GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 334-2
Presentation Time: 1:55 PM


ST. JOHN, Kristen, JOHNSON, Elizabeth A., BAEDKE, Steve J., LESLIE, Stephen and MCGARY, R. Shane, Dept of Geology and Environmental Science, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA 22807,

While there is little in the published geoscience education literature on the implementation of course- based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs), the bioscience education community has established that CUREs increase analytical skills, technical skills, content knowledge, and student confidence. CUREs also have been shown to help students clarify career directions. However, how do CUREs work at a programmatic level? Here we present current and potential future models for how our department incorporates CUREs in the BS geology degree program. A programmatic self-study showed that the JMU Dept of Geology and Environmental Science offers several CURE-based upper level elective courses, such as Geochemistry, Lab Methods, Geophysics, Geology and Ecology of the Bahamas, and Paleoclimatology, and one required course, Geowriting and Communication (foundation course for undergraduate research). The CURE components include individual or team based research, depending on course or project design. The CURE courses include opportunities to conduct literature reviews, write proposals, generate hypotheses, design sampling/measurement plans, analyze samples using a variety of methods, and interpret and communicate their findings. Faculty observe that the benefits of CUREs include students’ earlier identification of potential required capstone research topics, higher quality of capstone research presentations, greater breadth of technical skills, and an increase in the number of students who are admitted to graduate school in specific research areas. Benefits also include faculty confidence in student learning trajectory and multiple options for meeting skill-based learning goals. However, there are costs in faculty time, class size, materials/supplies, equipment, administrative hurdles, and student opportunity-costs. The cost-benefit analysis raises the question if other CURE-integration models should be considered to maintain the benefits and minimize costs. These include exploring how CUREs can count towards the students’ capstone research requirement, how faculty investment in designing and mentoring students in CUREs count towards faculty “credit” in annual evaluations, and how it is viewed at the department level and above in promotion and tenure.
  • StJohn CURE talk GSA2017_final.pptx (38.7 MB)