Expanding Course Based Research Experiences

ECURE (Expanding Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences) is an NSF-funded grant designed to leverage UNM’s research mission to enrich undergraduate education in STEM general education and portal courses.  It is led and supported by Academic Affairs, the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Division of Equity and Inclusion, and the Office of Student Affairs.  ECURE is based on the following key concepts:

  • Engaging students in undergraduate research (UGR) experiences will positively impact their science literacy, science identity, and research self-efficacy, as well as their likelihood to persist and graduate at UNM.
  • Engaging students in UGR in general education and portal courses will allow us to serve more students than co-curricular programming alone, and will help students connect course content to professional, community and research applications.
  • Engagement in undergraduate research can be offered at varying levels of research immersion. These levels range from students learning about research without actually conducting research to students implementing all stages of their own authentic research projects (see descriptions of the levels below).  All levels of early research immersion are useful to achieving desired student outcomes described above, and to creating more effective and diverse pathways to more advanced co-curricular research engagements within their majors.

To this end, ECURE supports instructors in incorporating undergraduate research components into their general education and portal sections, and studies the impact of these enriched engagements on student perceptions and behaviors.

What are the levels of undergraduate research engagement?

Over the past four years, the UNM Academic Affairs General Education Teaching Fellows UGR Group has developed an expanded course-based undergraduate research experiences (CURE) framework.  This framework conceptualizes three distinct levels of student immersion in UGR, all of which will have positive impact on students. 

Preparatory Immersion (PREP).  In the ECURE Framework, PREP is defined as teaching students how research is conducted (including explaining the connection of foundational skills to research processes), but without actual engagement in research.  PREP can be taught in either lecture or active learning environments. Throughout the course of the semester, students in PREP sections participate in at least ten separate activities, assignments or focused lectures addressing research skills or research-applied foundational skills during the course of an academic term.  Examples include teaching students to differentiate between correlation and causation, exploring the value of peer-based literature compared to Wikipedia, or learning how an important course concept is used in solving real-world problems. 

Partial Immersion (PARTIAL).  In the E-CURE framework, PARTIAL is defined as engaging students in selected components of research, without engaging in all of the essential elements of full research projects. An example of PARTIAL might an include a class where students are provided a research problem by the instructor (rather than identifying one themselves), are provided a summary of existing knowledge (rather than conducting their own lit reviews), are provided with a research method (rather than selecting their own), are required to collect & analyze data individually, and report their findings to the instructor in a research journal (rather than sharing with research peers).  Throughout the course of the semester, students in PARTIAL sections engage in at least two research steps, where students ask or answer questions to which the answers are unknown.  These research steps will be defined by the instructor, as appropriate for their academic discipline.  We define “answers are unknown” as the divergent experiences, with multiple possible correct results, rather than convergent experiences, with single or limited correct results.  The instructor may know which results are most likely, but not which results are pre-determined if the research is conducted correctly.

Full Immersion (FULL).  FULL experiences fit the traditional definition of CUREs, where students participate in authentic research experiences.  In FULL experiences, students participate in all stages of the research project.  These projects should not be individual or independent projects.  They should be group-based projects, where each student participates in all of the stages.  In general education and portal courses, these projects will most often be small research projects.  As with PARTIAL, the research steps will be defined by the instructor, as appropriate for their academic discipline.  In addition, to some extent the research projects should include all of the elements in the following table.

What are the types of ECURE fellowships, and how are they compensated?

ECURE supports Implementation Fellows and Exploratory Fellows.  Implementation Fellows will develop and implement ONE of the three levels of immersion in at least one section of a STEM general education or portal course.  Each Implementation Fellow receives a $4,000 summer stipend.  Exploratory Fellows will explore the use of the ECURE framework in their courses by observing their peers implement projects, but will not commit to an implementation themselves.  Exploratory Fellows will be encouraged to apply as Implementation Fellows next year, if they feel this is an appropriate framework for their course(s).  Exploratory Fellows receive a $1,000 summer stipend.  Starting in summer 2021, former Implementation Fellows will also be encouraged to apply as Publication Fellows.  Publication Fellows will be supported in submitting their course project findings and results for publication.

What are the obligations for the ECURE fellows?

Implementation Fellows and Exploratory Fellows commit to attend the virtual ECURE Summer Institute.  This professional development program will introduce instructors to the ECURE framework and assessment mechanisms, as well as active learning strategies and culturally inclusive instruction. 

Implementation Fellows and Exploratory Fellows commit to meeting monthly with the ECURE community of practice.  These meetings may be more or less frequent as determined by the participants. 

Implementation Fellows commit to incorporating their selected level of immersion (PREP, PARTIAL or FULL) in their section(s) of STEM general education or portal course(s) during the Fall, Spring or Summer.

Implementation Fellows commit to assigning their students to complete an ECURE pre and post assessment survey.  This survey will not take longer than 30 minutes to complete, and can be assigned as an in-class activity or as out-of-class homework. 

Implementation Fellows commit to allowing classroom observations by members of the community of practice, and ECURE staff/researchers.  These observations will be at the discretion of the instructors, and will be scheduled based on instructor preferences. 

Exploratory Fellows commit to observing at least three classroom sessions during the fall, spring and/or summer.

Implementation Fellows commit to completing a two-page summary of their project at the end of Sthe academic year.  A template will be provided for the report.

ECURE is funded by the National Science Foundation, Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE), Hispanic Serving Institutions Program. Funding Amount: up to $2.1M over five years. Funding Term: April 15, 2020 through April 14, 2025.