Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research
The 2014-2016 Center for Engaged Learning Seminar on Mentoring Undergraduate Research, a two-year research seminar, supports individuals interested in pursuing research that advances excellence in mentoring undergraduate research. We invite interested scholars from across the disciplines to submit applications to join a cohort of researchers collaborating on the study of evidenced-based, high-quality undergraduate research mentoring practices in diverse academic ecologies.
Whether preparing to pursue graduate studies or enter the workforce, the abilities to think critically, communicate effectively, and solve complex problems are among the most valuable skills undergraduate students can develop during their collegiate careers (Hart Research Associates, 2013). These skills develop in the classroom, but deeper student learning is fostered through practices that engage students in learning communities more broadly defined. Kuh (2008) suggests that such “high-impact” practices (HIPs), including undergraduate research (UR), lead to better student retention and engagement. This vision of student learning, which is supported by the Boyer Commission report (1998), contends that undergraduates should be involved in “research-based learning” in which faculty adopt a “scholar-teacher” model and involve undergraduates in the process of discovery. Kuh and O’Donnell (2013) contend that the deepest engagement in UR occurs when students participate in all aspects of the research process from problem identification to public dissemination, doing so in close working relationships with faculty teacher-scholars.
Recent research has begun to identify the student benefits of participating in UR and to delineate institutional supports that foster student engagement in high-impact practices. However, relatively few investigations have focused on the faculty mentor’s role in supporting student learning and engagement or on what constitutes a productive student-mentor dynamic in the context of UR. The dearth of empirical findings is especially consequential considering that one of the defining characteristics of an undergraduate research experience is working closely with a faculty mentor (Lopatto, 2003; Osborne & Karukstis, 2009). This gap in our knowledge presents an opportunity to investigate key characteristics of excellence in mentoring undergraduate research, the connections between mentoring relationships (mentorships), various student development outcomes, and faculty development.