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How well do undergraduate research programs promote engagement and success of students?

Fechheimer M, Webber K, Kleiber PB - CBE Life Sci Educ (2011)

Bottom Line: This operational definition allows accurate and retrospective analysis, but does not measure all modes of engagement in UR.Initial results show that extended participation in research for more than a single semester is correlated with an increase in GPA, even after using SAT to control for the initial ability level of the students.While the authors acknowledge that correlation does not prove causality, continued efforts to measure the impact of UR programs on student outcomes using GPA or an alternate extrinsic measure is needed for development of evidence-based programmatic recommendations.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA. fechheim@uga.edu

ABSTRACT
Assessment of undergraduate research (UR) programs using participant surveys has produced a wealth of information about design, implementation, and perceived benefits of UR programs. However, measurement of student participation university wide, and the potential contribution of research experience to student success, also require the study of extrinsic measures. In this essay, institutional data on student credit-hour generation and grade point average (GPA) from the University of Georgia are used to approach these questions. Institutional data provide a measure of annual enrollment in UR classes in diverse disciplines. This operational definition allows accurate and retrospective analysis, but does not measure all modes of engagement in UR. Cumulative GPA is proposed as a quantitative extrinsic measure of student success. Initial results show that extended participation in research for more than a single semester is correlated with an increase in GPA, even after using SAT to control for the initial ability level of the students. While the authors acknowledge that correlation does not prove causality, continued efforts to measure the impact of UR programs on student outcomes using GPA or an alternate extrinsic measure is needed for development of evidence-based programmatic recommendations.

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Student credit hours in directed-research courses at University of Georgia from 1999–2008. Student credit hours in UR courses across all disciplines and honors shown as a total sum, or sorted by discipline. “Sciences” includes the biological and physical sciences. “Social sciences” includes the conventional social sciences as well as business, law, and journalism. Arts and humanities were combined into a single category since they were about equal and together comprise ∼5% of all of the UR hours.
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Figure 1: Student credit hours in directed-research courses at University of Georgia from 1999–2008. Student credit hours in UR courses across all disciplines and honors shown as a total sum, or sorted by discipline. “Sciences” includes the biological and physical sciences. “Social sciences” includes the conventional social sciences as well as business, law, and journalism. Arts and humanities were combined into a single category since they were about equal and together comprise ∼5% of all of the UR hours.

Mentions: The Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunity (CURO) at the University of Georgia is a unit housed in the honors program, but serving both honors and nonhonors students in all schools and colleges within the university. The primary programs and activities of CURO are highlighted by: a Web-based directory of research mentors; an apprentice program to recruit, engage, and promote development of diverse students during their first 2 yr at the university; Gateway Research Seminars; a summer fellowship program; and an annual university-wide CURO symposium with awards for best student research papers in each discipline and mentoring awards for faculty. These program components have not all been present since inception, but have been added through efforts to institutionalize initiatives that were originally funded by grants from FIPSE (the original CURO program), Howard Hughes Medical Institute (the CURO apprentice program), and the National Science Foundation (the promising scholars program). Efforts to enhance engagement of students in UR not only in science, but across a broad array of disciplines has been a major focus of CURO since its inception. Measurement of the success of CURO in promoting student engagement is complex in the context of a large university with diverse schools, colleges, departments, and curricula, and different metrics may be expected to provide diverse measures of the engagement. In this essay, we focus on intensive research experiences, and use a definition of UR that invokes the traditional one-faculty-mentor-to-one-student relationship focused on a directed-research project. We have taken advantage of a course nomenclature that is nearly uniform across departments, schools, and colleges to probe institutional data that examine student enrollment in credit-based courses that are specifically designated with a UR call number. Since some departments group all students taking directed research with multiple professors in a single course per semester, the student credit hours generated provide the most accurate measure of student participation. According to this metric, student engagement in research has increased since the formation of the CURO program by 500% to a level of ∼5000 student credit hours per year in 2008 (Figure 1). An enhancement of 500% university wide in 10 yr is a truly impressive increase! By comparison, the total undergraduate credit hours increased by only 5% in the same period, so the increase in research participation cannot be attributed to a major change in enrollment. The annual credit-hour data show that ∼1400 students take an intensive directed-research course each year at the University of Georgia, corresponding to ∼5% of the undergraduate students at the university.


