A Central Support System Can Facilitate Implementation and Sustainability of a Classroom-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) in Genomics

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Abstract: In their 2012 report, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology advocated “replacing standard science laboratory courses with discovery-based research courses”-a challenging proposition that presents practical and pedagogical difficulties. In this paper, we describe our collective experiences working with the Genomics Education Partnership, a nationwide faculty consortium that aims to provide undergraduates with a research experience in genomics through a scheduled course (a classroom-based undergraduate research experience, or CURE). We examine the common barriers encountered in implementing a CURE, program elements of most value to faculty, ways in which a shared core support system can help, and the incentives for and rewards of establishing a CURE on our diverse campuses. While some of the barriers and rewards are specific to a research project utilizing a genomics approach, other lessons learned should be broadly applicable. We find that a central system that supports a shared investigation can mitigate some shortfalls in campus infrastructure (such as time for new curriculum development, availability of IT services) and provides collegial support for change. Our findings should be useful for designing similar supportive programs to facilitate change in the way we teach science for undergraduates.

Faculty identification of barriers to implementing and sustaining a research-based lab course in genomics. Mean faculty ratings (on the anonymous survey), scoring both the importance (red bar) and the presence on campus (blue bar) of 25 items, at the time when the respondent attempted to implement genomics research lab activities. Respondents rated importance on a scale of 1 (marginally important) to 5 (very important), and rated presence on a scale of 1 (absent) to 5 (present in abundance). Items are sorted top to bottom by importance (red bar). The mean response for presence (blue bar) was superimposed over the red to highlight the difference; if presence exceeds importance, only the blue bar is visible. The difference between importance (red, what is needed) and presence (blue) suggests barriers to implementation. Numerical data are provided in Supplemental Material S8.

Lopatto D, Hauser C, Jones CJ, et al. A Central Support System Can Facilitate Implementation and Sustainability of a Classroom-based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) in Genomics. CBE Life Sci Educ. 2014;13(4):711‐723. doi:10.1187/cbe.13-10-0200