Some graduate students in science, technology, engineering and math—or STEM—only do research, under the guidance of a mentor. Other STEM grad students also have teaching responsibilities, for example, instructing undergrads or local high schoolers. Now a study finds that grad students who also teach show significant improvement in written research proposals, compared with grad students with no teaching requirement. The finding appears in the journal Science. [David Feldon et al., "Graduate Students’ Teaching Experiences Improve Their Methodological Research Skills"]
Researchers followed almost a hundred grad students attending three different institutions. About half of the students also taught. All the grad students were asked to submit written research proposals at the beginning of an academic year and a revised version again at the end. And those grad students who spent the year doing research and teaching showed bigger improvements in coming up with testable hypotheses and in the design of valid experiments.
Differences in overall written quality among the students could not account for the results, because only specific skills among those analyzed showed improvement as a function of the teaching experience. So teaching may make STEM grad students better scientists. Not to mention better teachers.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]