Innovations in teaching: Murphy integrates undergraduate research skills into coursework

UNCG - Teaching research methods in the classroom is not easy. Neither is engaging students in material that seems not to relate to their biggest interests. An associate professor of classical studies, Dr. Joanne Murphy has been revamping her classes in order to address both challenges. As last year’s Provost’s Teaching Fellow for Undergraduate Research, and the Undergraduate Teaching Fellow for this year and 2014, Murphy has had the opportunity to design new curriculum for several of her courses, re-visioning how students will interact with the course material.

In previous years, guided undergraduate research has been available to undergraduate students mainly through Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creativity Office (URSCO) assistantships and through private tutorials, or, independent studies. URSCO’s ongoing campus-wide initiative seeks to introduce a greater number of students to research methods. Professors such as Murphy are moving toward that goal by integrating undergraduate research skills development into coursework. Now, in the courses with the revamped research skills-integrated curriculum, 140 students can build research skills, and Murphy says, without overtaxing the instructor.

How does she do this? For starters, she doesn’t use a catalogue of academic labels to describe what they’re doing. Instead, she begins by simply asking them, “What are you interested in?”  and “What kind of question would you like to ask about that?” With Murphy’s guidance, students relate their strongest interests to the class material. Students majoring in peace and conflict studies, kinesiology and cosmetology, to name a few, have discovered the depth of their own interests and how it relates to the ancient world.

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