation

Matthews, M. A., Kunz, G. M., Brock, K., & Freeburg, D. (2020, June). Novel courses for the professional development of graduate students: Results and reflection. In 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access.