Investigating introductory astronomy students' perceived impacts from participation in course-based undergraduate research experiences

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Physical Review Physics Education Research




© 2018 authors. Published by the American Physical Society. [This paper is part of the Focused Collection on Astronomy Education Research.] This study investigates students' perceived impacts regarding their participation in course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) in astronomy. Each research experience adopted one or more projects from the Research Based Science Education for Undergraduates (RBSEU) curriculum, which teaches analysis of astronomical data coming from various national observatories. Participating students were enrolled in introductory astronomy courses at one of four universities using the curriculum. They were invited to respond to several instruments, including surveys (N=199), essays (N=94), and interviews (N=19). Each university implemented the curriculum differently with respect to content covered, length of instruction, and whether students' research results were contributed to the astronomical community. We found that participation in all versions of the curriculum had the potential to significantly increase students' perceived confidence participating in science. However, participation in experiences wherein results were contributed to the scientific community more often led to students' nuanced perceptions of science processes, including increased understanding of the role of analysis and the utility of scientific communities and collaborations. We frame our study according to a pathway model under study by discipline-based education researchers of CUREs and explore our findings' connections with psychological theories.

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