skip to main content

Title: An Exploration across Institution Types of Undergraduate Life Sciences Student Decisions to Stay in or Leave an Academic-Year Research Experience
Undergraduate research is one of the most valuable activities an undergraduate can engage in because of its benefits, and studies have shown that longer experiences are more beneficial. However, prior research has illuminated that undergraduates encounter challenges that may cause them to exit research prematurely. These studies have been almost exclusively conducted at research-intensive (R1) institutions, and it is unclear whether such challenges are generalizable to other institution types. To address this, we extended a study previously conducted at public R1 institutions. In the current study, we analyze data from 1262 students across 25 public R1s, 12 private R1s, 30 master’s-granting institutions, and 20 primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs) to assess 1) to what extent institution type predicts students’ decisions to persist in undergraduate research and 2) what factors affect students’ decisions to either stay in or consider leaving their undergraduate research experiences (UREs) at different institution types. We found students at public R1s are more likely to leave their UREs compared with students at master’s-granting institutions and PUIs. However, there are few differences in why students enrolled at different institution types consider leaving or choose to stay in their UREs. This work highlights the importance of studying undergraduate research across more » institutions. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; more » ; « less
Editors:
Spell, Rachelle
Award ID(s):
1644236
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10342761
Journal Name:
CBE—Life Sciences Education
Volume:
20
Issue:
3
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
ar47
ISSN:
1931-7913
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. An ongoing focus of engineering education research is on increasing the number of women in engineering. Previous studies have primarily focused on examining why the number of women enrolled in engineering colleges remains persistently low. In doing so, while we have gained better understanding of the challenges and barriers that women encountered and factors that contribute to such negative experiences, it also, as some scholars have pointed out, has cast a deficit frame on such matters. In this study, we take on a positive stand where we focus on women undergraduate students who not only “stay” but also succeed in engineering programs (that is, our definition of thriving) as a way to locate the personal and institutional factors that facilitate such positive outcomes. Our initial pilot study involved two female engineering undergraduate students at an R1 university. Each student was interviewed three times. While each of the interviews in the sequence had a slightly different focus, the overall goal was to understand the women’s autobiographic and educational experiences leading to their paths to engineering and participation in the engineering project teams. The inductive thematic analysis revealed several primary findings which subsequently played a major role in developing a codebook formore »the current study. Building upon what is learned from the pilot study, the current study uses a layered multi-case study design involving three institutions: a public/private Ivy League and statutory land-grand research university in the Northeast, a public land-grant research university in the Midwest, and a public land-grant research university in the Southwest which is also designated as MSI/HSI. In addition to the interview method, data collection also contains documents and artifacts. For this paper, we zone in onto the data collected in the first interviews, known as the “life history” where we mainly learn about the women undergraduate participants’ personal-familial contexts that contribute to their entry to majoring in engineering as identified by the women themselves. Preliminary findings indicate that: (1) our participants tend to have supportive families; (2) while all experienced gender biases, not everyone has formed a critical consciousness of sexism; and (3) being able to actually engage by “doing” something and creating a product is key to the women’s finding joy in engineering and associating themself with the field/profession. It is important to note that the second interviews, which focus on the educational journey of the participants in relation to engineering identity development and project team experiences, are underway. The ultimate goal for the study is to develop a theoretical framework speaking to a multifaceted model of forces (micro as autobiographic, macro as institutional, and in-between or middle-level as team-based) in shaping women’s entry and advance in engineering programs. This framework will recognize the variations in institutional type, resource availability, and structural and cultural characteristics and traditions in teams. It will also use such differences to show possibilities of more versatile ways for diversifying pathways for women and other minoritized groups to thrive in engineering.« less
  2. An ongoing focus of engineering education research is on increasing the number of women in engineering. Previous studies have primarily focused on examining why the number of women enrolled in engineering colleges remains persistent low. In doing so, while we have gained better understanding of the challenges and barriers women encountered and factors that contribute to such negative experiences, it also, as some scholars have pointed out, has cast a deficit frame to such matters. In this study, we take on a positive stand where we focus on women undergraduate students who not only “stay” but also succeed in engineering programs (that is, our definition of thriving) as a way to locate the personal and institutional factors that facilitate such positive outcomes. Our initial pilot study involved two female engineering undergraduate students at an R1 university. Each student was interviewed three times. While each of the interviews in the sequence had slightly different focus, the overall goal was to understand the women’s autobiographic and educational experiences leading to their paths to engineering and participation in the engineering project teams. The inductive thematic analysis revealed several primary findings which subsequently played a major role in developing a codebook for the currentmore »study. Building upon what is learned from the pilot study, the current study uses a layered multi-case study design involving three institutions: a public/private Ivy League and statutory land-grand research university in the Northeast, a public land-grant research university in the Midwest, and a public land-grant research university in the Southwest which is also designated as MSI/HSI. In addition to the interview method, data collection also contains documents and artifacts. For the purpose of this paper, we zone in onto the data collected in the first interviews, known as the “life history” where we mainly learn about the women undergraduate participants’ personal-familial contexts that contribute their entry to majoring in engineering as identified by the women themselves. Preliminary findings indicate that: (1) our participants tend to have supportive families; (2) while all experienced gender biases, not everyone has formed a critical consciousness of sexism; and (3) being able to actually engage “doing” something and creating a product is key to the women’s finding joy in engineering and associating self with the field/profession. It is important to note that the second interviews are underway which focuses on the educational journey of the participants in relation to engineering identity development and project team experiences. The ultimate goal for the study is to develop a theoretical framework speaking to a multifaceted model of forces (micro as autobiographic, macro as institutional, and in-between or middle-level as team-based) in shaping women’s entry and advance in engineering programs – one that recognizes the variations in institutional type, resource availability, and structural and cultural characteristics and traditions in teams, but uses such differences to show possibilities of more versatile ways for diversifying pathways for women and other minoritized groups to thrive in engineering.« less
