Collaborative Research: Sustainable CURE Implementation: Characterizing the Role of Flexible Design and Instructor Supports Across Diverse Institution Types

Principal Investigator/Project Director

Arthur Sikora

Colleges / Centers

Halmos College of Arts and Sciences


National Science Foundation

Start Date



Project Overview. Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) are recognized for their potential to increase access to research in undergraduate STEM. While CUREs are becoming increasingly widespread, there have been few systematic studies of the processes by which CUREs are adopted, implemented, and sustained. Most descriptions of CURE implementation have been about liberal arts colleges and research-intensive universities. There has been a noticeable lack of research on CURE development and implementation in minority-serving institution (MSI) and two-year contexts. A few studies have identified common barriers to CURE adoption (e.g., time, equipment, money), but few have examined the skills and pedagogical support required by faculty as they integrate CUREs into their curricula. The process through which faculty decide to adopt new instructional approaches is often unique, affected by both personal and contextual factors. Increasing more widespread CURE adoption and sustainability will be facilitated by understanding the supports, challenges, and barriers across institutional contexts because institutions can have quite different infrastructures and support for teaching innovation, which are likely to affect instructors’ decisions to adopt and continue using CUREs. The overarching goal of this Engaged Student Learning Level 3 proposal is to investigate the processes by which CUREs are adopted, implemented, and sustained. We will achieve this goal through the following aims:

Aim 1. Identify the supports for and barriers to CURE implementation and sustainability across institution types

Aim 2. Characterize the relationship between institutional context and variations in CURE implementation across institution types

Aim 3. Facilitate implementation and sustainability in diverse contexts through faculty development.

Our investigation will occur within the context of the Biochemistry Authentic Scientific Inquiry Lab (BASIL) project, a CURE where students apply in vitro and in silico methods to predict the function of proteins that lack functional annotation in the Protein Data Bank. The BASIL curriculum consists of eleven modules (six wet labs and five computational). It has been fully implemented on ten campuses, with several more at various stages of adoption including a number that used BASIL computational modules for remote emergency instruction during the pandemic. BASIL modules are the product of two previous NSF IUSE projects (see Results of Prior NSF Support) and have been the nexus of a thriving BASIL community. Notably, instructors have used BASIL modules to create a variety of CURE experiences that align with the specific course-level learning outcomes in their unique local context. The BASIL curriculum affords a well-positioned context for this investigation because of its inherent flexibility and the growing community of instructors interested in adopting BASIL.

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