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Exploring the Investment: Four Universities’ Experiences With the Spencer Foundation’s Research Training Grant Program: A Retrospective


by Anna Neumann, Aaron Pallas & Penelope Peterson — 2008

Background: This article serves as a conclusion to a TCR special issue devoted to understanding the impact of the Spencer Foundation’s Research Training Grant (RTG) initiative. We examine four case reports prepared by scholars at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and Michigan State University, as well as the introductory article prepared by Lauren Jones Young of the Spencer Foundation.

Objective: To identify a set of principles that might guide the construction and ongoing operation of researcher preparation programs in graduate schools of education, both in the four institutions that generously scrutinized the successes and failures of their own efforts, and in other institutions concerned with preparing education researchers.

Research Design: Analytic essay

Conclusions: First we recommend that academic leaders not count on researcher preparation programs to drive broader efforts to change their organizations. Second, we place more stock in initiatives that allow students to construct a “personal core” of curricular knowledge that draws on institutional resources rather than a “common core” of knowledge that will carry all students throughout their doctoral studies. Third, we caution that providing some students with differential financial, intellectual, and social resources poses risks for many faculty and students around questions of status and autonomy. And finally, because organizational (bureaucratic) boundaries may not be isomorphic with the boundaries that define meaningful communities of research practice, academic leaders should recognize the strengths and limitations of such boundaries.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 110 Number 7, 2008, p. 1477-1503
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 14873, Date Accessed: 5/26/2017 8:33:45 PM

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About the Author
  • Anna Neumann
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    ANNA NEUMANN is professor of higher education, Teachers College, Columbia University. Previously, at Michigan State University, she helped design MSU’s RTG. Neumann’s research considers professors’ career-long learning, especially interplays of change and continuity in scholarly learning; current research addresses college teaching improvement. Recent publications include “Professing Passion: Emotion in the Scholarship of Professors in Research Universities” (American Educational Research Journal, 2006); “To Give and to Receive: Recently Tenured Professors’ Experiences of Service in Major Research Universities” (with Aimee LaPointe Terosky, Journal of Higher Education, 2007); and Professing to Learn: Creating Tenured Lives and Careers in the American Research University (forthcoming, Johns Hopkins University Press).
  • Aaron Pallas
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    AARON M. PALLAS is professor of sociology at Teachers College, Columbia University. Previously, at Michigan State University, he helped establish MSU’s RTG. Pallas has devoted the bulk of his career to the study of educational stratification, especially the relationship between school organization and educational stratification and the linkages among schooling, learning, and the human life course. His most recent projects are explicitly designed to inform policy makers and other stakeholders about conditions in New York City public schools. Recent publications include “Windows of Possibility: Perspectives on the Construction of Educational Researchers” (SAGE, 2006) and “A Subjective Approach to Schooling and the Transition to Adulthood” (Elsevier/JAI, 2006).
  • Penelope Peterson
    Northwestern University
    PENELOPE L. PETERSON is Eleanor R. Baldwin Professor and Dean of Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy. Prior to 1997, she was University Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University (MSU) during the time that MSU initiated their Spencer Research Training Grant (RTG) program. From 1998 to 2008, she was principal investigator of the grant for Northwestern’s RTG program. Peterson’s research focuses on the learning of children, youth, and adults, including undergraduate and graduate students. Peterson is coeditor, with Eva Baker and Barry McGaw, of the International Encyclopedia of Education, Third Edition, which will be 12 volumes when published.
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