1887

One Early Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience Produces Sustainable Knowledge Gains, but only Transient Perception Gains

    Authors: Tom D. Wolkow1, Jill Jenkins1, Lisa Durrenberger1, Kylie Swanson-Hoyle2, Lisa M. Hines1,*
    VIEW AFFILIATIONS HIDE AFFILIATIONS
    Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs, CO 80918; 2: Department of Teaching and Learning, College of Education, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Received 05 August 2018 Accepted 18 February 2019 Published 28 June 2019
    • ©2019 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/ and 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: Associate Professor, Department of Biology, Co-Director, UCCSTeach Program, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, 1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway, Colorado Springs, CO 80918. Phone: 719-255-3192. Fax: 719-255-3046. E-mail: [email protected].
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. June 2019 vol. 20 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v20i2.1679
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    Abstract:

    Universities have been called upon to integrate research experiences into early, introductory courses to better prepare our STEM workforce. This call is primarily based on short-term studies that link research experiences with knowledge and perception gains. However, the influence of pre-existing student characteristics has not been fully disentangled from the research experience, and the long-term stability of these gains is uncertain. To address these issues, we integrated a course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) into randomly assigned sections of a required freshman-level biology laboratory course. We previously reported that this CURE resulted in immediate targeted knowledge and perception gains. Here, we evaluate the stability of these gains as students progressed through a biology degree program. At sophomore year, the impact of the CURE on student perception was still apparent. When compared to controls, students who participated in the CURE perceived a greater understanding of what researchers do and an increased interest in pursuing a research career. However, by senior year, these positive perceptions had fallen to levels shared by control groups. Targeted knowledge gains persisted throughout this study. Our results support CURE logic models predicting that multiple CUREs will be required to sustain perception gains.

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2019-06-28
2019-07-20

Abstract:

Universities have been called upon to integrate research experiences into early, introductory courses to better prepare our STEM workforce. This call is primarily based on short-term studies that link research experiences with knowledge and perception gains. However, the influence of pre-existing student characteristics has not been fully disentangled from the research experience, and the long-term stability of these gains is uncertain. To address these issues, we integrated a course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) into randomly assigned sections of a required freshman-level biology laboratory course. We previously reported that this CURE resulted in immediate targeted knowledge and perception gains. Here, we evaluate the stability of these gains as students progressed through a biology degree program. At sophomore year, the impact of the CURE on student perception was still apparent. When compared to controls, students who participated in the CURE perceived a greater understanding of what researchers do and an increased interest in pursuing a research career. However, by senior year, these positive perceptions had fallen to levels shared by control groups. Targeted knowledge gains persisted throughout this study. Our results support CURE logic models predicting that multiple CUREs will be required to sustain perception gains.

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FIGURE 1

An illustration of the study design with the timeline for survey administration. This study is a cross-sectional assessment of students at different time points, as opposed to a longitudinal study that follows the same group of students after the initial implementation. CURE = course-based undergraduate research experience; SUR = Soakin’ Up the Rays; IMCA = introductory molecular & cell biology assessment.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. June 2019 vol. 20 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v20i2.1679
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FIGURE 2

The CURE had an immediate positive impact on perceived learning of biological concepts. Among students in the short-term study, a Likert-item rating scale (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree) was used to measure responses to the following statement for all lab experiments: “This lab helped me to understand the biological concepts and material discussed in this course.” “Same traditional labs” refers to the overall average of the mean ratings for the 9 traditional labs that both the traditional and experimental sections performed, “SUR CURE labs” refers to the overall average of the mean ratings for the research labs performed only by the experimental sections, and “other labs” refers to the overall average of the mean ratings for additional traditional labs that were completed by the traditional group only. * < 0.05. Sample sizes: 39 for EXP, 48 for TRA. SUR = Soakin’ Up the Rays; CURE = course-based undergraduate research experience; EXP = experimental and represents UCCS students who completed the SUR CURE; TRA = traditional and represents UCCS students who completed the traditional “cookbook” labs at UCCS; UCCS = University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. June 2019 vol. 20 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v20i2.1679
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FIGURE 3

