Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Undergraduate Research Week 2011 - Incorporating Undergraduate Research in My Courses (A Reflection)


This semester has been filled of great ideas, wonderful opportunities, and enjoyable experiences. One of these wonderful opportunities include my presentations at various academic conferences and traveling with students and listening to their presentation at the Southern States Communication Association Annual Conference. Through these experiences, I have had time to gain new points of view of my research and research strategies through the eyes of my undergraduate students.

Each semester, I integrate undergraduate research in each of my upper-level undergraduate courses (Fall - Interpersonal Communication and Intercultural Communication; Spring - Interpersonal Communication and Organizational Communication).  Through this integration process, I adopt a scaffolding approach to teach my undergraduate students about the research process and we progress through the steps of the process every week.

During the first week of class, I introduce the undergraduate research experience in my syllabus. Most of the students have never had an undergraduate research experience and an overwhelming majority of the students feel undergraduate research is something that happens in the science department. After explaining the social science research approach and helping the students realize that they CAN do it, the process becomes easier and the students start to select their groups and their research topics. Through their selection of their own topic and creating the problem statement, purpose statement, and research questions, the students start the process of creating a literature review.

They start to take ownership of their projects and become "experts" in their chosen section of their research topic. As a professor (especially near the end of the research project), I discover that the students truly embrace their research and they are able to apply the results of their research as they form conclusions, implications, and suggestions for further research. Usually, the research projects conclude around five to six weeks before the end of the semester we are able to apply the results from their research to the final chapters of their textbook. I think that research is one of the best ways of helping students understand the course material and it enables undergraduate students to "own" their research and to hone (or merely start) the critical thinking process (which is important for higher education and the workplace).


Millennial Professor - Jennifer T. Edwards, Ed.D.

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