Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Animal Science Student Perceived Benefits of Participation in an Undergraduate Research Club

Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Animal Science Student Perceived Benefits of Participation in an Undergraduate Research Club

Article excerpt

Introduction

Traditional classroom strategies for conveying information, such as the 50-minute passive-learning lecture, are not always the most effective method of content delivery (Young et al., 2003). Likewise, these strategies may not be effective at meeting the overall learning outcomes and goals for Animal Science curricula. Increased student engagement in practices that promote active and experiential learning is one strategy to meet these goals.

Chickering and Gamson (1987) reported on the seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. Active learning was included on this list, along with the following: encouragement of student-faculty contact, encouragement of cooperation among students, emphasizing time on task and communicating high expectations. Several practices, including undergraduate research, study abroad, first-year seminars, student learning communities, internships and service learning projects support the basic principles presented by Chickering and Gamson.

Lopatto (2004) reported that participation in a research project enhanced the overall undergraduate experience. Involvement in a research project sustained or increased interest in postgraduate education (Hathaway et al., 2002; Lopatto, 2007) as well as developed interpersonal skills (Zydney et al., 2002). Students participating in undergraduate research reported increased ability to work independently as well as increased tolerance for new obstacles (Lopatto, 2007). Involvement in undergraduate research allowed for further development of faculty-student relationships and gave students a sense of belonging to the science community (Hunter et al., 2007).

The Animal Science Undergraduate Research Student Association (ASURSA) at Michigan State University was created in 2009 to promote high impact learning activities while providing a social community for undergraduate students interested in animal science research. The development of research clubs at the department level addresses the university's goal of increasing the number of undergraduates participating in research programs. With increasing student interest in undergraduate research in Animal Science and limited published information available on the learning impact of an organized research club, the objective of the survey was to determine the student perceived impact of ASURSA club involvement on the undergraduate learning experience.

Materials and Methods Survey Design

The survey and experimental design were approved by the Michigan State University Institutional Review Board. The survey consisted of 27 items, including demographic variables and evaluation of the benefits of club membership and participation in the club research project. Students' responses were evaluated using a Likert scale (1 - strongly disagree, 2 - disagree, 3 - neither agree nor disagree, 4 - agree and 5 - strongly agree). The survey was located online and could be voluntarily accessed at the SurveyMonkey website during a regularly scheduled club meeting. The survey was only available to access for 20 min during this time. Individual computer IP addresses were tracked to ensure each participant responded only once to the survey.

Subject Selection

Undergraduate students who were members of ASURSA during the 2011 to 2012 academic year were invited to participate in the survey. Twenty-eight of the 36 members responded to the survey, for a response rate of 77.8%. Students were asked to provide demographic information but anonymity was maintained throughout the process.

Results and Discussion

In 2009, a need was recognized to establish a club in the Department of Animal Science for students interested in undergraduate research. The following objectives and goals were identified forthe club: increase understanding and proficiency of the scientific method, engagement of students in an annual group undergraduate research project and increase in student-livestock interactions. …

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