Geology Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences at Florida Gulf Coast University: A Curriculum Investment in CUREs

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The benefits of course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) are numerous. These includes retention, persistence, and identification with STEM. Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) offers a wide variety (n=16) of freshman- to senior-level geology undergraduate courses, despite not having a geology program. CUREs have been integrated into many of these courses (n=8). Typically, CUREs at FGCU involve students working in collaborative groups to complete a guided inquiry project. Many involve fieldwork on or close to campus. NSF TUES funding was utilized to integrate a CURE into the mineralogy & petrology (min-pet) courses; however, CUREs in the other course were integrated “organically”, with the intent of providing an engaged learning environment while improving students’ learning gains. Some examples of CUREs include a soil project in general education geology courses, NSF TUES funded mineral geochemistry via remote use of an electron microprobe, hydrogeology parameters of sediment, tree coring to reconstruct past precipitation and environmental stressors, as well as sea-level variation and climate change though geobiological proxies. These CUREs have resulted in: students persisting in STEM; student-lead independent research projects that build on the CUREs; numerous referred conference presentations with students as lead or coauthors; professional development for the faculty; and, high enrollment in geology electives. Due to the “organic” development of CUREs, all but two CUREs at FGCU lack assessment of direct learning outcomes and/or benefits; and, comprehensive assessment would definitively link these outcomes to the use of CUREs. The conceptual change model (Schmidt et al., 2006) was used for assessment in Geobiology, while benefits assessment and creative exercises (Lewis et al., 2010) were used in the min-pet CUREs. The benefit assessment in the min-pet course suggests the mineralogy CURE has: increased the students’ ability to understand research data; increased their decision to conduct more research; and, raised their confidence in their scientific abilities. Additionally, creative exercise assessment of learning outcomes of the min-pet CURE has shown positive results of students’ understanding and retention.

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Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 49, issue 6, no. 334-10