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Some Best Practices for Effective Mentoring of Undergraduates in Science Research CUR/SPS 2006


Some Best Practices for Effective Mentoring of Undergraduates in Science Research CUR/SPS 2006 Anne-Barrie Hunter, Sandra Laursen, Elaine Seymour – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Some Best Practices for Effective Mentoring of Undergraduates in Science Research CUR/SPS 2006

Some Best Practices for Effective Mentoring of
Undergraduates in Science Research CUR/SPS 2006
Anne-Barrie Hunter, Sandra Laursen, Elaine
Seymour Ethnography Evaluation Research CARTSS,
University of Colorado at Boulder
  • We wish to thank
  • NSF-ROLE Program and Howard Hughes Medical
    Institute for their financial support
  • The four participating colleges who funded data
    collection in the early stages of this study.
  • The site PIs at the four research sites for their
    advocacy of the project, and their guidance as
    members of the studys steering committee J.
    Swartz (Grinnell College), S. Wettack (Harvey
    Mudd College), J. Gentile (Hope College), M.
    Allen and A. Wolfson (Wellesley College)
  • The faculty and students at the four colleges for
    their generosity and openness in giving
  • We hope that they, and all who have enabled this
    work, will regard its findings as truthful,
    useful, and validating

  • Funding agencies and organizations promoting
    college science education (NSF, NRC, RC, HHMI,
    etc.) have strongly recommended that institutions
    of higher education provide greater opportunities
    for authentic, interdisciplinary and
    student-centered learning
  • Promotion of research-based learning as a
    national objective for science education in
    research universities (Boyer Commission Report,

What do we know about what students gain from UR?
  • Prior to our work NOT MUCH
  • 9 studies meeting accepted methodological
  • Majority of literature largely claims-based by
    faculty practitioners offering
  • descriptive accounts
  • promotional and discussion articles
  • histories and reviews
  • These are important, but not evidence-based

Study Research Questions
  • What gains do students make from doing UR
    immediately following the experience, and in the
    longer term?
  • By what processes do these gains come about? How
    do peers, faculty and departments contribute?
  • How are career outcomes affected by UR
  • What are the benefits and costs to faculty of
    doing UR?

Study Design
  • 4 liberal arts colleges with long history of
    well-established UR programs (based on
    apprenticeship model) best case scenarios
  • In-depth, semi-structured interviews with
  • comparative student and faculty
    participant/non-participant samples
  • college administrators and UR program directors
  • followed student samples longitudinally
  • Total number of interviews 367
  • This analysis 76 student interviews 80 faculty
    interviews 156 interviews

Content Analysis of Interview Data
Thematic coding Taking necklaces apart to sort
beads and look for patterns in color, shape,
size, and frequency (common or rare)
Data Analysis Yields
  • Findings grounded in faculty and student
  • Frequencies for all observations across the data
    set (e.g., counts are of observations, not
  • Verbatim comments to illustrate the issues
  • Findings help determine nature, range and
    relative weighting of the issues.
  • Findings are not subject to tests of statistical

Overview Comparison of Faculty and Student
Positive Observations on Gains from UR
Overview of Research Findings on Student Gains
from UR
  • 1) 90 of faculty observations and 92 of student
    observations discuss gains
  • 2) Students and faculty report observations on
    the same range of gains
  • 3) High degree of agreement between faculty and
    student observations
  • 4) UR allows students to confirm, refine or
    clarify pre-existing ideas/intentions
  • 5) Taken together, Thinking and working like a
    scientist, Becoming a Scientist, and
    Personal-professional Gains, comprise 62 of
    all gains observations

Learning theory, communities of practice, and
the development of personal and professional
Social constructivism
  • A model of learning in which knowledge
    acquisition is a process of integrating new
    knowledge with prior knowledge
  • knowledge is continually constructed and
    reconstructed by the individual. (Vygotsky,

Social constructivism
  • Knowledge acquisition is a negotiated, social,
    and contextual process
  • ? Role of the teacher as a facilitator of
    student learning
  • meaning making is a shared, two-way process
    between the mentor/master and the
    student/apprentice based upon an activity of
    mutual interest

