Students Who Fail to Achieve Predefined Research Goals May Still Experience Many Positive Outcomes as a Result of CURE Participation
Course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) provide students opportunities to engage in research in a course. Aspects of CURE design, such as providing students opportunities to make discoveries, collaborate, engage in relevant work, and iterate to solve problems are thought to contribute to outcome achievement in CUREs. Yet how each of these elements contributes to specific outcomes is largely unexplored. This lack of understanding is problematic, because we may unintentionally underemphasize important aspects of CURE design that allow for achievement of highly valued outcomes when designing or teaching our courses. In this work, we take a qualitative approach and leverage unique circumstances in two offerings of a CURE to investigate how these design elements influence outcome achievement. One offering experienced many research challenges that increased engagement in iteration. This level of research challenge ultimately prevented achievement of predefined research goals. In the other offering, students experienced fewer research challenges and ultimately achieved predefined research goals. Our results suggest that, when students encounter research challenges and engage in iteration, they have the potential to increase their ability to navigate scientific obstacles. In addition, our results suggest roles for collaboration and autonomy, or directing one’s own work, in outcome achievement.