$15,000 over 7 months. Prompted by the growing belief in American higher education that undergraduate research (UR) is an especially rewarding form of learning, along with the sense that assessment studies of such programs tend to be discipline-specific (e.g. natural and life sciences, mathematics, engineering) and limited to programs that involve only a small number of undergraduates, these four liberal arts colleges (all of which already do, or will soon require a UR capstone project of all its seniors) will begin to plan a rigorous assessment of the value of UR experiences for all students. Aiming to get beyond the anecdotal evidence they currently have, the colleges' intent for this grant is to design a multi-year research project on the impact of UR on student learning, driven by three central questions:
- What value does the capstone UR experience add to a liberal arts degree?
- What kinds of programs yield the greatest gains for students?
- How do these gains relate to the broadly defined objectives of a liberal arts education?
The planning group will consist of three people from each college (chief academic officer, an administrator responsible for assessment and/or institutional research, and a faculty representative), along with one or two consultants. The project PI will develop for the group a reading list focusing on UR, faculty mentoring, life-long learning, and liberal arts education, while each institution will create an inventory checklist that includes components, characteristics, and resources related to the capstone research program on their campus. The group will meet in summer 2008 for a three-day workshop to review inventory findings, focus the research questions, identify research goals, discuss and specify a set of outcomes, and determine a methodology for the project.