Jump to content

How to be a competitive PhD applicant for science education


Recommended Posts

Hi all,

I am an undergraduate in my sophomore year, and I hope to pursue a doctoral degree (PhD) in science education in the future. I have immersed myself in a lot of different activities at the intersection of science, teaching, and linguistics, all of which represent my potential research interest. Among my research experiences, I am currently a researcher in a developmental biology lab and am involving myself in the next month with science education research. 

It's been hard finding quality information on the path to becoming a PhD in education. My reasons for considering the degree include a love of research, academia, teaching, and change in our educational systems. That said, I am unsure what graduate schools look for when accepting applicants. Here are some questions I have:

-What are some activities I can pursue as an undergraduate to show demonstrated interest for these programs?

-What factors are most important in accepting applicants? Research? Teaching experience? Volunteerism?

-How important are statistics, such as GPA and GREs?

-Is it necessary to receive a Master's Degree if I know that my ultimate goal is to be in academia?

Any advice you can provide is very much appreciated. I also am trying to talk to PhDs in the field to grasp a better understanding of the field.

Thank you!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It depends on the program and what kind of research within education research you are interested in!

Several science education programs, like the Science Education program at Stanford, are nestled within "curriculum and teacher education" programs, and may require classroom teaching experience to apply. Other programs, like Berkeley's SESAME program, may have doctoral students working on K-12 science teaching and learning, but also attract researchers interested in teaching science in higher ed - this program doesn't require prior K-12 teaching experience, but encourages applicants to have gained a masters in a math or science field (or, be willing to obtain a content-specific masters while at Berkeley). If you're more interested in the more cognitive-sciencey side of education research, then getting involved with research opportunities in education research (as it sounds like you are) or related psychology research is a great direction. 

I'd encourage you to get involved in some way with science teaching - whether that's tutoring or TAing peers in college, or volunteering with a science after school program, or doing work/internship at a science museum. Any experience that gives you more context to think about science teaching and learning will help you notice interesting puzzles worth researching AND build a deeper understanding of the context in which science learning happens. 

What matters most in your application is your statement of purpose and being able to articulate a story of the experiences that shape your current goals, thoughts, and questions about science learning. Recommendation letters that can add third party perspectives that align with your SOP are perhaps the second most important piece. If you want to get a jump on this, consider practice writing regularly about the things that draw you to science education, what puzzles pique your curiosity, how those connect to your own past experiences, etc, and seeing what themes emerge. You might notice evolution in your thinking over time and gain some insights about what is most profound to highlight in your ultimate SOP. 

Lastly, start reading research and noticing what excites you! Don't be afraid to reach out to researchers or organizations doing cool work to share your questions and ask advice on what to consider next. There's also a lot of science education researchers on Twitter, which is a surprisingly good way to get a sense of work in the field and connect to others engaged in this work. 

Best of luck!  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use