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Components and Outcomes of Undergraduate Research

Source: Five High-Impact Practices: Research on Learning Outcomes, Completion, and Quality by Jayne E. Brownell and Lynn E. Swaner

Brownell and Swaner list undergraduate research among the five practices they identify as the most beneficial to students. In the following excerpts, they list the five high-impact practices, the effects of undergraduate research, and the components of a succesful undergraduate research program.

Five High-Impact Practices (book cover)

The Five High-Impact Practices:
  • First-Year Seminars
  • Learning Communities
  • Service Learning
  • Undergraduate Research
  • Capstone Courses and Projects

Undergraduate Research:

General Effects

  • Higher rate of persistence
  • Higher rate of graduate school enrollment
  • Improvement in research skills
  • Increased interaction with faculty and peers
  • Gains in problem solving and critical thinking
  • Greater satisfaction with educational experience
Impact on Underserved Students
  • Higher rate of persistence
  • Higher rate of graduate school enrollment
  • Findings mostly limited to studies of undergraduate research opportunity programs / summer research opportunity program students
Moderating Variables
  • Role of faculty mentor
  • Quality of mentoring relationship
Research Issues
  • Lack of empirical studies (vs. program descriptions)
  • Selection bias (promising students often selected for undergraduate research opportunities)
  • Unknown impact of mediating variables
  • Lack of research on outcomes beyond retention and graduate school enrollment
Components of Successful Undergraduate Research Programs
  • Encourage faculty to provide mentoring, rather than just program oversight, and attend to the quality of the mentoring relationship (balancing challenge with support)
  • Provide opportunities for "real-life" applications, whether through publication, presentations, or project implementation
  • Offer intentionally designed curricula that enhance students' research skills and build those skills over time, including prior to intensive undergraduate research experiences






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