An Initiative of the CUR Biology Division
What is MIRIC?
The Mentoring the Integration of Research Into the Classroom (MIRIC) Initiative is inspired by a similar project developed by the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) as a way to provide a means for new and future faculty to receive long-term mentorship opportunities in active-learning techniques as advocated by the 2011 AAAS Vision and Change document. Several organizations have offered one-time workshops in several venues for introducing active-learning techniques to undergraduate faculty interested in reforming their classrooms. However, these one-time workshops have largely been ineffective in providing lasting change to the way in which life-science coursework is taught across the nation. Mentoring initiatives like MIRIC seek to provide a long-term training experiences for instructors by fostering partnerships between instructors looking to integrate active learning techniques into their classrooms and veterans of these practices. The precise structure and length of the mentorships is dictated by the mentor and mentee to provide a training experience that is tailored to the needs of each mentee.
The MIRIC Initiative extends this long-term mentorship idea to the development of course-based research experiences (CUREs) in undergraduate life-science classrooms. CUREs focus on the integration of authentic research activity into undergraduate classroom activities and are another natural extension of Vision and Change, since they provide engaging and authentic research experiences to undergraduates as a part of their standard coursework. Although CUREs are an outstanding approach for providing the educational benefits of undergraduate research to a maximum number of students, they are difficult for instructors to implement and execute without a significant level of training. MIRIC is a natural fit as an initiative housed in CUR, the nation’s premier organization for the promotion of best practices in undergraduate research. The CUR Biology Division features several established faculty with extensive experience in bringing their research work into their coursework. Thus, the division is well positioned to provide leadership in the life-science education community in the form of training instructors in the art of meaningfully integrating authentic research work into undergraduate coursework.
What are MIRIC’s objectives?
- To provide opportunities for long-term mentorship in developing CUREs with veterans of the practice.
- To develop an effective CURE module or modules that the mentee can utilize in his or her classroom.
- To establish CUR as a national leader in the promotion of CURE development.
How does MIRIC work?
The first step will be to establish a database of individuals who are willing and qualified to serve as mentors. The CUR Biology Division would ask prospective mentors for a CV and sample syllabus to verify their previous experience in CURE development. The division will reach out to its mentors to seek volunteers who would be willing to work with a mentee on best practices in developing a CURE that is appropriate for the scope of a target class, establishing learning goals and assessment tools for the CURE, and implementing the CURE for a determined portion of the course. Ideally, the mentee will be able to visit the mentor’s classroom and receive in-person experience in how to implement and manage an established CURE.
Once a mentor volunteer database is prepared, the CUR Biology Division will reach out to the CUR membership as well as the membership of life-science professional societies (American Society for Cell Biology, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, American Society of Plant Biologists, etc.) to recruit graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty interested in receiving mentorship in CURE development. Prospective mentees would fill out an online application identifying their interests in CURE development, previous experience, and desired goals from a MIRIC mentorship. Members of the CUR Biology Division would then match prospective mentees to mentors based on common teaching interests, mentorship goals, and geography.
There are no requirements for what must take place in a MIRIC mentorship. However, the CUR Biology Division will provide some suggested activities and discussion points for the mentor and mentee as well as some literature that explores successful CURE development.
How will the CUR Biology Division manage MIRIC?
The chair of the CUR Biology Division will appoint 2-4 members of the division as the MIRIC Advisory Committee. This committee will be charged with managing the mentor and mentee databases, recruiting participants, and matching of mentors and mentees into partnerships. The committee will also oversee assessment practices of the program.
How are MIRIC mentorships assessed?
Assessment of the mentee’s direct experiences with MIRIC will be done through pre- and post-mentorship interviews conducted by a member of the MIRIC Advisory Committee. With respect to the ability of the developed CURE to positively influence the learning outcomes of the mentee’s classroom, the division will utilize the Laboratory Course Assessment Survey (LCAS; Corwin et al. 2015). The LCAS assesses student collaboration, iteration, and discovery and relevance of a given project, all of which define a successful implementation of an authentic research experience.
Corwin, L. A., C. Runyon, A. Robinson, A., and E. L. Dolan. (2015). The Laboratory Course Assessment Survey: A Tool to Measure Three Dimensions of Research-Course Design. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 14(4), ar37.
Nicole Najor, PhD, University of Detroit Mercy
Jonathan Fitz Gerald, PhD, Rhodes College
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