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Embed Undergraduate Research in Your Course With Help From CURE Grant

By Annette Finley-Croswhite

It's time again for Old Dominion University faculty to take advantage of an exciting grant opportunity.

The Office of Academic Affairs is offering funding to develop Course-based Undergraduate Research (CURE) opportunities in ODU colleges.

The CURE program aims to generate active learning in the classroom by embedding the research process into course curricula. Studies indicate that students who engage in undergraduate research develop higher-level critical thinking skills and discover new knowledge.

Course-based undergraduate research has been traditionally associated with lab sciences and controlled experiments. Expanding on this model, many of our scientists at Old Dominion University have designed their courses to create semi-controlled experiments or exercises where discovery is novel and answers are not known in advance.

Course-based undergraduate research should not be confined to science classrooms, however. All faculty members are able to consider the research methodologies in their disciplines and inject the discovery process more strongly into course curricula. I am a historian, for example, and in my history of medicine class I have students work on semester-long disease reports. They begin working on their reports in the very first class, and these projects are not finished until the final exam. Along the way they gain experience with primary and secondary sources as they explore historical chronologies, cultural constructs, contextualization, types of analyses and how to document their findings. Once they've finished their papers and received a grade, they must respond to my line-edits and critical commentary by doing more research and rewriting their papers as part of the final exam. This method involves much more than "revision," for extra research and re-thinking are required and the final papers are significantly longer and more complex than the papers they submitted for an earlier grade. This final phase mirrors the peer review process in my discipline. I do use student peer review in class, but student review in no way replaces my scholarly oversight as the "outside" reviewer requiring significant changes. The best papers I submit to the Undergraduate Research symposium. The picture with this piece shows me with four of my students at the 2020 Undergraduate Research symposium. After the students presented on measles, typhus, leprosy and Alzheimer's Disease, we donned surgical masks for the photograph in reference to coronavirus (although we already knew masks aren't effective in stopping the spread). One of the students pictured here referenced his work from my course in his medical school interview. This use of undergraduate research is not uncommon in my courses as my students often discuss these disease reports in their applications and/or interviews for post-undergraduate programs.

The 2020 CURE request for proposals has gone out to all faculty; you can also find it online along with the administrative form. Proposals are due by April 17 to the Center for Faculty Development at cfd@odu.edu.

The Provost's Office will make funds available up to $2,000 per awardee; applicants are encouraged to look for matching funds.

Receiving grants for 2019 were Hans-Peter Plag, John Cooper, Rohan Maddamsetti and Robert Strozak. You can read a September article describing their CURE classes, and watch a video about student learning in Plag's course.

For both faculty and students, the lessons learned using undergraduate research offer unique opportunities for transformative education. Please consider applying for the 2020 CURE grant.

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