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How Do We Make the Undergraduate Research Experience a More Inclusive One?

Suggested Practices Questions on Assessment

Maintain a Significant Undergraduate Research Experience

An inclusive URE is not an easy URE.

The goal of a significant research experience for undergraduates is to appropriately challenge students to become more skilled at the kind of reflective inquiry characteristic of research, to introduce students to the communal interaction of the research process, and to have students see themselves as being proficient and valued members of the community of researchers.

The project or problem being addressed by the students is almost always only a small part of a larger inquiry, involving other people and lasting much longer than the time students have to spend on the project. Though students will usually need to pursue their inquiry under the guidance of more senior students or the primary investigators, they should be allowed to assume as much responsibility as possible for the generation, development, and modification of the inquiry. Even if the line of inquiry being pursued by the student is a small one, being responsible for its development and/or modification is essential.

As part of a significant undergraduate research experience, students should acquire and analyze data and present their project, the results, and the implications of those results in a written paper and in a talk and/or poster. The talk (and/or poster) and written paper should be the result of a process involving multiple drafts, with the aim of achieving a quality consistent with a contribution to a publishable paper. Students should be given generous feedback as they prepare written and oral presentations.

See the Suggested Practices for Constructing an Undergraduate Research Experience for additional guidelines.

Evaluate Your Announcement Materials

Look closely at your announcements and outreach materials. What kind of community do you present in your images as well as in your words?

Students are looking for an environment where they will be challenged, supported, and welcomed.

Recognize that multiple students might look at the same image but see very different communities.

Recognize the Mentoring Needs of Diverse Undergraduates

Though many faculty are becoming used to working with undergraduate researchers, the needs of students from diverse backgrounds may present unexpected challenges.

For some students a URE may be their first extended trip from home, others may have trouble adjusting from a small school to a large one, and still others may have trouble adjusting to the expectations of the research environment. But these are many of the same challenges that beset majority as well as minority students.

Though the faculty and senior members of a research team do provide undergraduates mentoring, it is also useful to provide a program mentor outside the research line.

Establish a community based on professional standards and respect

It is critically important the undergraduates be introduced to the ethical and professional standards of being a member of the physics community.

Some time spent communicating the behavior and values expected of both the undergraduates and the senior members of the research team would be valuable. In this case we are speaking of standards to behavior to each other and also ethical expectations while pursuing research.

The Code of Conduct for APS meetings or the SPS Code of Conduct might be places to start.

In addition, the APS Guidelines for Profession Conduct can be a starting point to more fully discuss the ethical standards of research.

Assess Your Program

When evaluating an experience like an URE it is not enough to employ an evaluation after the experience.

Rather you must embed your experience with assessment opportunities which can vary from regularly scheduled meetings between students and mentors, peer discussions, electronic journals, ...

See Questions on Assessment for some additional guidelines.