How well do undergraduate research programs promote engagement and success of students?

Fechheimer M, Webber K, Kleiber PB - CBE Life Sci Educ (2011)

Student credit hours in directed-research courses at University of Georgia from 1999–2008. Student credit hours in UR courses across all disciplines and honors shown as a total sum, or sorted by discipline. “Sciences” includes the biological and physical sciences. “Social sciences” includes the conventional social sciences as well as business, law, and journalism. Arts and humanities were combined into a single category since they were about equal and together comprise ∼5% of all of the UR hours.
© Copyright Policy - creative-commons
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3105922&req=5

Figure 1: Student credit hours in directed-research courses at University of Georgia from 1999–2008. Student credit hours in UR courses across all disciplines and honors shown as a total sum, or sorted by discipline. “Sciences” includes the biological and physical sciences. “Social sciences” includes the conventional social sciences as well as business, law, and journalism. Arts and humanities were combined into a single category since they were about equal and together comprise ∼5% of all of the UR hours.
Mentions: The Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunity (CURO) at the University of Georgia is a unit housed in the honors program, but serving both honors and nonhonors students in all schools and colleges within the university. The primary programs and activities of CURO are highlighted by: a Web-based directory of research mentors; an apprentice program to recruit, engage, and promote development of diverse students during their first 2 yr at the university; Gateway Research Seminars; a summer fellowship program; and an annual university-wide CURO symposium with awards for best student research papers in each discipline and mentoring awards for faculty. These program components have not all been present since inception, but have been added through efforts to institutionalize initiatives that were originally funded by grants from FIPSE (the original CURO program), Howard Hughes Medical Institute (the CURO apprentice program), and the National Science Foundation (the promising scholars program). Efforts to enhance engagement of students in UR not only in science, but across a broad array of disciplines has been a major focus of CURO since its inception. Measurement of the success of CURO in promoting student engagement is complex in the context of a large university with diverse schools, colleges, departments, and curricula, and different metrics may be expected to provide diverse measures of the engagement. In this essay, we focus on intensive research experiences, and use a definition of UR that invokes the traditional one-faculty-mentor-to-one-student relationship focused on a directed-research project. We have taken advantage of a course nomenclature that is nearly uniform across departments, schools, and colleges to probe institutional data that examine student enrollment in credit-based courses that are specifically designated with a UR call number. Since some departments group all students taking directed research with multiple professors in a single course per semester, the student credit hours generated provide the most accurate measure of student participation. According to this metric, student engagement in research has increased since the formation of the CURO program by 500% to a level of ∼5000 student credit hours per year in 2008 (Figure 1). An enhancement of 500% university wide in 10 yr is a truly impressive increase! By comparison, the total undergraduate credit hours increased by only 5% in the same period, so the increase in research participation cannot be attributed to a major change in enrollment. The annual credit-hour data show that ∼1400 students take an intensive directed-research course each year at the University of Georgia, corresponding to ∼5% of the undergraduate students at the university.

Bottom Line: This operational definition allows accurate and retrospective analysis, but does not measure all modes of engagement in UR.Initial results show that extended participation in research for more than a single semester is correlated with an increase in GPA, even after using SAT to control for the initial ability level of the students.While the authors acknowledge that correlation does not prove causality, continued efforts to measure the impact of UR programs on student outcomes using GPA or an alternate extrinsic measure is needed for development of evidence-based programmatic recommendations.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA. fechheim@uga.edu

ABSTRACT
Assessment of undergraduate research (UR) programs using participant surveys has produced a wealth of information about design, implementation, and perceived benefits of UR programs. However, measurement of student participation university wide, and the potential contribution of research experience to student success, also require the study of extrinsic measures. In this essay, institutional data on student credit-hour generation and grade point average (GPA) from the University of Georgia are used to approach these questions. Institutional data provide a measure of annual enrollment in UR classes in diverse disciplines. This operational definition allows accurate and retrospective analysis, but does not measure all modes of engagement in UR. Cumulative GPA is proposed as a quantitative extrinsic measure of student success. Initial results show that extended participation in research for more than a single semester is correlated with an increase in GPA, even after using SAT to control for the initial ability level of the students. While the authors acknowledge that correlation does not prove causality, continued efforts to measure the impact of UR programs on student outcomes using GPA or an alternate extrinsic measure is needed for development of evidence-based programmatic recommendations.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus