New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Cooperative & Experiential Education
This work presents a thematic analysis of student benefits and student outcomes that are achieved in a summer undergraduate research program following the implementation of the Council of Undergraduate Research Characteristics of Excellence in Undergraduate Research (COEUR) principles in a campus-community partnership. Our partnership between the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) and Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education (SOCHE) engages principles described in COEUR to enrich undergraduate student research experiences in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields in the AFIT Summer Research Program. AFIT is located on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and SOCHE is located off-campus in Dayton, Ohio.
Since 2012, SOCHE and AFIT, a graduate school in engineering and applied science devoted to defense-focused research-based education, are partnering to transform student research experiences so that students can succeed in the 21st century STEM workforce. Students in the Summer Research Program are selected by AFIT Faculty Advisors to perform research in 12-week internships. Students are referred to as SOCHE interns because SOCHE is the government contractor and employer of the 40-50 students who participate annually. As the students’ employer, SOCHE is able to assess the experiences of the students.
The two research questions we ask are, “How do students describe the benefits of their research experiences, and how do these descriptions change during our transformation of the research experiences each year?” and the second question is “How do faculty describe the benefits of the research experiences for the students, and how do these descriptions change each year?” We employ applied thematic analysis of student surveys to develop answers to these research questions. Applied thematic analysis provides an inductive approach to analyze the qualitative data in a method that is systematic and rigorous [Ohland and McNeil 2015; Guest 2012].
In this partnership, SOCHE collects free-form student responses obtained in in-depth student pre-surveys and in-depth student post-surveys in 2012 (48 students), 2013 (43 students), 2014 (49 students), and 2015 (34 students). AFIT collects free-form faculty responses in annual faculty advisor surveys.
Our study is identifying themes in the student responses regarding their self-identified benefits and outcomes, and themes in the faculty responses regarding the benefits and outcomes of the students. Our approach is to categorize the benefits according to the rubric of Seymour et al. (2003), namely: (i) Personal/professional; (2) Thinking and working like a scientist; (3) Skills; (4) Clarification, confirmation, and refinement of career/education goals; (5) Enhanced career/graduate school preparation; (6) Changes in attitudes toward learning and working as a researcher; (7) Other benefits, including a good summer job and access to lab equipment.
In 2015, SOCHE introduced five new initiatives. These initiatives address the two student concerns provided in 2014 student post-surveys regarding housing and computer access. First, SOCHE created a “Student Village” for out-of-town and out-of-state student by partnering with Wright State University (WSU). In this village, a negotiated fixed rate for three months was offered to students for a furnished apartment with all utilities included.. In 2015, 14 of the 34 interns took advantage of this opportunity. Second, SOCHE established a full-day presence on-site AFIT each week. In 2015, SOCHE was available each Wednesday from 9am until 5pm. Third, SOCHE worked with AFIT to obtain “Smart ID” cards for students. In addition, SOCHE personalized a formal meet-and-greet with each student on the student’s first day and student’s last day of the internship. On the student’s first day, the student is welcomed, shown to the work location, given an individual tour of AFIT, and introduced to their Faculty Advisor; on the last day, the SOCHE Director meets with each student to thank them for their participation. In 2015, SOCHE also reached out to all student interns from the time they are hired until they return to their home schools. This personal outreach includes personalization of transportation arrangements for out-of-town and out-of-state students as well as a phone number to call with any questions and concerns.
In conclusion, we are excited to have the opportunity to transform the student research experiences in the AFIT Summer Research Program. We are encouraged by student responses to initiatives that we are introducing each year. Since 2012, the initiatives include a joint orientation with SOCHE and AFIT (2013), creation of student cohorts (2013), weekly seminar meeting with outside presentations of general interest (2013), poster session (2013), and weekly drop-in sessions offered by SOCHE at AFIT (2014). In 2016, the village concept introduced by SOCHE is planned, and SOCHE will be on-site at AFIT for two or more days per week. Working together, we are excited to continue to transform the student research experiences.
Langley, D., & Cahill, D. L., & Lanzerotti, M. Y., & Martin, R., & Varga, M., & Creighton, S. J., & Stringer, J. P. (2016, June), Engaging COEUR Principles to Achieve Higher Impact in Student Learning through a Campus-Community Partnership with the Air Force Institute of Technology Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26963
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