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Discovery and Broad Relevance May Be Insignificant Components of Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences [CUREs] for Non-Biology Majors


Ballen, Cissy J.
Thompson, Seth K.
Blum, Jessamina E.
Newstrom, Nicholas P.
Cotner, Cotner


Course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) are a type of laboratory learning environment associated with a science course, in which undergraduates participate in novel research. According to Auchincloss et al. (CBE Life Sci Educ 2104; 13:29-40), CUREs are distinct from other laboratory learning environments because they possess five core design components, and while national calls to improve STEM education have led to an increase in CURE programs nationally, less work has specifically focused on which core components are critical to achieving desired student outcomes. Here we use a backward elimination experimental design to test the importance of two CURE components for a population of non-biology majors: the experience of discovery and the production of data broadly relevant to the scientific or local community. We found non-significant impacts of either laboratory component on students' academic performance, science self-efficacy, sense of project ownership, and perceived value of the laboratory experience. Our results challenge the assumption that all core components of CUREs are essential to achieve positive student outcomes when applied at scale.