Research education in STEM disciplines currently suffers from 1) The inability to feasibly collect highly detailed data on both the student’s and mentor’s activities; 2) The lack of tools to assist students and mentors in organizing and managing their research activities and environments; and 3) The inability to correlate a student’s assessment results with their actual research activities. Together these three problems act to impede both the improvement and educational quality of student research experiences. We propose a computer-assisted student-mentor research community as a solution to these problems. Within this community setting, students and their mentors are provided tools to make their work easier, much like a word processor makes writing a letter easier. Through their use of these tools, details of student-mentor activities are automatically recorded in a relational database, without burdening users with the responsibility of archiving data. Equally important, student assessments of outcome can be directly related to student activity, allowing educators to identify practices resulting in successful research experiences. Community tools also facilitate the use of labor-intensive teaching laboratories involving real inquiry-based research. The community structure has the added benefit of allowing students to see, communicate and interact more freely with other students and their projects, thus enriching the student’s research experience. We provide herein a preliminary report on the development and testing of a prototype, student-mentor research community, and present its tools, an assessment of student interest in participating in the community, and discuss its further development into a nationally-available student-mentor research community.
Rios, D. , Chebotko, A. , Reilly, C. , Carlson, R. , Tomai, E. , Weimer, A. , Weimer, N. , Pearson, T. , Andoh-Baidoo, F. , Winkle, R. , Ammons, D. & Rampersad, J. (2012). Improving STEM Education in Research: Preliminary Report on the Development of a Computer-Assisted Student-Mentor Research Community. Creative Education, 3, 612-618. doi: 10.4236/ce.2012.35090.
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