PDP Frequently Asked Questions

Who can participate?

  • Individuals from science and engineering fields, with priority given to individuals whose affiliations and disciplinary backgrounds are most closely aligned with our teaching venues and funding sources. In 2024, our needs are skewing towards astronomy-based teaching venues in California and Hawai‘i. We are actively recruiting participants from institutions in Hawai‘i and from University of California campuses, but we may be able to accommodate others, as well.  
  •  The PDP is aimed at graduate students and postdocs, who are given priority in acceptance; however, professionals in academic and industry positions are welcome and play an important role in the ISEE/PDP community.

What is the cost to participate in the PDP?
The costs of the PDP include instructional fee, transportation, lodging, and meals, with the total costs dependent upon participants’ location. The instructional fee for the PDP is $4500. However, many participants are given fee waivers and provided travel support through ISEE. Participants may apply for a full instructional fee waiver if needed.
For participants outside of the Santa Cruz, CA area, transportation to and from the Inquiry Institute (Monterey, CA) and transportation plus lodging for the Design Institute should be factored into cost planning.
ISEE has grants specifically to help participants with transportation costs, so if an applicant has no other means of supporting these expenses  (e.g., grant, fellowship, institutional support, etc.) they can apply for a travel award. However, applicants are strongly encouraged to find full or partial funding from other sources. 


For more information on expenses, see the PDP Expense Summary webpage

A PDP Cost Planning Worksheet is available to assist in working through these costs.


What is the PDP practical teaching experience?
All participants are placed on a team that designs and teaches an authentic, inclusive STEM learning experience for college-level learners  in an ISEE affiliated program or course. These programs and courses are arranged by ISEE to ensure that all participants have an opportunity to teach in an environment that supports innovative teaching and the piloting of a new activity. Teaching venues are held at ISEE partner institutions. Teaching commitments are most commonly a 4-6 hour activity spread over a two-day time period, but can also be spread over several lab periods. When participants teach in programs, they may also have the opportunity to teach other activities, such as giving a short lecture, arranging a panel presentation, or leading small group discussions. The program does not provide salary for teaching time.

How do participants get assigned to teams?
On the PDP application, participants are asked about their interests and availability, and have an opportunity to identify their preferred teaching venues (though a match is not guaranteed). During the selection process ISEE simultaneously places participants on a team while working carefully to place them in a venue that matches with their preferences. Applicants should look to see what is available and get in contact directly with ISEE (isee@ucsc.edu) if they have questions. Applicants will be contacted if there is an opportunity to be placed on a team outside of their region or at a venue that was not indicated as one of their interests. Notification of acceptance into the program will include team placement, so that applicants know their team prior to confirming participation in the PDP.

What is the overall time commitment?
On average, PDP participants spend about 90 hours total on the program: participating in the two Institutes and a shorter facilitation workshop, working with their team, teaching, and debriefing their experience (travel time is not included toward the 90 hours). It is important to remember that the PDP is designed to be a transformative experience for participants. The time spent designing and teaching one activity is a key aspect of the PDP approach to professional development, and should not be interpreted as an expectation that participants will spend this amount of time in the future when they design an activity. Some participants spend more time by choice because they become so enthusiastic, or because they choose a venue that includes more instructional time than the PDP-designed inquiry activity. For example, there are a number of one-week short courses that are excellent opportunities for extended teaching experiences. 

What will I gain from participating in the program for a 2nd or 3rd time?
Participants are encouraged to attend for a second, third or even fourth year, with an increasing leadership role within our community.  Returning participants are strongly encouraged to become Design Team Leaders, leading a small group of participants in the design of an authentic, inclusive STEM learning experience. Partially concurrent workshops are offered to returning participants, with an emphasis for Design Team Leaders on developing leadership skills. A number of discrete roles have been developed to facilitate the varied levels and interests of returning participants. Depending upon your role placement, you may gain experience in facilitating learning actvities, leading a discussion, assessment, or other new roles defined each year. A substantial fraction of all PDP participants complete the cycle multiple times, and often feel their second experience is when it all comes together. Participants also come back to maintain an active role in the ISEE community, and derive many intangible benefits.

Is it possible to return to the PDP and not lead a team?
Yes. However, returning participants are strongly encouraged to lead a team if they return to the PDP. Team leaders think deeply about applying the design and teaching principles learned in the PDP, plan and improve their own leadership, and gain practical experience in leading a small team to accomplish a project (designing and teaching a unit). ISEE is not always able to accept all applicants who apply to lead a team, and accepts some returning applicants to be a member of a team, rather than a leader. Returning applicants who do not wish to lead a team should follow the application process for new participants.