Adding Genuine Research to a New Genetics Lab Class IIP
The goal of the project was to incorporate a course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) into a genetics lab course. CUREs have been shown to increase engagement and retention of students from underrepresented communities. Dr. Rachel Prunier and her colleague, Dr. Natalie Lozano-Huntelman, developed a genuine research element designed to give students a meaningful experience with all stages of the research process. Teaching these skills in an upper-level lab not only gives transfer students the opportunity to participate, it also has the benefits of reinforcing skills students might need in a research lab. Moreover, students were expected to produce a major lab report that mimics the structure of scientific research papers. By completing the lab, the course instructor sought to build students’ skills and confidence in designing experiments, solidify their engagement in science, and help guide them on their career paths.
Molly Jacobs led the assessment, which focused on two primary questions: (1) did students gain confidence developing rigorous experimental design and (2) did students develop an increased sense of belonging in the field of science. The efficacy of the CURE was examined by comparing the experiences of students enrolled in lecture only and those enrolled in the lecture and lab. A pre-course survey was administered in week 1. Students were asked to rate their level of agreement with five statements about their confidence in experimental design (C1-C5) and three statements about their sense of belonging in the field of science (S1-S3). Responses were on a five-point Likert scale, ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” The same questions were asked in a post-course survey, and students were given the opportunity to explain their answers via two open-ended questions.
C1: I am confident that I can create explanations for the results of a study.
C2: I am confident that I can figure out what data/observations to collect and how to collect them.
C3: I am confident that I can develop theories (integrate and coordinate results from multiple studies).
C4: I am confident that I can generate a research question to answer.
C5: I am confident that I can use scientific literature and reports to guide my research.
S1: I am confident that I can understand science.
S2: I feel like I belong in the field of science.
S3: I have a strong sense of belonging to the community of scientists.
[Survey questions administered in Weeks 1 and 10]
Students in lecture only (N=27) and those in the lecture and lab (N=15) reported greater confidence in developing rigorous experimental design and an increased sense of belonging on all measures. Students who participated in the lab, however, showed a greater increase in confidence on all measures compared to those enrolled only in the lecture course. These results were particularly pronounced on the five measures of confidence in developing rigorous experimental design (C1-C5, above), as shown in the tables below.
[Responses from Lab Students from Pre-Course Survey]
[Responses from Lab Students from Post-Course Survey]
Download the summary here.