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ERIC Number: ED545187
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Nov
Pages: 16
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 22
Undergraduate Research Engagement at Major US Research Universities. Research & Occasional Paper Series: CSHE.14.13
Douglass, John Aubrey; Zhao, Chun-Mei
Center for Studies in Higher Education
Bolstered by the recommendations of the 1998 Boyer Report, US federal agencies have put significant resources into promoting opportunities for undergraduates to engage in research. American universities and colleges have been creating support programs and curricular opportunities intended to create a "culture of undergraduate research." Yet our knowledge about the commonality of undergraduate research engagement--how it integrates into the educational experience, and its benefits or lack thereof--is still very limited. Universities exude the ideal of a pivotal link of teaching and research. We have assumed that personal interactions between active scholars and undergraduates--via traditional curriculum, research courses, working in a lab or doing fieldwork--have positive influences on students' maturation and their overall academic and social experience. The following exploratory study looks at data generated by the 2010 Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) undergraduate survey, an online census administered that year at fifteen major research-intensive universities. In this case study of mostly AAU campuses, we find that while some 83 percent of upper division students (juniors and seniors) students experience one or more courses with a significant research requirement like a research paper or project, many lower and upper division students do not--a disappointing finding that needs to be addressed by these campuses. At the same time, undergraduate research engagement outside of the traditional classroom is a relatively common experience. Among those students we find that research engagement leads to self-reported learning gains across many areas, but especially in the areas of field knowledge, how to present and communicate knowledge, research skills, higher levels of satisfaction, better use of time, and higher levels of non-quantitative skills. Yet not all research activities are created equally. Participating in student research and independent studies contribute much more to the learning gains across all dimensions than merely assisting faculty in research. Among the two research activities, participating in student research course is more effective than independent studies in enhancing student learning. Among the three activities involving assisting faculty research, assisting faculty research as a volunteer without credit tends to be connected to higher level of gains than for credit and for pay. Taken together, it appears that research activities that involve active learning contribute more to student learning. We offer a number of recommendations to SERU campuses, including: 1. We encourage member campuses to explore what are the causes for some students not engaging in a research paper or project and seek a path to have all students have this form of research engagement; 2. Use the SERU database to provide regular reports on undergraduate research engagement, and include those reports in Academic Program/Department reviews; 3. Expand existing efforts so that most, if not all, undergraduates have the opportunity for two or more non-classroom forms of research engagement, perhaps depending on the field of the major and discipline. [The 1998 Boyer Commission Report--"Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America's Research Universities" is available in ERIC at ED424840.]
Center for Studies in Higher Education. University of California, Berkeley, 771 Evans Hall #4650, Berkeley, CA 94720-4650. Tel: 510-642-5040; Fax: 510-643-6845; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: University of California, Berkeley. Center for Studies in Higher Education
Identifiers - Location: California; Michigan; Minnesota; New Jersey; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Texas