2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


SAVARESE, Michael, Marine Science, Florida Gulf Coast Univ, 10501 FGCU Blvd South, Ft Myers, FL 33965, msavares@fgcu.edu

Undergraduate research is rightfully viewed as a valuable educational endeavor, yet few students have the time or incentive to avail themselves of the opportunity. Those students who do obtain research experience typically do so during their senior year, at a time too late to best benefit from the experience. Lastly senior-level research is typically discipline-focused, preventing students from truly integrating their knowledge in their capstone experience. I have developed a "collaborative undergraduate research" model that unites students as a research team in their standard courses. The method is applicable to all course levels, from introductory science courses, to upper division, discipline-specific courses. At the introductory level, students work on longer-term research problems that require regular monitoring. Each successive class collects an iterative database and then has multiple years of results to interpret. Students in upper division classes design group projects that they work to completion in the course of the semester. In the latter situation, students alternate roles as principal investigator: each student serves as project manager for their research and as research associate for other projects. The benefits of the model are numerous. Students develop a sense of ownership and stewardship; they obtain a thorough experience practicing science, while their curriculum is applied to real problems; and students obtain experience working cooperatively. Results from most of these experiences are of high enough quality to be presented at scientific meetings and eventually published. Projects often help students focus their discipline-based interests and spawn senior theses. Finally faculty members have a vehicle to vicariously increase their research productivity. Overall the model has been highly successful, especially when employed at the upper division levels. The method is not free of problems. These, like all collaborative educational practices, suffer from interpersonal difficulties (e.g., students not participating, others dominating). The quality of the results, particularly when orchestrating efforts of large groups, can be suspect. Faculty also must compromise their selfish research intentions to maximize the educational experience.