Evaluation of a STEM summer undergraduate research internship scheme- variations between disciplines

Williams, Neil, Thapa, Asim [Researcher], Hussain, Humma and Manojkumar, Pinali (2016) Evaluation of a STEM summer undergraduate research internship scheme- variations between disciplines. In: Horizons in STEM Higher Education Conference 2016: Making Connections and Sharing Pedagogy; 30 Jun - 01 Jul 2016, Leicester, U.K.. (Unpublished)


Kingston University has run a Summer Undergraduate Research Internship Programme for STEM subjects (biological, chemical and pharmaceutical sciences, computing, maths and civil, mechanical aeronautical and astronautical engineering ) for the last three years. The scheme enables level 5 students (n=45) to work with academics on a defined research project for 8 weeks over the summer. The benefits of engaging students in research are well documented (Jenkins, Healy and Zetter, 2007). Evaluation of summer undergraduate research programmes in the USA (Lopatto 2007) and the UK (John and Creighton, 2012) supports the long-held view that research internships provide a wide range of benefits to Science and Engineering students. Hunter, Laursen, and Seymour (2007) highlight that such summer research internships are good examples of student-centred and situated learning in a community of practice. The focus of the research on the Kingston scheme was to explore any differences in students’ perspectives on their experiences between different discipline areas and ethnic groups. An evaluation of students’ experiences of doing a research internship was performed by analysing the individual weekly blogs maintained by the research interns and through the use of a quantitative questionnaire on the perceived learning gains from an internship. The questionnaire was based on that developed by Hunter, Laursen and Seymour (2007). Practical experience and project management were rated highly for engineering subjects whereas in science subjects, knowledge of the research process and research skills were more widely acknowledged. Variations between discipline areas will be discussed in context of the large variation in the number of applications for internships from different discipline area. Very few applications for internships were received from computing students, whilst chemical and biological sciences attracted the most applications. In addition, the talk will explore some differences between the evaluations of BME students compared to white students. Research at Kingston has shown that BME students were less confident of their grades being good enough to apply for an internship than white students. Some analysis of the graduate awards of interns that have completed their courses will be presented. These reveal the lack of an attainment gap between BME and white students: 72% of BME interns were awarded a first class degree Compared to 69% of white interns.

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