ERIC Number: EJ1121594
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Dec
Abstractor: As Provided
Undergraduate Students' Development of Social, Cultural, and Human Capital in a Networked Research Experience
Thompson, Jennifer Jo; Conaway, Evan; Dolan, Erin L.
Cultural Studies of Science Education, v11 n4 p959-990 Dec 2016
Recent calls for reform in undergraduate biology education have emphasized integrating research experiences into the learning experiences of all undergraduates. Contemporary science research increasingly demands collaboration across disciplines and institutions to investigate complex research questions, providing new contexts and models for involving undergraduates in research. In this study, we examined the experiences of undergraduates participating in a multi-institution and interdisciplinary biology research network. Unlike the traditional apprenticeship model of research, in which a student participates in research under the guidance of a single faculty member, students participating in networked research have the opportunity to develop relationships with additional faculty and students working in other areas of the project, at their own and at other institutions. We examined how students in this network develop social ties and to what extent a networked research experience affords opportunities for students to develop social, cultural, and human capital. Most studies of undergraduate involvement in science research have focused on documenting student outcomes rather than elucidating how students gain access to research experiences or how elements of research participation lead to desired student outcomes. By taking a qualitative approach framed by capital theories, we have identified ways that undergraduates utilize and further develop various forms of capital important for success in science research. In our study of the first 16 months of a biology research network, we found that undergraduates drew upon a combination of human, cultural, and social capital to gain access to the network. Within their immediate research groups, students built multidimensional social ties with faculty, peers, and others, yielding social capital that can be drawn upon for information, resources, and support. They reported developing cultural capital in the form of learning to think and work like a scientist--a scientific "habitus." They reported developing human capital in the forms of technical, analytical, and communication skills in scientific research. Most of the students had little, direct interaction with network members in other research groups and thus developed little cross-institutional capital. The exception to this trend was at one institution that housed three research groups. Because proximity facilitated shared activities, students across research groups at this institution developed cross-lab ties with faculty and peers through which they developed social, cultural, and human capital. An important long-term concern is whether the capital students have developed will help them access opportunities in science beyond the network. At this point, many undergraduates have had limited opportunities to actually draw on capital beyond the network. Nevertheless, a number of students demonstrated awareness that they had developed resources that they could use in other scientific contexts.
Descriptors: Undergraduate Study, College Science, Biology, Educational Change, Scientific Research, Research Methodology, Student Research, Networks, Social Capital, Cultural Capital, Human Capital, Qualitative Research, Interpersonal Relationship, Social Influences
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A