Student Experience and Learning in a Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Science Education

First Advisor

David W. Rudge, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Brandy Pleasants, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Wendy Beane, Ph.D.


Cure, nature of science, online course development, self-efficacy, student motivation, tolerance to obstacles


Scientific research is advocated as an important experience for undergraduate STEM majors. Involving undergraduates in research early on in their educational careers can potentially prevent attrition and encourages students to pursue post-graduate education and careers within the field. However, research opportunities for undergraduates can be difficult to obtain. Many students may not realize that research opportunities exist, or there is limited availability for undergraduates to work in a faculty member’s research laboratory. Luckily, an educational model for involving scientific research in a course, also known as a Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE), can provide more widespread opportunities for students to be involved in research. Just like standard research experiences, the CURE possesses all of the hallmark features of scientific research which includes the use of scientific practices, collaboration, discovery, broadly relevant, and iteration. Comparison studies between standard undergraduate research experiences and the CURE model have shown that students gain the same benefits, thus indicating that the CURE is a suitable alternative. These benefits include increases to content knowledge and technical skills, deeper understanding of the nature of science (NOS), increases to motivation and self-efficacy, development of ownership in the research, and more defined career aspirations and pursuit of additional research opportunities. Many of these student gains have been explored quantitatively and have illustrated those students make more positive gains in these identified areas when compared to students enrolled in the traditional confirmatory lab course. Therefore, it stands to reason that these student outcomes of the CURE need continued exploration to further our understanding on how the CURE can help students make these gains. Meaning, that further investigation is needed to better understand what specific features of a CURE have meaningful impact on student learning. For this reason, the purpose of this three-paper dissertation is to explore the impacts the CURE has on student learning with specific focus on student NOS understanding, motivation, self-efficacy, and tolerance to challenges/obstacles related to scientific research. In addition to exploring these student outcomes, this dissertation will also explore how a CURE may be adapted for online/remote delivery and what considerations an instructor must make in planning out an experience that can still help students gain important skills related to scientific research.

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