Undergraduate Research: A Transformative Pedagogy for Teaching in the Natural Sciences

By Vijendra (VJ) Agarwal.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This presentation will focus on the engagement of undergraduate students in research as a transformative pedagogy to educate and better prepare tomorrow’s scientific/technical workforce for the contemporary society while the demand for such talent is on the rise. In the United States, undergraduate research (UR) is being institutionalized at small and large universities alike in a variety of modalities such as capstone courses encompassing research for credit as a requirement; offering research opportunities for skill building but not necessarily for credit; students working on projects that are directly related to faculty member’s research interest and/or students working on projects of their own choosing but still mentored by a faculty member. We will discuss how an institution can create, nurture and sustain faculty mentored UR in the natural sciences using our own success story. Undoubtedly, it takes time, resources and commitment on the part of all stakeholders- faculty, students and administration- to institutionalize UR. There is ample research to indicate that undergraduate students are quite capable and can be motivated for research in contrast to the old paradigm that research is truly meant only for the graduate students.

Keywords: Undergraduate Research, Transformative Pedagogy, Engaged Learning, Benefits of Undergraduate Research

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.181-188. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 538.593KB).

Dr. Vijendra (VJ) Agarwal

Associate Vice Chancellor and Professor of Physics, Offices of Sponsored Programs, Research and Graduate Studies, University of Wisconsin- La Crosse, La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA

I am a long time faculty member of Physics who switched to become an academic administrator but still maintain research interests in the mainstream physics. I am a strong advocate for undergraduate research as a pedagogical tool for deeper learning and a way to prepare students for the real world. In my current position, I supervise and direct the university wide graduate programs, encourage and promote faculty and student research, and assist in all matters related to externally funded projects.