A broader view of undergraduate research opportunity programmes: collaborative culture and curriculum development

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Presentation by Dr Nathan Roberts and Dr Ian Mossman (Cardiff University) at the Research-Teaching Practice in Wales Conference, 10th September 2013, at the University of Wales, Gregynog Hall. Slidecast edited by Professor Simon Haslett.

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A broader view of undergraduate research opportunity programmes: collaborative culture and curriculum development

  1. 1. A broader view of Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programmes (UROPs): collaborative culture and curriculum development Dr Nathan Roberts Dr Iain Mossman CUROP Co-ordinators
  2. 2. Overview • What are UROPs? • Benefits of UROPs for students • How the Cardiff UROP works • Understanding the intangible benefits of CUROP • Conclusion and Questions
  3. 3. What is a UROP? • Key features – Programme of placements for UG students with University research staff/teams – Often run over the summer – Sometimes students are paid, sometimes unpaid • History – Began in America – Came to UK through Imperial College
  4. 4. Benefits of UROPs • Particularly student focused – Locks, 2002 • Understanding the impact on student retention rates, particularly from minority groups – John and Creighton, 2011 • Student skills development • Confidence • Progression to postgraduate study?
  5. 5. How CUROP works • Applications made from academic staff only, although students are encouraged to take their ideas to lecturers should they be interested in the scheme • Applications judged primarily on benefit to students • Projects funded for up to 8 weeks • Over 150 students supported in 2013 • Students must produce a poster to present at an annual poster event, and many write up reports and papers with their supervisors.
  6. 6. The range of projects at Cardiff Total number of projects in each College 2013 34 Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences 51 Biomedical and Life Sciences Physical Sciences and Engineering 61
  7. 7. Understanding the intangible benefits of CUROP
  8. 8. Institutional development and policy • Studies of admissions and progression (Welsh Bacc, comparing A Level Examining Boards) • Evaluating support structures, for example, Maths Support Service and the development of diagnostic testing for student numeracy
  9. 9. Impact on teaching • Production of learning resources • Pedagogical research and studies of the student experience • Learning journeys of non-traditional students
  10. 10. The ‘mechanics’ of research activity For new academic members of staff: • Grant writing • Project management • Supervision • Dissemination • Getting new laboratories and research clusters up and running
  11. 11. Developing new research areas - Low-risk, exploratory, innovative “CUROP enables us to try out speculative ideas without there being any pressure for a positive result. The other mechanism we use for this sort of thing is the UG project but students are very concerned that their project should „work‟ even if we aren‟t. CUROP doesn‟t really suffer from that drawback.”
  12. 12. Developing new research areas - Nurture collaborations - “This is the sort of short pilot scheme that is necessary to underpin „odd‟ observations that would otherwise be very difficult to fund, thus the CUROP of 8 weeks was excellent” - Collaborative ethos with students (including on their experience)
  13. 13. • “I have met with quite a lot of hostility from regular users along the lines of "all the kit will be broken", and "Safety will be compromised" etc. These CUROP positions over the last couple of years have been extremely helpful in building confidence in undergraduates using what to some are precious and research only facilities and demonstrating that with effort on a lecturers part it can be done. These CUROP projects have proved that undergraduates can be responsible, useful, and more importantly NOT a liability in the cleanroom. It is taking real effort to win people over, but my long term intention is that some undergraduate teaching and project work is associated with cleanroom activity.”
  14. 14. Synoptic Physics • • • • Physics Curriculum in 2011/12 prepared students for careers as physicists CUROP project Summer 2012, „Careers Destinations of Physics Graduates‟ New core module for 2nd Year Students Spring Semester 2012/13 – Synoptic Physics and Synoptic Astrophysics Focus on student skills development: Teamwork; problem solving; numeracy; IT; communication; time management; leadership; digital literacy; reflective learning; commercial awareness.
  15. 15. Conclusion • Benefits go beyond the opportunities for placement students • Wider benefits across the university include: – Reflective research on the student experience – Development of teaching materials – Opportunities for ECRs – Testing new research areas – Curriculum development and design • However, it involves (long-term) investment both financial and in terms of time

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