There has been a shift in modern tertiary education theory that has moved away from a traditional, didactic model of education, towards a more student-led, constructivist approach. Nowhere is this more the case than in science and mathematical education, where the concept of research-led education is gaining more and more traction. The focus of this approach is on training students to join a community of scholars, rather than on encouraging the accrual of factual knowledge. What has scope to be addressed further in this area is what students might gain from research experience and the impact this kind of education has on career intentions. The current study, using a combination of quantitative and qualitative survey data, explores this experience. We aim to answer questions surrounding skill gains, student perceptions and the impact on career choices. Findings indicate that students value research experience and gain much from it. Further, we find evidence that engaging in, and benefiting from, research experience is related to career intentions. These results have implications for the ways we scaffold research experience for students, as well as reinforcing the value of this approach to education.
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These activities were: a scripted lab or project in which the students know the expected outcome; being responsible for a part of the project; a lab or project in which only the instructor knows the outcome; reading primary scientific literature; a lab or project where no one knows the outcome; writing a research proposal; a project in which students have input into the process; collecting data; a project entirely of student design; analysing data; working individually; presenting results orally; working as a whole class; presenting posters; working in small groups; critiquing the work of other students.
These skill areas were: problem-solving in general; formulating a research question that could be answered with data; identifying limitations of research methods and designs; understanding the theory and concepts guiding my research project; understanding the relevance of research to my coursework; comfort in discussing scientific concepts with others; comfort in working collaboratively with others; ability to work independently; understanding what everyday research work is like; writing scientific reports or papers; defending an argument when asked questions; explaining my project to people outside my field; preparing a scientific poster; keeping a detailed lab notebook; using statistics to analyse data; managing my time.
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Smyth, L., Davila, F., Sloan, T. et al. How science really works: the student experience of research-led education. High Educ 72, 191–207 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-015-9945-z
- Research-led education
- Higher education