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Open Inquiry versus Broadly Relevant Short-Term Research Experiences for Non-Biology Majors

    Authors: Sadie Hebert1,#,*, Jessamina E. Blum1,#, Deena Wassenberg1, David Marks2, Kate Barry1, Sehoya Cotner1
    VIEW AFFILIATIONS HIDE AFFILIATIONS
    Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology Teaching and Learning, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455; 2: Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN 55108
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Received 22 May 2020 Accepted 16 November 2020 Published 29 January 2021
    • ©2021 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: University of Minnesota, 3-154 MCB, 420 Washington Ave. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455. E-mail: [email protected].
    • # These authors contributed equally to this work.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. January 2021 vol. 22 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v22i1.2167
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    Abstract:

    Undergraduate student participation in course-based research experiences results in many positive outcomes, but there is a lack of evidence demonstrating which elements of a research experience are necessary, especially for non-biology majors. Broad relevance is one element that can be logistically challenging to incorporate into research experiences in large-enrollment courses. We investigated the impacts of broad relevance in a short-term research experience in an introductory biology course for non-majors. Students either participated in an open-inquiry research experience (OI-RE), where they developed their own research question, or a broadly relevant research experience (BR-RE), where they investigated a question assigned to them that was relevant to an ongoing research project. We found a significant association between the type of research project experienced and students’ preference for an experience, with half of the students in the OI-RE group and nearly all students in the BR-RE group preferring a broadly relevant research experience. However, since science confidence increased over the course for both groups, these findings indicate that while students who participated in a BR-RE valued it, broadly relevant research experiences may not be necessary for positive outcomes for non-majors.

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2021-01-29
2021-02-27

Abstract:

Undergraduate student participation in course-based research experiences results in many positive outcomes, but there is a lack of evidence demonstrating which elements of a research experience are necessary, especially for non-biology majors. Broad relevance is one element that can be logistically challenging to incorporate into research experiences in large-enrollment courses. We investigated the impacts of broad relevance in a short-term research experience in an introductory biology course for non-majors. Students either participated in an open-inquiry research experience (OI-RE), where they developed their own research question, or a broadly relevant research experience (BR-RE), where they investigated a question assigned to them that was relevant to an ongoing research project. We found a significant association between the type of research project experienced and students’ preference for an experience, with half of the students in the OI-RE group and nearly all students in the BR-RE group preferring a broadly relevant research experience. However, since science confidence increased over the course for both groups, these findings indicate that while students who participated in a BR-RE valued it, broadly relevant research experiences may not be necessary for positive outcomes for non-majors.

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FIGURE 1

(A to D) Box plots of project ownership survey items showing students’ level of agreement (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neither agree nor disagree, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree). (E) Box plots of project ownership survey items showing students’ level of investment (1 = not at all invested, 2 = minimally invested, 3 = somewhat invested, 4 = very invested, 5 = extremely invested). **, < 0.01; ***, < 0.001.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. January 2021 vol. 22 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v22i1.2167
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FIGURE 2

Percentages of students who prefer an open inquiry or broadly relevant research experience. Students who participated in an OI-RE or BR-RE are represented by blue and green bars, respectively.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. January 2021 vol. 22 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v22i1.2167
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