Reflections on CUR Symposium

Earlier this month, PURM had the pleasure of attending the CUR Symposium at the ISSOTL conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. The focus was “Developing a Comprehensive Undergraduate Research Program and Integrating Undergraduate Research into the Curriculum.” The day was divided into three plenaries and three poster sessions. At the end of each plenary, the room would break out into table discussions to talk about questions provided by the presenter. This day was an important opportunity to share ideas and learn, proven by one of the first things I overheard: “It’s great to come to these conferences to learn what we can do better.”

After some opening remarks by Beth Ambos, Executive Officer with the Council on Undergraduate Research, Mick Healy with HE Consultants presented the first plenary. His presentation topic was “Integrating Undergraduate Research into the Curriculum: International Perspectives on Capstone and Final-year Projects.” Here is a full PDF of his presentation. His argument is that final-year research should be wider in conception, form, function, location, and how it is disseminated and assessed. Another interesting topic he brought up was how there is too much focus on product and how it contributes to the discipline rather than student learning. For the table discussion, Healy brought up three important questions: 1) How can we best integrate undergraduate research and inquiry in introductory courses? 2) What strategies can we use to integrate undergraduate research and inquiry throughout the curriculum? and 3) Identify two challenges for mainstreaming undergraduate research in the curriculum and come up with solutions to them. Healy would ring Tibetan prayer chimes to end the table discussions so ideas could be shared with everyone in the room.

The second plenary focused on “A Developmental Approach to Mentoring Undergraduate Research” and was presented by Tim Peeples, Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler, and Paul Miller from Elon University. Their plenary followed a survey they conducted with students who had experience in undergraduate research at some level (first-year through alums). They collected some quotations from students to help show the different perspectives, but focused on personal and professional (or a combination of the two) development. Their discussion questions were 1) Recognizing that students come from diverse backgrounds and communities, how can faculty mentors best support students’ participation and success in UR? 2) What mentoring practices support student’s identity development? and 3) What mentoring constellations and peer constellations do students participate in, and how does participation in different communities influence their personal and professional development?

The final plenary topic was “Assessment & Evaluation of Undergraduate Research: A SoTL Perspective,” presented by Kathleen McKinney from Illinois State University. Her presentation began by mentioning the different types of outcomes to measure while assessing and evaluating undergraduate research, such as student skills or affective development. After this, she stated the ways to measure outcomes and then gave general date gathering strategies for SoTL and assessment. To end the day’s table discussions, McKinney asked five questions: 1) How might having different audiences for your assessment and SoTL work influence the nature of the work or how/where it is represented/shared? 2) What are the most important or critical outcomes to measure? Why? Or does it depend? On what? 3) How does discipline influence assessment and SoTL projects? 4) What are common practical or ethical limitations to assessment and SoTL work? and 5) What models or theories of learning might help us to understand assessment or SoTL data?

There was a poster session after each of the plenaries, and these were divided into three topics: Connections to Curriculum, Faculty Support and Development, and Evaluation and Assessment. We will be spotlighting some of the presenters from each of the three poster sessions in upcoming blog posts. For a full list of presenters and PDFs of their posters, visit here.

Here are some snapshots from the event:

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