One of the most enjoyable aspects of running a faculty development program on teaching is seeing first-hand how much our various disciplines intersect when it comes to teaching and learning. Whereas it can be hard, if not impossible, to speak about disciplinary research with colleagues outside our fields, the common teaching problems we face allow for readily understandable dialog, no matter how far apart the discussants’ fields of expertise.
A recent survey of faculty handouts for research assignments found that most of the handouts provided details for length, citation guide style and how to get assistance from the faculty member. What wasn’t included was a critical need for most undergraduate students: context for the research topic.
Teaching undergraduate research when laboratories are involved is a time-consuming and costly endeavor, especially at those institutions without graduate assistants. One faculty member working alongside two or three students for four hours a week for one credit isn’t a particularly viable approach. For faculty who use undergrads to support their research programs, this approach slows down productivity as proficient students graduate and new ones must be trained in an unending cycle.
In a chapter in an e-book on undergraduate student research in psychology, authors Wadkins and Miller integrate research and resources into a wonderfully pragmatic exploration of the role of faculty mentors. When undergraduates do a research project under the guidance of a mentor, the process not only develops the students’ research skills, it also “transforms their professional and academic selves.” (p. 209)