Will Tyson

Associate Professor of Sociology, University of South Florida

Dr. Tyson’s research focuses on gender and racial disparities in education, with a focus on student- and institutional-level influences on high school and college science and math course enrollment and achievement, as well as STEM degree attainment. Dr. Tyson has worked on several grants funded by the National Science Foundation. He is currently principal investigator of “Successful Academic and Employment Pathways in Advanced Technologies” ($1.2 million over 4 years). PathTech (for short) is a collaboration with Tampa Bay area high schools, community colleges, and technology small businesses to better understand pathways into AS degree programs and into the local workforce. This grant was the largest NSF grant awarded to USF in 2011, one of eight NSF grants over $1 million awarded to Florida universities, and the only $1 million grant awarded to an assistant professor at a Florida university. In total, Dr. Tyson has been awarded $2.2 million in external funding as a principal investigator and co-principal investigator and an additional $3 million as senior personnel. Dr. Tyson teaches courses in race and ethnicity, sport in society, and sociology of education.

Newsletter: Project Spotlight: PATHTECH Successful Academic & Employment Pathways in Advanced Technologies

Posted on January 1, 2016 by  in Newsletter - () ()

Associate Professor of Sociology, University of South Florida

Will Tyson is PI for Path Tech, an ATE targeted research project. He is an associate professor of sociology at the University of South Florida. Learn more about his project at

Q: What advice do you have for PIs who want to pursue targeted research in technician education?

The Targeted Research on Technician Education strand of ATE is an ideal avenue for current ATE PIs looking to fund small projects to learn more about student outcomes resulting from prior activities. The best advice I have is to seek out scholars with backgrounds in social science and education, preferably with NSF experience, to partner with on a targeted research submission.

Q: You’ve published numerous articles on your research. What is your sense of what journal editors and reviewers are looking for when it comes to research on technician education?

I’m not sure journal editors and reviewers are actually looking for research on technician education. This is both a challenge and an opportunity. Most STEM education research generally ignores the “T” and focuses on traditional pathways to science, engineering, and mathematics degrees and careers. I think people know “good tech jobs” exist, but generally lack knowledge about the educational pathways to those jobs and the rich life stories of community college students in technician education programs.

Q: How do you see ATE research fitting within the NSF-IES Common Guidelines for Education Research and Development?

I think there are some challenges to fitting ATE research into the Common Guidelines. There are several research types and ATE researchers have to be careful to make sure the type they choose is the best fit for their research questions. The Guidelines are a good start for new investigators, but senior investigators should continue to build upon their work and use prior research to justify their new research ideas.

Q: Based on your experience as an NSF proposer and reviewer, what are some common mistakes when it comes to targeted research proposals?

Everyone should pay close attention to the goals of the Targeted Research on Technician Education track as outlined in the ATE program solicitation, which are to simulate and support research on technician education and build the partnership capacity between 2- and 4-year institutions to design and conduct research and development projects. All projects should focus on studying education through partnerships between 2- and 4-year institutions. In my experience, targeted research proposals tend to be led by 2-year college faculty or scholars from 4-year institutions or private research institutes. The 2-year personnel tend to lack the capacity to conduct targeted research due to lack of experience or personnel, as evidenced by their biosketches. On the other hand, 4-year personnel tend to lack familiarity with 2-year colleges and seek to use students as “guinea pigs.” Proposals often do not show that the scholar will be able to recruit student participants. Targeted research proposals should show clear evidence that 2- and 4-year institutions or private research institutes are going to work collaboratively.

Blog: Building Effective Partnerships to Conduct Targeted Research on Student Pathways

Posted on March 4, 2015 by  in Blog ()

Associate Professor of Sociology, University of South Florida

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

My name is Will Tyson, associate professor of sociology at the University of South Florida. I am also principal investigator of PathTech (“Successful Academic and Employment Pathways in Advanced Technologies” [NSF #1104214]), an NSF ATE targeted research project aimed at better understanding pathways into technician education and into the workforce. In this post, I describe effective models through which ATE projects and centers can develop targeted research partnerships with STEM education researchers.

