New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Educational Research and Methods
Undergraduate research has emerged as a high-impact approach that can be used to enhance student engagement and to enrich student learning experiences.1 It is observed in the literature that undergraduate research can have an impact on student retention, and possibly attract women and ethnic minorities to science-related disciplines while playing an important role in the determination of career paths for participating students.2, 3, 4 While there are multiple studies on the impact of undergraduate research in social sciences and sciences, there is limited literature in the engineering disciplines. This limited literature may be attributed to multiple reasons such as a significant emphasis on mathematics and science in the first two years of engineering curriculum, a strictly sequential degree path, and a lack of flexibility in the program requirements. Engineering students often report difficulty in relating the theoretical content of the first few semesters to actual engineering applications. This study investigates the effectiveness of undergraduate research as a possible means of overcoming these student perceptions. Students are introduced to well-defined research projects at an early stage of their undergraduate degree program by adopting a scaffolding approach. The primary focus of this study is to understand student perceptions about undergraduate research in the engineering and engineering technology disciplines, with the aim of enhancing student experiences through strong mentorship and a careful choice of research projects. A survey has been developed to understand student perceptions as well as the perceptions of a few faculty mentors. The survey results are analyzed to understand whether any changes need to be made to the framework that has been adopted to introduce students to undergraduate research. Survey results from twenty six students involved in undergraduate research as part of the requirements for a scholarship program are evaluated. Subjective evaluations from a few faculty members involved in mentoring some of these undergraduate researchers are also discussed. Although both students and faculty mentors acknowledge the impact of undergraduate research experiences, some students are ambivalent about the relevance of research to academic performance. It is also observed that excessive project complexity may result in reducing student motivation unless students receive adequate support in the form of strong mentorship and appropriate guidance.
Kaul, S., & Ferguson, C. W., & Yanik, P. M., & Yan, Y. (2016, June), Importance of Undergraduate Research: Efficacy and Student Perceptions Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25599
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