Ethnography & Evaluation Research (E&ER) has significant expertise on the outcomes of apprentice-model undergraduate research experiences for students and their research advisors. Our 2010 book, Undergraduate Research in the Sciences: Engaging Students in Real Science, summarizes much of what we have learned about the outcomes and processes of UR for students and their research advisors.
E&ER conducted a large qualitative research study focusing on four liberal arts colleges with a long history of undergraduate research. Longitudinal and comparative, this study addressed fundamental questions about the benefits (and costs) of undergraduate engagement in faculty-mentored, authentic research undertaken outside of class. The study documented student and faculty perceptions of the benefits of undergraduate participation in research, examined the processes through which these benefits were achieved, and compared outcomes in the short and longer term between research participants and non-participants.
Findings from this and other studies provided the framework for the Undergraduate Research Student Self-Assessment (URSSA) an online survey instrument for departments and programs to use to evaluate student outcomes from participation in research.
This study was supported by the National Science Foundation's Research on Learning and Education program under grant DRL-0087677, and by a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Other funders include the Spencer Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Noyce Foundation, and Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement, and the National Science Foundation under grant CHE-0548488, jointly supported by the Division of Chemistry, the Division of Undergraduate Education, the Biological Sciences Directorate and the Office of Multidisciplinary Affairs.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in these reports are those of the researchers, and do not necessarily represent the official views, opinions, or policy of the National Science Foundation.
E&ER has carried out a multi-year evaluation of three undergraduate research (UR) programs in the biosciences at the University of Colorado Boulder. The Biological Science Initiative administers two UR programs, UROP and BURST, and partners with the NIH/HHMI Scholars Program for Diversity in the Biosciences.
Both quantitative and qualitative data were gathered about students’ gains from their research experiences, the authenticity of their research work, and the quality of mentoring they received. Findings demonstrate students' intellectual and professional growth as they gain research experience. We also studied advisors' motivations and outcomes from participation in UR, including graduate students, postdocs, and faculty who work with undergraduate researchers.
We have worked with leaders in the biology UR community to use URSSA as a common program assessment tool across funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) projects in biology. The dual goal is to inform REU program development and delivery and to provide essential data to the National Science Foundation about the national impact of REUs on student learning and achievement. Through this project we have learned much about how to adapt the survey instrument and its technology platform for this type of multi-program assessment. The most recent report represents over 800 Bio REU students and over 1100 students who participated in other UR programs. Visit the Bio REU website for more information about the project. In addition, data from Bio REU and other UR programs helped to inform our validation study of the URSSA instrument.
This study was supported by the National Science Foundation under award DBI-1052683. We thank Janet Branchaw, Julio Soto and the BIO REU Leadership Council. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in these reports are those of the researchers, and do not necessarily represent the official views, opinions, or policy of the National Science Foundation.
In addition to the specific findings discussed in the sections above, these papers offer comments on the challenges in assessing undergraduate research.