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Discovery and Broad Relevance May Be Insignificant Components of Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) for Non-Biology Majors

    Authors: Cissy J. Ballen1,*, Seth K. Thompson1,2, Jessamina E. Blum1, Nicholas P. Newstrom3, Sehoya Cotner1
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology Teaching and Learning, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455; 2: Department of Water Resources, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455; 3: Program in Human Sexuality, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Received 31 October 2017 Accepted 16 February 2018 Published 25 May 2018
    • ©2018 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    • [open-access] This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode), which grants the public the nonexclusive right to copy, distribute, or display the published work.

    • Supplemental materials available at http://asmscience.org/jmbe
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Biology Teaching and Learning, College of Biological Sciences, University of Minnesota, 3-154 Molecular & Cellular Biology, 420 Washington Avenue SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455. E-mail: Balle027@umn.edu.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2018 vol. 19 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i2.1515
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    Abstract:

    Course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) are a type of laboratory learning environment associated with a science course, in which undergraduates participate in novel research. According to Auchincloss et al. (CBE Life Sci Educ 2104; 13:29–40), CUREs are distinct from other laboratory learning environments because they possess five core design components, and while national calls to improve STEM education have led to an increase in CURE programs nationally, less work has specifically focused on which core components are critical to achieving desired student outcomes. Here we use a backward elimination experimental design to test the importance of two CURE components for a population of non-biology majors: the experience of discovery and the production of data broadly relevant to the scientific or local community. We found nonsignificant impacts of either laboratory component on students’ academic performance, science self-efficacy, sense of project ownership, and perceived value of the laboratory experience. Our results challenge the assumption that all core components of CUREs are essential to achieve positive student outcomes when applied at scale.

References & Citations

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2018-05-25
2018-06-21

Abstract:

Course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) are a type of laboratory learning environment associated with a science course, in which undergraduates participate in novel research. According to Auchincloss et al. (CBE Life Sci Educ 2104; 13:29–40), CUREs are distinct from other laboratory learning environments because they possess five core design components, and while national calls to improve STEM education have led to an increase in CURE programs nationally, less work has specifically focused on which core components are critical to achieving desired student outcomes. Here we use a backward elimination experimental design to test the importance of two CURE components for a population of non-biology majors: the experience of discovery and the production of data broadly relevant to the scientific or local community. We found nonsignificant impacts of either laboratory component on students’ academic performance, science self-efficacy, sense of project ownership, and perceived value of the laboratory experience. Our results challenge the assumption that all core components of CUREs are essential to achieve positive student outcomes when applied at scale.

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Figures

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FIGURE 1

Summary of differences and similarities among three laboratory learning environments: CURE, discovery-based inquiry, inquiry (see Ballen et al. [ 5 ]). Specifically, CUREs possesses all five core components; discovery-based labs lack broad relevance; inquiry labs lack discovery and broad relevance. We used a backward elimination experimental design to test the importance of one or more CURE components for student success. CURE = Course-based undergraduate research experience.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2018 vol. 19 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i2.1515
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FIGURE 2

Mean scores (95% CI) reported by students on project-ownership survey items (Assessment 2) do not significantly differ across CURE (blue), discovery-based inquiry (yellow), and inquiry (orange) laboratory treatment groups ( = 302). The survey gauged to what extent students felt invested in the project (Investment), agreed that work on their project was broadly relevant beyond the classroom (Broad relevance), that there was the potential to discover something new (Discovery), that their research project was interesting (Interesting), and that they were responsible for the outcomes of the project (Independence). For all analyses of individual survey items, > 0.15. CURE = Course-based undergraduate research experience.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2018 vol. 19 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i2.1515
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FIGURE 3

Percentages of binned themes from open-ended responses by students about one of three laboratory experiences (CURE, discovery-based inquiry, or inquiry). We categorized responses based on whether students emphasized real-world application (dark blue), choice/ownership/discovery (orange), learning science process skills (SPS; purple), learning something new (yellow), or needing more guidance (green) in their answers. CURE = Course-based undergraduate research experience.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2018 vol. 19 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i2.1515
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