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42 – Identifying Repetition and Collaboration as Crucial Design Features of CUREs


  • Benjamin Wiggins, Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences, UW Seattle
  • Lina Dahlberg, Biology Department, College of Science and Engineering, Western Washington University
  • Suzanne Lee,Biology Department, College of Science and Engineering, Western Washington University
  • Haley Sefi-Cyr,Biology Department, College of Science and Engineering, Western Washington University


Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) have demonstrated improved outcomes for students on par with more exclusive independent, mentored laboratory research experiences. To further democratize these potential gains to a wider array of students, our group at UW and WWU has developed several small CURE modules that are logistically manageable and show signs of similar benefits at lower cost to faculty time and resources. In designing these experiences, our key research question has been: Which elements of CURE development are most crucial to student learning gains?

We will present data from several research efforts at a primarily-undergraduate institution and in CURE-containing classes throughout the curriculum. Our data includes qualitative coding of student focus groups, targeting interview analysis from students who graduated after experiencing multiple CUREs, and artifact analysis from CURE modules. We mine these perspectives into student experiences for key themes that resonate across data types and may serve as central design features for future CURE development.

Our data analysis has shown that two features of CURE design are robustly beneficial to student experiences across data types. We will discuss the use of repetition in laboratory work (for functional practice, for conceptual understanding, and for facilitation of creative work). We will also show how students view collaboration as authentic and how that impacts their experience. Within our research environment, several other published key features of CUREs did not show similar impact at the student level. Crucially, both repetition and collaboration can be instilled in a CURE with low-cost activities that are accessible to a wider range of institutions. We hope this allows future designers of CUREs to focus on crucial, inexpensive aspects for improved student learning and potentially develop CUREs in teaching environments with fewer resources than have been necessary for published CURE work.