2013 Sandra K. Abell Institute for Doctoral Students: Connecting Research to Policy and Practice

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Welcome to the online information for the 2013 Sandra K. Abell Institute for Doctoral Students: Connecting Research to Policy and Practice.  The Institute offers a special opportunity for NARST graduate students to meet for a week in a collaborative environment with fellow grad students and a wide range of mentors in science education research to advance their research and their broader connections to our exciting field.  The Institute specifically hopes to support development of doctoral student research practices including those related to research design, research methods and communication of research.

The Institute will run from July 15 - 19, 2013 at the George Washington University campus and the offices of AAAS in Washington, DC.   The Institute is designed to be a focused and energetic group of young scholars who have completed their basic research coursework, who have a clear idea of the direction of their project but who also have room for change in an emerging proposal or early stages of research.  The Institute is limited to 24 graduate students and 8 mentors who will also meet in smaller working groups of 6 students and 2 mentors throughout the week.

Participants will have three important sets of experiences during the week:

Participation in Critical Friends Groups

In these groups, graduate students will have ongoing opportunities to reflect upon their research design and research methods with experienced researchers and fellow students. There will also be opportunities to review successful NARST proposals (in preparation for their own posters at NARST 2014). Moreover, in these groups, there is an ongoing emphasis on how to support peers and how to receive feedback and criticism. These groups will be comprised of students doing similar work, and they will have mentors who are familiar with the conceptual orientation, methodologies, and approaches of their work. The student products of the Critical Friends Group will be their posters at the Sandra K. Abell Institute session at the NARST 2014 meeting.

Meet a Mentor Sessions

During this faculty-doctoral student one-on-one meeting time, graduate students will identify mentors they would like to meet with in order to enhance their focal content, conceptual tools or methodologies.

Faculty Talks

The faculty talks will “zoom in” on issues of concern for new researchers, attempt to build on and expand what doctoral students have learned from their advisors, and in their courses. The talks will be grounded within the context of faculty research programs, and will attend to issues each faculty has worked with, been challenged by, and so on. For example, a set of faculty talks may focus on conceptual framing – what is a conceptual framework, how does it link to research questions and design? How does it guide data interpretation and findings? Another set of faculty talks will certainly focus on new forms of technology to support research (e.g., NVivo, RSS feeds, Studio code, online assessments). Others might focus on concerns such as: selecting an appropriate methodological approach or what happens when things do not go as planned. We plan to survey the selected doctoral student participants to gain better insight into the research issues which concern them, and tailor the faculty talks to meet their needs and interests.

Estimated Fees

Students (or their institutions) are expected to pay 175 USD to help supplement costs of the Institute, including faculty mentoring, overnight accommodation in double rooms, all breakfasts and lunches, 4 dinners, materials, and instruction.  Students, or their institutions, are expected to cover their own travel expenses and one evening meal.


There are four $500 Travel scholarships available for students who could benefit from attending the Sandra K. Abell Institute, but lack access to financial resources to support their travel. These scholarships cover up to $500 in travel costs. There are six waivers for students who could benefit from attending the Sandra K. Abell Institute, but lack access to financial resources to support their registration fees. This scholarship waives the $175 USD fee.

Selection Criteria

The maximum number of students attending the Sandra K. Abell Institute will be 24. Consideration will be given to a broad geographical distribution of attendees, and the intellectual orientation of the work. Although PhD students actively engaged in research at any stage of their programs are invited to apply, preference will be given to students working on their doctoral dissertations. The following criteria will be used to assess the applications:

  • Conceptualization of the problem- Is this an interesting problem to study? Are there potential contributions to the field of science education?
  • Articulation of the problem and the research- Is the proposal coherent? Is there evidence that the student has an adequate research background to conduct the work?
  • Relation of the work to practice and/or policy – Is there a direct or indirect connection to practice and policy?
  • Potential benefit in participating in the Institute– Is the student in a place to benefit from participation in the program?

The quality of each student application will be assessed by three reviewers working independently. These reviewers will be experienced science education researchers from within the NARST community.


Applications must be submitted online through this site no later than November 30, 2012.  Decisions will be announced on January 7, 2013.   The online application must be accompanied by a Research Synopsis of no more than 5 pages (excluding references), as described below.

In addition, each application must be accompanied by a 1-2 page letter of recommendation from the student's advisor, or other appropriate faculty member. This letter should address the current status of the student, the potential gain of the student by attending the Sandra K. Abell Institute, and areas in which the student could benefit in terms of assistance. This letter should be sent by the graduate advisor to skasri2013@gmail.com prior to the application deadline. Received letters will be confirmed.

Research Synopsis

Each application should be accompanied by a Research Synopsis of no more than 5 pages, excluding references.  You will be asked to upload your Research Synopsis on the last page of this application.  The Research Synopsis is the main basis upon which your application will be assessed (see ‘selection criteria’ below). A typical Research Synopsis should include the following elements:

  • A rationale and statement of the problem of your study;
  • Your theoretical framework;
  • A short review of relevant literature;
  • A clear statement of the research questions the study will try to answer;
  • Outline of the research design and methods; and
  • Preliminary findings (if available).

Format of Synopsis

Begin the Research Synopsis with the Title of your work. After a single line space give your name, institution, and the name of your doctoral advisor.  Please use sub-headings based on the bullet points above to indicate the main sections of your Synopsis. Follow APA 6, except submit a single-spaced (rather than double-spaced) synopsis. The synopses of students attending the Sandra K. Abell Institute will be made available online to all participants.

Additional Information

Please direct questions about the Institute and the application process to Julie A. Luft (jaluft@uga.edu) or Angie Calabrese-Barton (acb@msu.edu).  Technical questions or problems with the application submission should be directed to Bob Geier (bobgeier@msu.edu).

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