Social constructivism
  • Meaning making is situated and takes into
    account a students current level of knowledge
  • Learning objectives aimed at capturing a zone
    of proximal development a students ability to
    learn and problem-solve beyond his or her current
    knowledge level through careful guidance from and
    collaboration with an adult or group of more able
    peers (Vygotsky, 1978)

Social constructivism
  • Lave and Wenger (1991) and Wenger (1998)
  • communities of practice
  • newcomers are socialized into the practice of
    the community (i.e., science research) through
    mutual engagement with, and direction and support
    from, an old-timer

Social constructivism
  • Lave and Wenger professional socialization as an
    outcome of engaging in a community of practice
  • Legitimate peripheral participation
  • students active participation in the authentic
    practice of the community
  • the process by which the novice is inducted into
    the knowledge and skills of the communitys
    professional practice under the guidance of the
  • the process by which the novice moves from the
    periphery toward membership in the community

Social constructivism
  • Cognitive apprenticeship (Brown, Collins
    Duguid, 1989 Farmer, Buckmaster LeGrand,
    1992) helps students learn to contend with
    ambiguity and uncertainty
  • ? transmits knowledge about how to deal with
    situations that are ill-defined, complex and
  • ? prepares the student to negotiate undefined
    spaces of learning where answers are unknown to
    everyone (novice and master)
  • ? opportunities for the students self-expression
    and reflective thinking facilitated by an expert

Social constructivism
  • Epistemological reflection model
  • Baxter Magolda (1999,2004)
  • links students intellectual development to
    identity development as part of professional
    socialization process
  • ways of knowing gradually shift from an
    externally-directed view to one that is
  • ? process of self-authorship

Social constructivism
  • Self-authorship
  • situated learning that takes into account the
    students own perspective
  • negotiated, shared meaning making between the
    teacher and the student
  • ? validates students as capable learners
    encourages their epistemological, intellectual,
    personal, and professional development

? Constructivist learning theory and pedagogies,
including communities of practice, are manifested
in the structure and practice of the
apprenticeship-style model of undergraduate
  • How do these theories on learning, professional
    socialization and identity development relate to
    our findings on student gains from participation
    in UR experiences in the sciences?

  • Interconnectedness of
  • cognitive development
  • personal growth
  • identity development
  • Thinking and working like a scientist
    Becoming a scientist Personal-professional
  • Intellectual gains ?
  • personal and professional growth

  • Thinking and working like a scientist
    Hands-on learning of how science research is
    done ? students integrate current and new
    knowledge ? directly apply critical thinking and
    problem-solving skills to the professional
    practice of science research ? growth in
    students confidence to do science
  • Role of the research advisor as a facilitator
    of student learning providing guidance and
    support, helping the student to reflect on their
    own learning ? growth in students confidence

Personal-professional gains
  • Novelty of interacting with faculty as
    colleagues is very powerful for students
  • Being taken seriously and respected for their
    opinions and insights ? validates students as
    capable learners and builds students confidence
    and draws students into the community of science
  • I can do science I can contribute to
  • Student research peers are an extra resource
    and provide camaraderie ? contribute to sense of
    belonging to a community

Becoming a scientist
  • Students reported changes in attitudes toward
    learning and working as a researcher, but did not
    project these changes beyond the context of UR
  • Taking greater care to be accurate, going beyond
    the minimum expected, greater willingness to work
    independently, take initiative
  • Faculty research advisors witness students
  • Increased willingness to work independently, make
    decisions about next steps in the project, more
    willing to take risks, think creatively
  • ? Adoption of attitudes and work norms that
    indicate professional socialization and
    integration into the community of practice
    (though students are not conscious of their
    professional development)

Career clarification
  • Increased interest and enthusiasm for field of
    study, or in science, generally, but students
    largely unclear about future plans at time of
    first interview
  • Faculty and students value UR experience as an
    opportunity to cognitively and affectively assess
    the appropriateness of a career in science
  • Clarified, confirmed and refined previous career
    intentions, including going on to graduate school
  • 7 of 76 students discovered research is not for
  • ? Personal and professional identity development

Enhanced career preparation
  • Students value UR as real world work
    experience with transferable value
    opportunities to network with other scientists,
    faculty, peers
  • Faculty value UR for enhancing students
    preparation for future work contexts and graduate
  • Personal and professional identity development as
    part of professional socialization
  • ? Role of other community of practice members who
    actively contribute to students learning and
    professional socialization

