Teaching research: A curriculum model that works

Nancy E. Carpenter, Ted M. Pappenfus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Over the almost ten years that the ItR course has been in existence the course has proven to be an excellent preparation for students and a good "pipeline" for those who wish to continue research beyond the regular requirements. Not only do the students report that they are well prepared in the various areas relevant to research work, they also note additional benefits after having completed the course. Many note that they gained valuable experience in learning how to work well on a collaborative research team. The course brings together the chemistry and biochemistry students early in their undergraduate career and forges positive attitudes about helping each other learn. In addition, several cite the confidence-boosting aspect of the course. Students are not the only ones who profit from the ItR course-faculty benefit as well. Participation in the course, although voluntary, is expected of all chemistry faculty members and is taken into account in their workload.4 Most importantly, participation in ItR keeps each faculty member-probationary or tenured-"on track" with regard to his or her scholarly activity. A steady supply of well-prepared undergraduate research students is available and productivity is enhanced. The worth of undergraduate research has been enhanced and embraced by chemistry and biochemistry students and faculty alike as a result of this course. The challenges associated with the course are typical of those faced by anyone who teaches at a small liberal arts college: it is a workload-intensive course, the success of which is directly related to the amount of time and effort the faculty research mentor devotes to the project team. However, it is an introduction to research: the students are not expected to completely master all of the objectives of the course, nor are the faculty expected to present a publishable manuscript, at the end of the semester. The key is that the students have been introduced to research and are well prepared at the end of the course to continue their research journeys. Other challenges include concerns about consistency in grading, and effort put toward the project, which are challenges in any team-taught course. The fact that the course has succeeded is primarily a result of good communication among the faculty members involved, who must work closely together to ensure fairness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)940-945
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2009


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