Preliminary evaluation of a research experience for undergraduates (REU) program: A methodology for examining student Outcomes

D. Jake Follmer, Sarah E. Zappe, Esther W. Gomez, Manish Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The current study presented an initial evaluation, following Year 1, of a National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program in chemical engineering conducted at a large Mid-Atlantic research university. A methodology for evaluating student outcomes from undergraduate research experiences was also proposed. Evaluation of the REU program relied upon an extensive assessment methodology, utilizing preand post-survey measures of research and scientific-based experiences and skills as well as in-depth student and faculty mentor interviews of REU experiences, gains, and perceived benefits. Participants (n = 21; 25% female; 42% underrepresented minority status) evidenced significant gains in broad research experience and specific research-based skills and experiences after completing the REU program. Specific production metrics, ratings of research experiences, as well as initial graduate school plans and outcomes, were also obtained. Results indicated involvement in presentations and publications as well as moderate to high ratings of core REU experiences. A key finding from the study is the clarifying role the REU program played in facilitating students' graduate school plans; results support REU programs as a refining experience rather than a prompting experience for graduate school outcomes. Qualitative analysis of student interview data revealed a perceived significant benefit of working collaboratively with other students while engaged in the research experience and an increased and improved understanding of the nature of research. Qualitative analysis of faculty mentor interview data corroborated the perceived benefits of student pairing and research collaboration, and also noted the ability of student pairing to facilitate student work and time management. Despite high ratings of core REU program elements, students expressed a desire for more time working with and under the advisement of faculty mentors. Across students and faculty mentors, suggestion was made for the inclusion of additional social and related events and programs to further facilitate research collaboration and integration during the program. Limitations, recommendations for improvement of the REU program and for future evaluation of the REU, and implications for institutions interested in implementing REU programs are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
Volume122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Making Value for Society
Issue number122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Making Value for...
StatePublished - 2015
Event2015 122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Seattle, United States
Duration: Jun 14 2015Jun 17 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering

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