Open Pedagogical Practices to Train Undergraduates in the Research Process: A Case Study in Course Design and Co-Teaching Strategies

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2021-01-26
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Academic institutions are continually looking for routes to authentically engage more students in experiential and high-impact practices (HIPs) in order to make them more career-ready and adaptive to changing professions. These experiences, especially undergraduate research, can spark creativity, curiosity, and entrepreneurship across disciplines, highlighting true benefit for student participation. In this work, we frame and describe an open pedagogical approach to a course in undergraduate research training and explicitly define the course structure and project deliverables that seek to prepare students in the HIP of undergraduate research in an interdisciplinary environment with ambiguous problems. This course has been formed in collaboration between library and teaching faculty, piloted first through the Honors College, and is called “Research Practices”. Prior to course creation, the library offered a co-curricular workshop series focused on undergraduate research skills. During the development stages, it was decided to embed the workshops into the course, thus showing how a valuable library program moved from co-curricular to curricular. The course is open to any major, thereby engaging students from the fields of physical and life sciences, engineering, arts and humanities, business, and social sciences in the collaborative research process. In the course, students learn to conduct and propose research, write proposals, draft annotated bibliographies, and create digital research posters based on active conversations with their teammates and an open-ended topic that is self-selected by the group at the start of the semester. The multidisciplinary team of instructors bring unique skills and presence to the course. This course was created to provide base knowledge on research methodologies while also providing an interactive, dynamic course using evidence-based pedagogy that allows students the space to intentionally and selectively forge their own path towards success while also preparing them for faculty sponsored research. Scaffolding approaches, open project design, and alternative teaching techniques have been implemented in the course design. We will share the collaborative framework and lessons learned by library and teaching faculty from this approach, as well as describe the unique nature of the course design for freshman and sophomore students new to research. Rubrics, project assessment, and deliverable examples will also be explained so that others can implement similar approaches, as appropriate, in their academic environments. Finally, we will reflect on the origin of this course collaboration between library and teaching faculty, who have successfully co-taught this course for three years. Co-teaching can be difficult, but yet proves to be an influential design and modeling exercise to show students that teamwork is necessary in the world of research. The value-added for library faculty collaboration will be detailed, as well as the best practices used to co-teach and run a for-credit course that engages students from multiple disciplines. Ultimately, this chapter seeks to provide the framework in the creation of an interdisciplinary, open-ended research practices course, detail implementation of similar, unstructured practices in course design, highlight the utilization of publishing student work in an open repository, and discuss successful collaboration and co-teaching between library and teaching faculty.

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