  3. The drive to encourage young people to pursue degrees and careers in engineering has led to an increase in student populations in engineering programs. For some institutions, such as large public research institutions, this has led to large class sizes for courses that are commonly taken across multiple programs. While this decision is reasonable from an operational and resource management perspective, research on large classes have shown that students suffer decreased engagement, motivation and achievement. Instructors, on the other hand, report having difficulty establishing rapport with their students and a growing inability to monitor students’ learning gains and provide quality individualized feedback. To address these issues, our project draws from Lattuca and Stark’s Academic Plan model, which incorporates a thorough consideration of factors influencing curricular activities that can be applied at the course, program, and institutional levels, and assumes that instructors are key actors in curriculum development and revision. We aim to revitalize feedback loops to help instructors and departments continuously improve. Recognizing that we must understand both individual and systems level perspectives, we prioritize regular engagement between faculty and institutional support structures to collaboratively identify problems and systematically establish continuous improvement. In the first phase of this NSF IUSEmore »Institutional Transformation project, we focus on specifically prompting and studying the experiences of 8 instructors of foundational engineering courses usually taught in large class sizes across 4 different departments at a large public research institution. We collected qualitative data (semi-structured interviews, reflective journals, course-related documents) and quantitative data (student surveys and institution-provided transcript data) to answer research questions (e.g., what data do faculty teaching large foundational undergraduate engineering courses identify as being useful so that they may enhance students’ experiences and outcomes within the classes that they teach and across students’ multiple large classes?) at the intersection of learning analytics and faculty change. The data was used as a baseline to further refine data collection protocols, identify data that faculty consider meaningful and useful for managing large foundational engineering courses, and consider ways of productively leveraging institutional data to improve the learning experience in these courses. Data collection for the first phase is ongoing and will continue through the Spring 2018 semester. Findings for this paper will include high-level insights from Fall interviews with instructors as well as data visualizations created from the population-level data characterizing student performance in the foundational courses within the context of pre-college characteristics (e.g., SAT scores) and/or other academic outcomes (e.g., major switching within or out of engineer, degree attainment).« less
  4. As the field continues to grow, engineering education is continually challenged with finding engineering education research (EER) positions that align with the broad abilities and interests of its members. EER positions exist in engineering education departments, traditional engineering departments (e.g., mechanical, civil), and in non-degree granting programs (e.g., centers for teaching and learning, engineering programs). These positions vary across their emphasis on research, teaching, and service and provide access to different resources and mechanisms to impact engineering education. Given the range of positions available in EER and the emergence of new EER programs, it can be challenging for graduate students and postdocs to navigate the job search process and identify a position that aligns with their professional goals. The purpose of this research was to better understand the EER job market as it relates to what applicants (i.e., graduates and post-docs) experience as they navigate the job-search and decision-making process. For this study, we conducted interviews with seven transitioning first-year EER faculty members. These individuals were transitioning into various EER faculty positions (e.g. Lecturer, Teaching Fellow, Assistant Professor, Research Assistant Professor) with different backgrounds in EER based on their graduate training experiences which included established EER programs as well asmore »traditional engineering departments with EER advisor(s). We asked questions that focused on the individual’s new faculty position, their perception of the weekly time requirements, their job search process, and factors that influenced their final decision of which job to select. Each interview was conducted by two graduate students and was then transcribed and verified for accuracy. Three faculty members performed holistic coding of the transcripts focused on three areas: EER position types, job search process, and job decision making process. The Qualifying Qualitative research Quality framework (Q3) was used as a guide throughout our data collection and analysis process to ensure reliability and trustworthiness of the data collected. Through our analysis process, we developed a visual representation that provides a guide to assist EER graduate students and postdocs with their job search process. The first figure captures the diversity of positions along with the types of institutions where these positions exist to provide a starting point for individuals on their job search process. The second figure includes a timeline to help capture the average time frames for different phases of the job search process. Factors associated with final decisions based on the interviews conducted are also outlined to provide areas of consideration for individuals undergoing this process in the future. This work provides insight to aspiring academics about the range of opportunities available to those with a background in EER and how they can pursue finding alignment between their interests and positions that are available.« less
  5. Although there are numerous evidence-based benefits to undergraduate research for new-majority students (students who are from traditionally underrepresented ethnicities, first-generation college students, students from lower-income families, or transfer students) (Hurtado, S. et al., 2011; Kinzie et al., 2008a; Lopatto, 2007), they are less likely to participate or stay in mentored research experiences (Finley & McNair, 2013; Haeger et al., 2015). In order to determine not only who has access to undergraduate research, but to also identify what barriers to full-inclusion exist for new-majority students, we conducted a mixed methods study at a public, Hispanic Serving Institution. We analyzed institutional data to explore who participates in research and who does not. We also specifically sampled a group of students who expressed an interest in research experiences but who never actually participated for our student survey (N=96). Additionally, we conducted five focus groups with students, staff, and faculty (N~30). We found positive results in the analysis of patterns of participation and found no significant or substantial differences between students who did or did not participate in undergraduate research in terms of race/ethnicity, gender, or first-generation status. The undergraduate researcher population did have significantly more STEM majors and Pell grant recipients. The qualitativemore »analysis identified barriers to participation in research in the following areas: access to research opportunities, programmatic structures, research culture and norms, and campus climate. We present these findings along with descriptions of initiatives that have been successful in diversifying research participation and strategies to create more inclusive research environments.« less