Emerging Research and Lingering Questions about Scaling Access to Mentored Undergraduate Research

written by admin on January 21, 2016 in Doing EL and Resources and Studying EL and Undergraduate Research with no comments

Association of American Colleges and Universities 2016 Meeting | January 21, 2016 | 1:30-2:30 PM


  • Jessie L. Moore, Associate Director of the Center for Engaged Learning, Elon University
  • Jenny Shanahan, Director of Undergraduate Research, Bridgewater State University
  • Laura Behling, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College, Knox College
  • Paul Miller, Director of Undergraduate Research, Elon University
  • Tim Peeples, Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs, Elon University
Download the Session Handout | Download the Session Slides

As a high-impact educational practice, undergraduate research (UR) significantly improves student learning. UR leads to better student retention and engagement (Kuh, 2008), and students of color and first-generation and low-income students are significantly more likely to graduate if they participate in mentored UR (Brownell & Swaner, 2010; Gregerman, 1999; Locks & Gregerman, 2008). UR also fosters deep learning of critical thinking, effective communication, and complex problem-solving, which are among the most valuable skills undergraduates develop during college (Hart Research Associates, 2015).  Yet UR disproportionally serves students from advantaged backgrounds, with high GPAs, and/or with the confidence to pursue selective opportunities (Osborn & Karukstis, 2009).

Kuh and O’Donnell (2013) contend that the deepest engagement in UR occurs when students participate in all aspects of the research process in close working relationships with faculty teacher-scholars. The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) definition of UR reflects this centrality of the faculty mentor: “Undergraduate research is an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate in collaboration with a faculty mentor that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline” (Wenzel, 1997; see also Lopatto, 2003, and Osborne & Karukstis, 2009).

Recent research identifies student benefits of participating in UR and delineates institutional supports that foster student engagement in high-impact practices. Few investigations have focused on the faculty mentor’s role in supporting student learning, what constitutes a productive student-mentor dynamic in UR, or how institutions cultivate mentored UR. In order to scale up mentored UR, the faculty mentor role must be better understood.

This discussion session draws from existing literature and multi-institutional research by participants in the 2014-2016 Center for Engaged Learning Research Seminar on Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research. 34 researchers from 26 institutions in 4 countries have collaborated on six multi-institutional research projects, including studies of key characteristics of mentoring UR that make the experience high-impact for students, ways that students’ and faculty mentors’ identity differences affect the research mentoring relationship, and institutional supports and practices that most effectively foster high-quality mentoring of UR.