Student Perspectives on the Value of Undergraduate Research
by Jessie L. Moore
As a high-impact educational practice, undergraduate research (UR) can have significant impacts on student learning. UR can lead to better student retention and engagement (Kuh, 2008) and foster deep student learning of critical thinking, effective communication, and complex problem-solving, which are among the most valuable skills undergraduate students develop during their collegiate careers (Hart Research Associates, 2013).
While students are less focused on how their UR experiences improve student retention, they echo and extend this list of benefits when they talk about the value of UR. In the short videos below, Elon University students who presented at the 2015 National Conference on Undergraduate Research share their perspective on why students should pursue UR and their personal growth experiences and other positive take-aways as a result of their participation in UR.
Why Pursue Undergraduate Research?
Students note that UR enabled them to extend classroom-based learning, develop skills relevant to future employers, test research interests that they might pursue in graduate school, and pursue personal interests. Their responses also highlight the role of faculty mentors in establishing access to UR; almost every student attributes their introduction to UR to a faculty member who shared their own research interests with the student and/or invited the student to join an existing research project or to develop their own UR proposal.
Undergraduate Research and Personal Growth
Students echo the published scholarship on UR when they attribute their development of critical thinking, effective communication (written and spoken), and complex problem-solving skills to their UR experiences. They also suggest that UR helped them develop time management strategies, transferable research strategies, patience, and collaboration and leadership skills.
Positive Take-Aways from Undergraduate Research
Students identify many of these career-oriented skills as positive take-aways from their UR experiences, and they also value the experience of contributing knowledge to their fields, developing or refining their world views, and forming sustained relationships with their faculty mentors.
In the coming weeks, I’ll share additional videos highlighting student perspectives on UR, including their tips for future students who want to pursue UR, tips for faculty mentors, and strategies for presenting and publishing UR results.
- Hart Research Associates. (2013). It Takes More than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities and Hart Research Associates.
- Kuh, George D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington D.C.: Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Jessie L. Moore (@jessielmoore) is the Associate Director of the Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University and associate professor of Professional Writing & Rhetoric in the Department of English.