Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Student Identities in Authentic Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience

Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Student Identities in Authentic Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience

Article excerpt

Incorporating authentic learning experiences into postsecondary curricula has been suggested to help increase student retention in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2011; Blanton, 2008; Hunter, Laursen, & Seymour, 2007). Using authentic, learner-centered approaches helps students connect their current views of a knowledge domain with new views of that domain through their experiences (Stein, Isaacs, & Andrews, 2004). "Authentic" experiences in science courses require that students engage in activities in a space and scope similar to what a professional scientist would encounter. Thus, students act as "authentic" scientists (Gee, 2001; Stein et al., 2004). Authentic undergraduate research experiences are characterized by students engaging in an original project, guided by a mentor (Laursen, Hunter, Seymour, Thiry, & Melton, 2010; Lopatto, 2008). These authentic experiences are frequently found in two forms, apprenticeship and collaborative learning (Frantz, DeHaan, Demetrikopoulos, & Carruth, 2006). The apprenticeship form draws on the traditional mentor-mentee nexus to guide students through the practices and space of the scientific community (Frantz et al., 2006; Stein et al., 2004), whereas the collaborative form draws on the peer-peer interactions under the supervision of a mentor (Frantz et al., 2006).

Benefits of authentic undergraduate research experiences

Participation in authentic research experiences has been found to increase four facets: student understanding of what science is and what a scientist does, student application of scientific skills and content knowledge, confidence in professional ability and communication skills, and ability to work with others (Kardash, Wallace, & Blockus, 2008; Lopatto, 2004; Seymour, Hunter, Laursen, & Deantoni, 2004). Additionally, these experiences have been linked to a longterm retention of students' interest in pursuing science careers (Carlone & Johnson, 2007; Lopatto, 2007). This long-term benefit likely stems from confidence boosts as a professional as students are selfrewarded through the contribution of new knowledge in STEM (Thiry, Weston, Laursen, & Hunter, 2012). Furthermore, these research experiences provide students with autonomy and encourage logical and intellectual thinking, problem solving, and the ability to think and act like a scientist--all of which benefit students' professional STEM career prospects (Bauer & Bennett, 2003; Craney et al., 2011; Hunter et al., 2007).

Implementation of authentic undergraduate research experiences

There are many challenges to making authentic research experiences available to all undergraduates in STEM majors (Becker, 2005; Laursen et al., 2010). One way to overcome accessibility challenges is to integrate authentic research experiences as a part of coursework. Traditionally, STEM labs are not authentic with primary focus on content learning gains (Laursen et al., 2010) rather than process skills gained from the practices of doing novel scientific research (Stein et al., 2004). Programs, such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES; HHMI, 2016), allow faculty to use an authentic course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) that focuses on facilitating development of scientific process skills (Hughes, 2015; Jordan et al., 2014). Within the SEA-PHAGES model, students engage in novel scientific research, are given ownership of their project from start to finish, work toward contributing content to the larger scientific community, and practice problem-solving with peers and mentors. CUREs have been shown to offer increased student understanding of what it means to be a scientist (Trosset, Lopatto, & Elgin, 2008). CUREs have the potential to reach a great number of undergraduates if offered as a part of required curricula (Auchincloss et al. …

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