  • Faculty and students report student gains in
    technical skills and learning to present
    students emphasize transferable value of skill
  • Growth in students confidence, understanding of
    professional practice
  • Basis of professional socialization and
    integration into community of practice

  • Some best practices of
  • mentoring students in UR
  • Research advisor as facilitator of learning
  • Student-centered and situated
  • UR project well-defined, but open-ended
  • Meets students at their level, but stretches
    intellectual capacity
  • Provides legitimate participation
  • Meaning making is shared and negotiated
  • ? Thinking and working like a scientist
    Becoming a scientist Personal-professional

  • Every category of student gains reflects elements
    of personal growth and professional socialization
    into the practice of science research.
  • Research findings show how theory on learning,
    communities of practice, and personal and
    professional identity development are manifested
    in practice.
  • ? The importance of UR to students education and
    its contribution to their cognitive, personal and
    professional development

Research Findings The Benefits to Students of UR
Experiences in the Sciences
Thinking and Working Like a Scientist
  • Applying critical thinking and problem-solving
    skills to research
  • Faculty observation
  • I tend to go around saying, Okay. What have
    you done? What is your analysis? I can tell
    that theyre catching on when, as I start
    discussing possible interpretations with them and
    Ill say something and theyll say, Oh, but that
    doesnt fit with what we did yesterday. Then
    you know the science is there.
  • Student observation
  • It really does help you learn to detect your own
    dumb mistakes. Like, its easy to think about
    something conceptually a little bit wrong, and go
    with that for about a week. But then you look at
    what youve got, and your spectra dont make any
    sense. Then you realize what the problem is. You
    learn to recognize things like that quicker and
    quicker the more you do it.

Summary Thinking and Working Like a Scientist
  • Faculty emphasize more than students, student
    gains in
  • understanding science research
  • understanding the nature of science
  • Students emphasize more than faculty gains in
  • Increases in their knowledge
  • Appreciating the relevancy of their coursework
  • Student claims in gaining increased understanding
    of how to frame research questions/develop
    research design are NOT matched by faculty
    observations of student gains in this area

Becoming a scientist
  • Demonstrated gains in attitudes and attributes
  • Faculty observation Taking Ownership of the
    project/intellectual engagement
  • What I look for, and to me, the mark of success
    in this kind of endeavor is ownership.Its fun
    to see.Theres some transformation that occurs,
    where it suddenly becomes their project. And you
    see that.
  • Student observation Greater intellectual
    engagement/thinking and working independently
  • Just being able to sit down and concentrate on
    one thing and figure it out and understand. We
    work with protein-DNA interactions. And so just
    for me to look at that and really, really
    understand it rather than just getting the big
    overview. And then, actually thinking about the
    problem critically and creatively and being,
    Okay. Now what can I change to have this effect
    and to have this outcome? Thats a whole new
    experience for me.

Becoming a scientist
  • Understanding the nature of science/that research
  • requires particular temperament
  • Faculty observation
  • I think they learn that science is really boring
    (laughs). And thats the key. If they can know
    that science is boring and still do it, and still
    stick with it, then they have the makings of a
    really good scientist.
  • Student observation
  • You cant get too emotionally distraught over
    somethingI have a tendency, especially when its
    my own dumb mistake thats caused me to lose
    several hours of work. You have to just step
    back and deal with the facts as they are and say,
    Okay. Ive messed up. I need to correct this.
    Itll take a few hours, but then well move on.

Summary Becoming a scientist
  • Faculty value the development in students of
    attributes and attitudes important to
    professional practice, as these are essential if
    students are going to become scientists
  • Students acknowledge changes in themselves, but
    do not recognize these as important professional
    attributes. Rather, students internalize these
    gains, focusing on the immediate effects of
    their own self-development.

Personal-professional gains
  • Gains in confidence to do science
  • Faculty observation
  • You can see it a mile away. When they approach a
    new piece of equipment, its more, Well, wheres
    the manual? (Laughs) Dont waste my time
    teaching me this. Just tell me how to turn it on
    and Ill figure it out. Self-confidence,
  • Student observation
  • At the beginning, I asked a lot of questions to
    get a good basis and a good idea when I didnt
    really know what I was doing. But by the end of
    the summer, I didnt speak to my advisor much,
    because I would just do it.