Personnel from 2-year and 4-year institutions bring different expertise to the table, but there is great potential for mutually beneficial partnerships built around the desire to learn more about student pathways and student outcomes. Within ATE, centers and projects are typically led by educators and practitioners with expertise in program development, curricular development, and professional development within their areas of technical expertise and technician education. Targeted research in technician education projects are led by STEM education researchers with backgrounds in social science and education interested in learning more about student pathways and outcomes while placing their experiences in a broader social context. What we do is very different, but our goals are the same.

When I discuss my research with ATE grantees and other stakeholders in K-12 education, community colleges, and local industry I get the same revealing responses: “NSF always wants to know about student outcomes, but we don’t really know how to do the research” and “We didn’t know there were people like you out there who did this research.” On the other hand, experienced NSF grantees who conduct research in K-12 education and/or four-year universities often know little about the “T” in STEM in community colleges and work being done through ATE Centers and Projects. Developing ways to bridge knowledge gaps between practitioners and researchers is necessary to increase our understanding of the processes of technician education.

PathTech is a partnership between social science and education researchers at the University of South Florida and the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center (FLATE), an NSF-ATE regional center of excellence. Such a partnership is both mandated by the ATE program solicitation and necessary to conduct high-impact research that can effectively be put into practice. This collaboration is an essential element of the PathTech research model, along with the proactive and enthusiastic participation of our community college, high school, and industry partners.

Through this multifaceted, interdisciplinary collaboration, we have been able to create a regional scale model that allows for the organic development of research objectives driven by the experiences and needs of college personnel as well as theory and scholarship. This is the foundation whereby knowledge is constructed and produced through interface and interaction with those experiencing technician educational and occupational pathways as administrators, teachers, students, employers, and policymakers. Most importantly, this collaboration also allows us to develop a mechanism for real-time dissemination of emerging findings and developing knowledge, thus allowing all parties to benefit from the research.

Report: Engineering Technology Pathways through High Schools, Community Colleges, and Industry Partners

Posted on December 8, 2014 by  in

“Successful Academic and Employment Pathways in Advanced Technologies” (NSF #1104214)
is an ATE Targeted Research on Technician Education partnership between Florida Advanced
Technological Education Regional Center of Excellence (FLATE) and an interdisciplinary team
of researchers from the University of South Florida (USF). PathTech responds to the growing
need to understand pathways to and from technician education programs and the technology
workforce through by interviewing students and key personnel in Tampa Bay high school career
academies, engineering technology (ET) AS/AAS programs, and advanced manufacturing
industry. This booklet contains summary findings from an evaluation of PathTech.

File: Click Here
Type: Report
Category: ATE Research & Evaluation
Author(s): Will Tyson

Webinar: Evaluation and Research in the ATE Program

Posted on November 10, 2014 by , , , in Webinars ()

Presenter(s): Jason Burkhardt, Kirk Knestis, Lori Wingate, Will Tyson
Date(s): December 10, 2014
Time: 1:00 – 2:30 PM EST
Recording: http://youtu.be/QoIZMreQ60I?t=12s

The Common Guidelines for Education Research and Development (http://bit.ly/nsf-ies_guide) define the National Science Foundation’s and Department of Education’s shared understanding and expectations regarding types of research and development projects funded by these agencies. Issued in 2013, these guidelines represent a major step toward clarifying and unifying the NSF’s and Department of Education’s policies regarding research and development, particularly with regard to different types of research and development projects and the nature of evidence needed for each type. In this webinar, we’ll provide an orientation to these relatively new guidelines; clarify the distinctions between research, development, and evaluation; and learn about targeted research within NSF’s Advanced Technological Education program.

Lori Wingate, Director of EvaluATE
Kirk Knestis, CEO of Hezel Associates
Will Tyson, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of South Florida and PI for the ATE-funded research project, PathTech

Slide PDF
Overview of the Common Guidelines for Education Research and Development
Checklists for the Common Guidelines for Education Research and Development
Edith Gummer’s Presentation on the Common Guidelines at the 2014 ATE PI Conference
PathTech Guide
Evaluation of NSF ATE Program Research and Development