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$1 Million Grant from Spencer Foundation will Support a New Type of Doctoral Research Experience

Teachers College has received a $1 million grant from the Spencer Foundation to support the preparation of outstanding doctoral students as educational researchers and to develop an apprenticeship model that may well redefine the doctoral experience at the College and in other graduate schools of education.

Most of the funding is to be used for direct support of doctoral students.

Led by Dean Zumwalt, who received a Spencer Foundation Mentorship award in 1994, TC faculty members will be designing research projects that consciously explore new models for preparing doctoral students as researchers in education.

The new designs emphasize interdisciplinary collaboration between senior and junior faculty--as well as the doctoral students.

Beginning in the spring of 1998, students who have completed their first year of doctoral work will be invited to apply for Spencer Fellowships, which will give them the chance to work on the research teams. The Spencer grant will be used to support two three-year cohorts of six doctoral students each.

The Spencer Fellowships will cover tuition and will provide 12-month stipends for students to serve as research apprentices for an average of 15 hours a week.

According to Dean Zumwalt, the research apprenticeships will not be typical research assistantships where the students are paid to assist faculty.

"We know that the best way to prepare outstanding educational researchers is to allow doctoral students to have direct mentoring relationships with faculty members," the Dean said. "We also believe that these mentoring relationships work best when the students are full members of the research team, not paid assistants. The mentor/mentee relationship goes beyond the typical employer/employee relationship."

Although only two or three faculty research proposals will be chosen for each cycle of the Spencer Fellowship program, Dean Zumwalt said the proposal system will be used at TC to encourage thoughtful development of research agendas and doctoral preparation, which may then be funded by other external sources.

Some of the Spencer funding will be used to prepare junior faculty for their roles as research mentors by giving those faculty members release time from classes so that they can participate more fully with Spencer cohorts.

A small portion of the grant--and other TC funds--will be used to hire a project coordinator, who will have specific expertise in developing research funding proposals.

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