Early Engagement in Course-Based Research Increases Graduation Rates and Completion of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Degrees
OPEN CBE life sciences education | 3 Jun 2016
SE Rodenbusch, PR Hernandez, SL Simmons and EL Dolan
National efforts to transform undergraduate biology education call for research experiences to be an integral component of learning for all students. Course-based undergraduate research experiences, or CUREs, have been championed for engaging students in research at a scale that is not possible through apprenticeships in faculty research laboratories. Yet there are few if any studies that examine the long-term effects of participating in CUREs on desired student outcomes, such as graduating from college and completing a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) major. One CURE program, the Freshman Research Initiative (FRI), has engaged thousands of first-year undergraduates over the past decade. Using propensity score-matching to control for student-level differences, we tested the effect of participating in FRI on students' probability of graduating with a STEM degree, probability of graduating within 6 yr, and grade point average (GPA) at graduation. Students who completed all three semesters of FRI were significantly more likely than their non-FRI peers to earn a STEM degree and graduate within 6 yr. FRI had no significant effect on students' GPAs at graduation. The effects were similar for diverse students. These results provide the most robust and best-controlled evidence to date to support calls for early involvement of undergraduates in research.
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