National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Published in Innovations in Undergraduate Research and Honors Education: Proceedings of the Second Schreyer National Conference 2001, ed. Josephine M. Carubia & Renata S. Engel. Copyright © 2004 The National Collegiate Honors Council.


At most research universities, a major divide separates the world of the undergraduate student and the world of research. The standard model of undergraduate research is the apprenticeship model in which students are transported across this divide with little cognitive or practical preparation. Sinking or swimming, the student is then presented with a problem or project, shown the basics of how to solve the problem, and allowed to give it his/her best shot. This effort frequently takes place under the guidance of graduate students and/or .research associates who themselves have little cognitive or practical preparation for this role. This research experience most often takes place late in the student's course of study and is usually pedagogically and epistemologically distinct from his/her course of study. Thus the degree of ownership in the work by the student varies widely, and interestingly, rarely does the experience lead to scholarship outside the home institution. Without questioning the intrinsic merits or approach of this model, it is nonetheless clear that universities and their faculty do not have the resources nor the will to make this experience a regular part of the academic life of a large majority of undergraduates. In this contribution we present an alternative model based on a case study of a teambased, student-directed research effort in the area of marine environmental science. From our research, we believe that team-based research by undergraduates holds the promise of meeting the educational, intellectual, and emotional needs of an increasingly diverse population of undergraduates and an everchanging world/work place. Research-Based Learning (RBL) provides the structural strategy for linking this new undergraduate research model to both the classroom and the curriculum.