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Undergraduate Students’ Recognition and Development as Researchers

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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

Development as Faculty and Researcher: ERM Roundtable

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1617.1 - 26.1617.10



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Paper Authors


Courtney June Faber Clemson University

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Courtney Faber is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. She holds a B.S. in Bioengineering from Clemson University and a M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Cornell University.

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Lisa Benson Clemson University

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Lisa Benson is an Associate Professor of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University, with a joint appointment in Bioengineering. Her research focuses on the interactions between student motivation and their learning experiences. Her projects involve the study of student perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards becoming engineers and scientists, and their problem solving processes. Other projects in the Benson group include effects of student-centered active learning, self-regulated learning, and incorporating engineering into secondary science and mathematics classrooms. Her education includes a B.S. in Bioengineering from the University of Vermont, and M.S. and Ph.D. in Bioengineering from Clemson University.

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Undergraduate Students’ Recognition and Development as ResearchersUndergraduate research experiences provide students with the opportunity to conduct authenticresearch in collaboration with graduate student and faculty mentors and make intellectualcontributions to their discipline [1]. There have been a number of studies that have investigatedthe benefit of research experiences for undergraduate students; however, a limited number ofstudies have investigated students’ integration into a research community of practice anddevelopment of an identity as a researcher (reviewed in [2]). Identity is defined as “the ‘kind ofperson’ one is seeking to be and enact in the here and now” [3, p. 13]. Identity has been studiedin a number of areas including, science, physics, mathematics, and engineering [4]–[7]. Studentsparticipating in undergraduate research join a community of practice that encouragesprofessional and intellectual development [8], [9].This study builds on a previous study that revealed that students see themselves as researchersbecause of personal character traits, interest in research, competence in completing researchactivities, and experience doing research. The purpose of this work is to investigate howundergraduate students feel recognized as a researchers and what they perceive to influence theirdevelopment as a researcher.Undergraduate bioengineering and material science and engineering students with researchexperience were invited to complete an open-ended survey at the end of Spring 2014 semesterthat included questions about their conceptions of research, experiences with research, and viewsof themselves as researchers. Qualitative content analysis was used to analyze students’responses (n=16) to the open-ended survey questions [10]. This approach was selected because itavoids using predefined categories and allows for codes and categories to emerge from the data.Initially responses were read multiple times to gain an over impression. Then phrases in the textwere identified that represented key concepts. The codes were developed to reflect similarconcepts that emerged from the data. These codes were then sorted into categories based onsimilarities to other codes.All of the students in the study saw themselves as researchers. Most of the students feltrecognized as researchers and described a number of reasons including, working on independentprojects, presenting their work, receiving compliments from research mentors, and talking abouttheir research to people outside their field. The students expressed a number of influences ontheir development as a researcher. This included fellow lab members such as faculty, graduatestudents, and other undergraduate students. Students also expressed that family members, collegeclasses, and research experience influenced their development as researchers. These findings caninform the development of effective undergraduate research programs that encourage students’development of a researcher identity by providing insight into what makes students’ feelrecognized as a researcher. Additionally, this work can inform other educational experiencesaimed at developing problem solving skills and communication skills.[1] T. Wenzel, “Definition of Undergraduate Research,” 1997.[2] S. Laursen, A. Hunter, E. Seymour, H. Thiry, and G. Melton, “What is Known About the Student Outcomes of Undergraduate Research?,” in Undergraduate Research in the Sciences: Engaging Students in Real Science, San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2010.[3] J. P. Gee, An Introduction to Discourse Analysis: Theory and Method. New York: Routledge, 1999.[4] H. B. Carlone and A. Johnson, “Understanding the Science Experiences of Successful Women of Color : Science Identity as an Analytic Lens,” vol. 44, no. 8, pp. 1187–1218, 2007.[5] C. Cass, Z. Hazari, J. Cribbs, P. M. Sadler, and G. Sonnert, “Examining the Impact of Mathematics Identity on the Choice of Engineering Careers for Male and Female Students,” in Frontiers in Education National Conference, 2011.[6] Z. Hazari, G. Sonnert, P. M. Sadler, and M.-C. Shanahan, “Connecting high school physics experiences, outcome expectations, physics identity, and physics career choice: A gender study,” J. Res. Sci. Teach., vol. 47, no. 8, p. n/a–n/a, 2010.[7] K. L. Tonso, Student Engineers and Engineer Identity: Campus Engineer Identities as Figured World, vol. 1, no. 2. 2006, pp. 273–307.[8] A. Hunter, S. L. Laursen, and E. Seymour, “Becoming a Scientist : The Role of Undergraduate Research in Students ’ Cognitive , Personal , and Professional Development,” 2006.[9] E. Seymour and A. Hunter, “Establishing the benefits of research experiences for undergraduate in the sciences: first findings from a three-year study,” Sci. Educ., vol. 88, pp. 493–534, 2004.[10] H.-F. Hsieh and S. E. Shannon, “Three approaches to qualitative content analysis.,” Qual. Health Res., vol. 15, no. 9, pp. 1277–88, Nov. 2005.

Faber, C. J., & Benson, L. (2015, June), Undergraduate Students’ Recognition and Development as Researchers Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24953

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