15th Symposium on Education


Evaluation of the impact of the NWC REU program compared with other undergraduate research experiences

Wilson J. Gonzalez-Espada, Arkansas Tech Univ., Russellville, AR; and D. S. Zaras

Undergraduate research is increasingly valued as a critical component of a good undergraduate science education. Through research, it is expected that students will develop a number of behaviors and knowledge, among them an ability to do science, theoretical and practical subject matter knowledge, research and communication skills, independent thought, creativity, and a positive disposition toward the discipline. The NSF REU provides such opportunity for college students. Zaras (2005) recently reported an analysis of student characteristics of applicants, "best practices" learned since 2001, and new additions to the NWC program funded through a 2-Year extension for special creativity. The purpose of this paper is to build on previous reports by providing a research-based synthesis on the effectiveness of REU programs, summarizing the history of the NWC REU program and its positive impact on students, describing the current program and some of its unique characteristics, and using student student's written comments to evaluate the program's effectiveness in terms of graduate school plans, career plan, and the student's perceived potential for scientific research by comparing initial, intermediate and final evaluation surveys, as well as comments from mentors. The Likert-scale data before and after the program was compared using the Wilcoxon matched-pairs signed-ranks test. A positive, statistically significant difference was found on the graduate school question, suggesting that students came to the REU program with a good idea that they wanted to continue graduate school. After the summer, participants reported being more even committed to attend. No statistically significant difference was found on the students' career plans and self-efficacy on becoming research scientists before and after the program, although because both measurements were high to start with, a potential ceiling effect on the data is hypothesized. The in-progress qualitative analysis will provide a context from which the statistical data can be interpreted.

extended abstract  Extended Abstract (300K)

Poster Session 1, Educational Initiatives
Sunday, 29 January 2006, 5:30 PM-7:00 PM, Exhibit Hall A2

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