The CURE had an immediate positive impact on perceived learning and understanding of fundamental laboratory techniques. Among students in the short-term study, a Likert-item rating scale (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree) was used to measure student responses to statements regarding the lab course overall. Students who reported an unfavorable response (i.e., neutral, disagree, and strongly disagree) were collapsed to one category because the number of responses in each category was relatively small. * < 0.05, ^0.05 < < 0.1. Sample sizes: 39 for EXP, 48 for TRA. EXP = experimental and represents UCCS students who completed the SUR CURE; TRA = traditional and represents UCCS students who completed the traditional “cookbook” labs at UCCS; UCCS = University of Colorado at Colorado Springs; SUR = Soakin’ Up the Rays; CURE = course-based undergraduate research experience.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. June 2019 vol. 20 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v20i2.1679
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FIGURE 4

Perception gains attributed to laboratory coursework were still apparent during sophomore year, but fell to control levels by senior year. The Sophomore Cellular Biology and Senior Seminar follow-up perception surveys allowed students to respond to identical statements relating to either their “lecture-based coursework thus far” or their “laboratory-based coursework thus far” using a Likert-item rating scale (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree). Responses were collapsed to 3 categories: disagree, neutral, agree. The EXP group reported that their laboratory-based coursework had enhanced understanding and increased interest in research on the Cellular Biology survey, but these differences faded by the Senior Seminar survey. * < 0.05. Sample sizes: Sophomore, 86 for EXP, 36 for TRA, 99 for OTHER and Senior, 75 for EXP, 103 for TRA, 135 for OTHER. EXP = experimental and represents UCCS students who completed the SUR CURE; TRA = traditional and represents UCCS students who completed the traditional “cookbook” labs at UCCS; OTHER = UCCS students who completed a freshmen-level general biology laboratory at another institution; UCCS = University of Colorado at Colorado Springs; SUR = Soakin’ Up the Rays; CURE = course-based undergraduate research experience.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. June 2019 vol. 20 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v20i2.1679
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FIGURE 5

Observed perception gains with respect to research experience were transient. Students were asked to rate the level of experience that they gained performing research techniques in their “undergraduate work thus far” using a Likert-item rating scale (1 = no experience, 2 = minimal experience, 3 = some experience, 4 = sufficient experience, 5 = extensive experience). Responses were collapsed to 3 categories: none or minimal, some, sufficient or extensive. On the Cellular Biology survey, the EXP group reported that they gained more experience applying computer technology to biological research, an integral component of the SUR CURE, when compared to both the TRA and OTHER groups. This difference diminished by Senior year. All other significant results were between EXP and OTHER groups only (not TRA), and thus, cannot be directly linked to the CURE. * < 0.05. Sample sizes: Sophomore, 86 for EXP, 36 for TRA, 99 for OTHER and Senior, 75 for EXP, 103 for TRA, 135 for OTHER. EXP = experimental and represents UCCS students who completed the SUR CURE; TRA = traditional and represents UCCS students who completed the traditional “cookbook” labs at UCCS; OTHER = UCCS students who completed a freshmen-level general biology laboratory at another institution; UCCS = University of Colorado at Colorado Springs; SUR = Soakin’ Up the Rays; CURE = course-based undergraduate research experience.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. June 2019 vol. 20 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v20i2.1679
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FIGURE 6

Throughout the study, all three groups showed similar level of agreement with statements reflecting Core Concepts and Competencies. On the Sophomore Cellular Biology and Senior Seminar perception surveys, a Likert-item rating scale (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree) was used to measure student responses to statements that reflect Core Concepts. Some questions were based on the SURE survey developed by Lopatto (2004). Student responses were collapsed into two categories: consistent with the Core Concept or inconsistent/uncertain (i.e., neutral). The results were similar at both time points, so only the Senior data are presented. Overall, students in all groups were able to correctly identify (A) Core Concepts and (B) Core Competencies. While the TRA group had lower agreement than both the EXP and OTHER on one statement, no difference was identified between the EXP and OTHER groups. * < 0.05, ^0.05 < < 0.1. Sample sizes: Sophomore, 86 for EXP, 36 for TRA, 99 for OTHER and Senior, 75 for EXP, 103 for TRA, 135 for OTHER. These questions were added to the survey later, so the sample sizes were smaller ( 53 for EXP, 10 for TRA, 61 for OTHER). EXP = experimental and represents UCCS students who completed the SUR CURE; TRA = traditional and represents UCCS students who completed the traditional “cookbook” labs at UCCS; OTHER = UCCS students who completed a freshmen-level general biology laboratory at another institution; UCCS = University of Colorado at Colorado Springs; SUR = Soakin’ Up the Rays; CURE = course-based undergraduate research experience.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. June 2019 vol. 20 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v20i2.1679
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