Personal-professional gains
  • Establishing a collegial relationship with
  • Faculty observation
  • Theres a lawyer in Cedar Rapids that Ive kept
    in touch with over the years. He was 76 class,
    something like that. And about every other year
    we get together someplace. We have a lot of
    mutual friends and we know what each others
    doing. Theres another guy, a faculty member, a
    mathematicianwe see him all the time. He used
    to baby-sit for us. Their daughter was up a
    couple of weeks ago.
  • Student observation
  • He said hes learning as much from us as we are
    learning from him. Hell start taking out his
    notebook and start writing down things we are
    saying. It makes you feel proud when something
    you said is important enough for someone like
    him, who has been researching this stuff much
    longer than we haveespecially when it seems like
    a moment of insight, like something he hadnt
    thought of before. It just feels great when
    somebody takes me seriously, or takes my work

Summary Personal-professional gains
  • Students emphasize more than faculty gains in
  • to do research
  • to contribute to science
  • in feeling like a scientist
  • Students experience the force of these affective
    gains for themselves
  • Faculty emphasize more than students gains in
    establishing a collegial relationship
  • Faculty have longer-term evidence of the
    importance of these relationships (for themselves
    and for their students)

Clarification/Confirmation of Career/Graduate
School Intentions
  • Faculty observation
  • Its certainly nice to see them learn over the
    course of the summer, to see them doing more
    thinking for themselves, more autonomy, making
    good choices, making good decisions. Its nice
    to see them gain confidence in their role as
    research collaborators. Its nice to see them get
    to a point where they clarify what they do and
    dont want to do, because that really does often
    happen. Its nice to see them clarify, Yeah,
    that was interesting, but its not my cup of
    tea, or, Oh, I loved it and this is what I want
    to do!
  • Student observation
  • Ive always been thinking and wanting to go to
    grad school, ever since I can remember, wanting
    to get a doctorate, but I actually truly decided,
    it was this summer when I said, Yes, Im going
    to go to grad school. Its what I want to do.

Summary Clarification/Confirmation of
Career/Graduate School Intentions
  • Students emphasize gains in
  • Assessing fit between interests and field of
    study research is for me
  • Clarifying, refining and confirming previous
    career/graduate school intentions
  • Faculty emphasize student gains in
  • Increased interest

Enhanced Career/Graduate School Preparation
  • Provides Relevant Career/Graduate School
  • Faculty observation
  • Some of my M.D.-Ph.D. alums, they come back and
    say, Look. I got my Ph.D. because I love being
    in the lab. I dont know that Ill ever become a
    faculty member. Im practicing now. But the way
    of functioning that I got from being in the lab
    informs everything that I do in general
  • Student observation
  • Youre given a lot of freedom and responsibility
    to do things so Im really getting out of it how
    to go about a professional type job or business,
    these kinds of things.

Summary Enhanced Career/Graduate School
  • The larger number of student comments for all
    types of observations highlights students
    position as graduating seniors and their
    preoccupation with what comes next
  • Faculty comments highlight the importance of UR
    to their own careers bean counting numbers of
    students, articles, presentations, etc.

Summary Skills
  • Faculty and student observations are well
    aligned. Both agree greatest gains are in
  • Presentation skills
  • Lab skills
  • Higher ranking of skills for students (3rd) than
    for faculty (6th) indicate their greater
    importance to students
  • Reflect the steep learning curve of UR learning
    new instrumentation at the beginning meeting the
    challenges of learning to present at the end
  • Transferable to other areas in life and as
    important to future careers or graduate school

  • Different observations on the same types of gains
    reveals how each group sees and values the gains
    of undergraduate research differently
  • Factors evident in students observations
  • had just finished their 10-week UR experience
    very intensive
  • were about to start senior year, were
    uncertain/concerned about future plans
  • as yet, do not recognize in themselves the
    development of professional traits that faculty
  • Factors evident in faculty members observations
  • an encompassing view of student gains derived
    from long experience leading UR
  • bring own perspective as educators, mentors and
    professional scientists (particularly noting
    gains in students seen as necessary if students
    are going to go on to replace the science