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Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is consistently seen as a top priority; however, STEM programs often suffer from low retention. Students who start in STEM degree programs often lose interest or face obstacles that cause them to leave. Here, we describe a non‐traditional approach meant to encourage a range of students to pursue or continue their STEM education. Active learning approaches have long been touted to stimulate long‐term interest and prepare students for a career in natural science. We provide a case study of an interdisciplinary, cohort‐centric, mentor‐guided summer research internship. By establishing an understanding of how science is currently conducted in agriculture, through several faculty mentors, the program allowed students to embrace their core interests while being able to fit into larger interdisciplinary narratives which provided motivation to continue their path in STEM education. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved A cohort‐based undergraduate research experience differs from the typical apprentice‐based models. Generating data together and asking questions from diverse perspectives allows students to work across scales. Creating interdisciplinary teams allows students to participate in more realistic research to tackle complex problems. Designing a dynamic, cohort‐based summer undergraduate research experience provides enriching activities that occur along the active learning continuum.

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Learning and performance are not always commensurable. Conditions that maximize performance in the initial learning may not maximize learning in the longer term. I exploit this incommensurability to theoretically and empirically interrogate four possibilities for design: productive success, productive failure, unproductive success, and unproductive failure. Instead of only looking at extreme comparisons between discovery learning and direct instruction, an analysis of the four design possibilities suggests a vast design space in between the two extremes that may be more productive for learning than the extremes. I show that even though direct instruction can be conceived as a productive success compared to discovery learning, theoretical and empirical analyses suggests that it may well be an unproductive success compared with examples of productive failure and productive success. Implications for theory and the design of instruction are discussed.
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To increase the numbers of underrepresented racial minority students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), federal and private agencies have allocated significant funding to undergraduate research programs, which have been shown to students' intentions of enrolling in graduate or professional school. Analyzing a longitudinal sample of 4,152 aspiring STEM majors who completed the 2004 Freshman Survey and 2008 College Senior Survey, this study utilizes multinomial hierarchical generalized linear modeling (HGLM) and propensity score matching techniques to examine how participation in undergraduate research affects STEM students' intentions to enroll in STEM and non-STEM graduate and professional programs. Findings indicate that participation in an undergraduate research program significantly improved students' probability of indicating plans to enroll in a STEM graduate program.
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Writing is an essential part of a successful career in science. As such, many undergraduate science courses have begun to implement writing assignments that reflect “real-world” applications and focus on a critical analysis of current literature; these assignments are often in the form of a review or a research proposal. The semester-long project described herein is a unique marriage of these two ideas: students first select a topic and conduct a literature review, and then choose an area of that same topic to investigate further in a peer-reviewed grant proposal. A modified version of this project, which incorporates peer-reviewed oral presentations, is also discussed. This project is designed for an upper-level undergraduate course, typically having 15–20 students, and the approach (or parts of the approach) has been successfully incorporated in an advanced organic chemistry course, a biochemistry capstone course, and courses in endocrinology, as well as ecophysiology.
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to evaluate and analyse the didactic model of a university course, which concerns an applied academic consultancy project and which focuses on skills related to crossing boundaries between disciplines and cultures, and between theory and practice. These boundary crossing skills are needed to develop sustainable solutions for complex environmental problems. Design/methodology/approach – The paper evaluates the course based on recommendations for successful collaborative interdisciplinary research found in literature. Reflections of two cohorts of 30 students are used to analyse the four components that make up the didactic model of the course: organizational “matrix structure” in which students work, two week field‐trip, customized SharePoint web site, and teachers as facilitators rather than providers of information. Findings – The course enhanced the students' awareness of disciplinary and cultural boundaries and added to their appreciation of using different disciplinary and cultural perspectives in developing sustainable solutions. Students learnt to deal with uncertainty in scientific research and realized that decisions in environmental management are based on partial knowledge. They also learnt how to overcome barriers in the design and implementation of interdisciplinary research projects. Originality/value – The paper presents an innovative didactic model that proved to be successful in educating boundary crossing skills. It contributes to understanding how educational programmes at universities can better equip students to find sustainable solutions.
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This study examines the evidence for the effectiveness of active learning. It defines the common forms of active learning most relevant for engineering faculty and critically examines the core element of each method. It is found that there is broad but uneven support for the core elements of active, collaborative, cooperative and problem-based learning.
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  • S. H. Russell
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