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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists
This is not a new idea, but is stressed in the belief that it has continuing relevance in today’s colleges and universities. Numerous groups have already devoted considerable effort to promoting undergraduate research. The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) declares as its mission “to support and promote high-quality undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research and scholarship” (http://www.cur.org/). CUR focuses on primarily undergraduate institutions. A recent report by the Research Corporation examines the role of research in the physical sciences at undergraduate institutions; it documents model programs and discusses financial support for that research (Research Corporation and Doyle, 2000).
However, in spite of the overwhelming circumstantial evidence and broad-based agreement that undergraduate research is good pedagogy, the educational value of undergraduate research for students, and the impact of undergraduate research on faculty development as scholars and educators, has not been assessed in a systematic and intensive way. The Research Corporation report mentioned above, Academic Excellence, does examine such issues; in addition, another study in progress attempts to assess the value of undergraduate research (See Case Study #1).
Throughout this report, case studies are presented to elaborate on the ideas presented in the main text. The case studies are brief examples that provide more detail on a specific course, program, or approach as well as a source for further information. Information for the case studies came from committee members, panel members, and workshop speakers, as well as resources they cited and recommendations from HHMI and Project Kaleidoscope. In some cases, additional information was obtained from program directors or institutional Web sites.
Inquiry-Based Learning via Laboratory Courses
Many schools have trouble finding the resources to offer these types of experiences to all students. A host of infrastructure limitations, combined with an overwhelming number of biology students, restrict the number of students who can have opportunities for research experiences with independent work, at least early in their undergraduate careers. Institutions should be creative in finding ways to provide opportunities for research to all students. One way to share the excitement of biology with students is to replicate the idea of independent work within the context of courses by incorporating inquiry-based learning, project labs, and group assignments. The importance of a direct connection between teacher and student is not