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Developing Collaboration Skills in Team Undergraduate Research Experiences


Citation: Sturner K, Bishop P, Lenhart S. 2016. Developing Collaboration Skills in Team Undergraduate Research Experiences. Problems, Resources, and Issues in Mathematics Undergraduate Studies. [Online]


Interdisciplinary undergraduate research experiences often require students to work in teams with other students and researchers from different disciplines, creating a need for development of new skills in interdisciplinary collaboration. In this paper, we describe our unique efforts to mentor participants in developing these skills during our team-based research experience for undergraduates program. This effort was initiated in response to a perceived need to provide professional development in collaboration for our participants, who come from diverse backgrounds that span a range of disciplines, institutions, and cultures. We describe here the intervention used, which is a modified version of one successfully implemented in a classroom setting. Furthermore, we present our formative and summative program evaluation data regarding participants’ perceptions about what helps or hinders team science. The most-repeated themes in student evaluations, in order from most mentions to least, were: communication, goal setting, shared mental model, timing/scheduling, cooperation, non-participation, attitudes, and mentor guidance/support. Together these themes account for 82% of the student responses. Lastly, we present our observations of the positive effects of this intervention on our program. Our findings may be useful to those mentoring undergraduates in both team research and classroom group learning.

Figure 1 shows an example from a group that indicates they are functioning well and with relatively unanimous sentiment, whereas Figure 2 shows an example from a group that reveals problems. The group in Figure 2 had approached us previously due to an issue with one non-participating student.

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