Involving Undergraduates in Research: Practices, Promises and Pointers
Journal article, 2020
Amid clarion calls for universities to forge stronger links between research and teaching, this paper offers practical guidance for teachers wishing to involve their students in authentic research in a course setting. The pedagogical and practical pointers offered here are grounded in a longitudinal study of student learning experiences in a tissue engineering course. This course allows students to carry out a research project by participating in faculty members' ongoing research. Data was gathered using both quantitative and qualitative methods. We draw on a framework for inquiry-based learning, consisting of five phases, in order to structure the analysis of the data as well as the pedagogical and practical pointers. Overall, the students strongly valued learning about and through research, which they mainly attributed to (1) being involved in all phases of the inquiry cycle, (2) being immersed in a real research environment, and (3) at the same time being offered scaffolding through various course activities. From a practical and organizational stand-point, it is important to consider access to laboratories, equipment and consumables, as well as the running costs for projects, which can be greater than a typical laboratory course exercise.