Authentic Undergraduate Research in Plant Science: The Importance of Mentor-Student Relationships
AbstractActive learning can improve student engagement and learning outcomes by encouraging students to use higher order thinking skills. One strategy is involving students in research during their undergraduate studies where students are given the opportunity to design, implement, analyse and present a scientific research experiment under the guidance of an academic mentor. This study evaluates the role the student-mentor relationship played in the value of the research project for both students and mentors in a level II plant science course. Survey data collected between 2015 and 2017 showed that the majority (80% in 2017) of students agreed that the research project was a valuable part of the course. In addition, students found the interaction with their mentor was important. Communication between student and mentor was seen as very important with 90% of the student cohort indicating that they agreed or strongly agreed that communication was important to the research project. The vast majority of mentors (over 75%) were able to see the value to students of the research project. The majority of mentors felt it was easy to communicate with their student group and that students were responsive to their suggestions. This study has shown that preparing both students and mentors for participation in an authentic research project has positive impacts on student engagement.