Independent research experiences for undergraduates result in numerous student benefits, yet there are not enough opportunities for all undergraduates. National calls for biology education reform make the case for integrating research into the curriculum itself, and the emergent model for this is course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs). Studies reveal student gains from CUREs can be similar to those from independent research, thus there is momentum for broad implementation of CUREs. Faculty members are essential to the development, implementation and success of new pedagogies, yet little work has been done regarding faculty perspectives on CUREs. In this study we asked: what motivates faculty to develop and/or teach CUREs, what are the barriers and benefits to CUREs, and how might they encourage colleagues to engage in CUREs? To address these research questions we conducted an extensive interview study targeting the perspectives of 61 life science faculty from various institutions and ranks who develop and/or teach CUREs. Using grounded theory and inter-rater reliability we identified emergent themes in the interview text. The faculty interviews generated rich qualitative data that was coded using an established rubric. Subsequent quantitative analyses were performed on qualitative and descriptive participant information to derive further nuances in the results.
Results from this study revealed tangible and intangible reasons that faculty persist in developing and teaching CUREs. Overall, 80% of participants discussed tangible motivations, benefits, or reasons to teach a CURE, including: research productivity (publications, pilot data, trained students), promotion/tenure, grant funding, professional collaborations, and meeting STEM reform goals. Further, 98% of participants reported intangible motivations, gains, and reasons to teach a CURE including: faculty are engaged, enjoy time in the classroom, experience self-fulfillment, intellectual stimulation, and elevated job satisfaction. We found significant differences among participants related to the type of CURE they teach, and indications of institution-specific motivators and benefits from CUREs. This study presents the first comprehensive report on perspectives of diverse faculty who have developed and taught course-based research, and results suggest that a singular model to nationally incentivize CUREs may not be sufficient. The data suggest that a holistic approach, considering individual and departmental expectations and values will be fundamental to promoting pedagogical change. The insights and collective experiences of our interview participants will provide a foundation to understand and incentivize integrating successful course-based research in life science curricula, and adds the missing component of faculty perspectives to the growing literature on CURE models.