Longitudinal investigation of the decision process in adoption of course-based research

Carol Bascom-Slack
Tufts University

NEED: Course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) are an effective method of engaging students in authentic research experiences, but many instructors do not use CUREs or discontinue use over time. To ensure students have equitable access to CUREs, we need a more comprehensive understanding of factors that drive faculty to use or discontinue CUREs.

GUIDING QUESTIONS: What institutional and personal factors correlate with an instructor’s perception of CUREs? How do these factors and perceptions predict an instructor’s likelihood of using, continuing or discontinuing use of a CURE? To address these issues we designed a quantitative, cross-sectional survey to capture CURE use and perceptions. The survey’s main structure is based on the Diffusion of Innovations (DOI) persuasion categories of complexity, compatibility, and relative advantage, which our previous qualitative research determined were most salient for the decision to implement a CURE. Likert-style items were designed based on thematic analysis of 66 interviews with 35 instructors pre- and post-implementation of various CUREs. In addition, the survey included multiple questions about CURE familiarity and experience, as well as occupational and institutional demographic factors. Survey items were validated through cognitive interviews with instructors and iterative theory-alignment discussions. Recruitment goals were determined by power analyses of key variables using the first 50 responses.

OUTCOMES: Instructors were categorized into three stages, based on Rogers’ individual decision process (IDP): “continuers” (217 current CURE users), “discontinuers” (85 former users), and “non-users” (108 instructors who had never used CUREs). Instructors represented a comprehensive range of institution types. While individual regressions indicated complexity, compatibility, and relative advantage scores all significantly correlated with IDP stage, a multiple multinomial regression indicated compatibility score alone as the strongest predictor of instructor CURE use patterns. Demographic factors varied significantly with IDP stage, most notably institution type. Instructors at associate’s dominant institutions were significantly more likely to be discontinuers or non-users, compared to other institution types. These instructors also had significantly lower compatibility scores. However, multiple multinomial regression analysis suggests that the driver may not be institution type, per se, but a lack of job stability prevalent at associate’s institutions. We hypothesize that characteristics of the instructor and teaching context influence perception of CUREs, which, in turn, influence IDP stage. We are currently undertaking mediation analysis to test the relationship between these variables.

BROADER IMPACT: Much has been said about the potential of CUREs to make research more accessible and to reduce inequalities in STEM education. However, if only students at certain types of institutions have access to CUREs, we risk not only failing to decrease inequalities in STEM, but actively increasing them. Identifying institutional and contextual barriers to CURE use and persistence can guide policy changes that will ensure that students, regardless of institution type, have equal access to CUREs. To our knowledge, this is the first large-scale quantitative survey of CURE use and perceptions across different implementation stages. Though exploratory, this study is an important step in understanding the factors that lead to disparities in CURE access. ———–


Elizabeth Genné-Bacon, Tufts University; Michal Fux, Tufts University