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Enhancing Undergraduate Education Through Research-based Learning: A Longitudinal Case Study

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Design and Research in BME

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.672.1 - 26.672.12



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Paper Authors


Yawen Li Lawrence Technological University

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Yawen Li is an associate professor in the biomedical engineering program at Lawrence Technological University. Her teaching portfolio include courses such as Biomaterials, Tissue Engineering, Tissue Engineering Lab, MEMS, MEMS Lab, and Engineering Materials. Serving as the university assessment committee representative since 2011, she coordinates various aspects of the assessment-related activities within the program.

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Enhancing undergraduate education through research-based learning: a longitudinal case study Various surveys of employers about college graduates have revealed three majorcomplaints: poor writing and verbal skills, inability to problem-solve, and difficulties workingcollaboratively with other professionals [1]. This can be partly attributed to the traditional lecture-based instruction students typically receive throughout their college education. Often, students arenot effectively motivated to grasp the course materials and fail to connect them to the real world.An alternative student-centered, inductive approach involving active and cooperative learningcould better motivate the students and help to transform them from passive recipients of otherpeople's knowledge into active constructors of their own and others' knowledge. Two effectivemethods of student-centered teaching include active/collaborative learning and inductive teachingand learning (ITL) [2. 3]. Based on the author’s experience of supervising 16 undergraduates on acollaborative biomedical research project over the past four years, a research-based learning (RBL)model has been developed that makes important addition to current ITL methods. The proposed RBL model shares some of the common features of ITL in that it is a student-centered and process-centered inductive approach. It also has the following features thatdistinguish itself from the other ITL methods: (1) A relatively longer duration and amount of timea student is involved in the research project; (2) A clearly defined research scope and objective;and (3) Promotion of both teamwork and individual excellence. As a junior faculty member in apredominantly undergraduate institution (PUI), the author describes how she leveraged her ownbackground and student interest to initiate the collaborative research project, how undergraduatesparticipated in the research project through different avenues, and how the experience enhancedtheir skills in critical analysis, problem-solving, communication and teamwork, which positivelyimpacts their career, regardless of whether they pursue an industry job or an academic positionafter graduation. Some practices the author has been promoting in undergraduate research, such as literaturereview, summary and critical analysis, note taking, and dissemination of results have been shownto be effective in enhancing the students’ research skills with productive research outcome. Theresearch project conducted by the 16 undergraduates has so far yielded one journal article, onemanuscript in review, one in preparation, and six conference presentations/posters. Seven of the16 students went on to pursue a graduate degree. All 16 students reported positive impact ofundergraduate research on their career, as shown in the exit interview and alumni survey results.[1] Education Commission of the States, Quality Assurance in Undergraduate Education: Whatthe Public Expects, Report from a Wingspread Conference, June 1994.[2] Felder RM and Brent R. Active learning: an introduction, ASQ Higher Education Brief 2, 1-5(2009).[3] Prince M and Felder R. The many faces of inductive teaching and learning, Journal ofCollege Science Teaching, 36, 14-20 (2007).

Li, Y. (2015, June), Enhancing Undergraduate Education Through Research-based Learning: A Longitudinal Case Study Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24010

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