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  1. Warfa, Abdi (Ed.)
    Students’ perceptions of challenges in biology influence performance outcomes, experiences, and persistence in science. Identifying sources of student struggle can assist efforts to support students as they overcome challenges in their undergraduate educations. In this study, we characterized student experiences of struggle by 1) quantifying which external factors relate to perceptions of encountering and overcoming struggle in introductory biology and 2) identifying factors to which students attribute their struggle in biology. We found a significant effect of Course, Instructor, and Incoming Preparation on student struggle, in which students with lower Incoming Preparation were more likely to report struggle and the inability to overcome struggle. We also observed significant differences in performance outcomes between students who did and did not encounter struggle and between students who did and did not overcome their struggle. Using inductive coding, we categorized student responses outlining causes of struggle, and using axial coding, we further categorized these as internally or externally attributed factors. External sources (i.e., Prior Biology, COVID-19, External Resources, Classroom Factors) were more commonly cited as the reason(s) students did or did not struggle. We conclude with recommendations for instructors, highlighting equitable teaching strategies and practices.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2023
  2. Synopsis  Early exposure to course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) in introductory biology courses can promote positive student outcomes such as increased confidence, critical thinking, and views of applicability in lower-level courses, but it is unknown if these same impacts are achieved by upper-level courses. Upper-level courses differ from introductory courses in several ways, and one difference that could impact these positive student outcomes is the importance of balancing structure with independence in upper-level CUREs where students typically have more autonomy and greater complexity in their research projects. Here we compare and discuss two formats of upper-level biology CUREs (Guided and Autonomous) that vary along a continuum between structure and independence. We share our experiences teaching an upper-level CURE in two different formats and contrast those formats through student reported perceptions of confidence, professional applicability, and CURE format. Results indicate that the Guided Format (i.e., a more even balance between structure and independence) led to more positive impacts on student outcomes than the Autonomous Format (less structure and increased independence). We review the benefits and drawbacks of each approach while considering the unique elements of upper-level courses relative to lower-level courses. We conclude with a discussion of how implementing structured skill-buildingmore »can assist instructors in adapting CUREs to their courses.« less