Initial Publication Date: April 10, 2020

Make it flexible for departments and institutions

This page was developed by Rebecca Roberts (Ursinus College) and Nathan Reyna (Ouachita Baptist University).

The institutional context and culture influences how CUREs can be implemented most effectively and sustained over time. Institutions vary in a number of ways and it is important to consider differences among institutions when thinking about sustaining multi-institutional CUREs. The design of CUREs should be flexible enough to leverage different opportunities and work around the different constraints of different departments, institutions, and cultures.

Recognize institutional differences

CUREs should avoid trying a one-size-fits-all approach. Different schools, departments, and faculty will have unique affordances and constraints to implementing CUREs. There may be institutional barriers such as accreditation concerns, faculty review mechanisms, minimal incentives for evidence-based instruction, limited research infrastructure, and students who vary in their preparation. All of these call for flexibility in CURE design to support adoption at multiple institutions. One important consideration is that CUREs should be able to support different institutional accreditation and course requirement needs. Additionally, the CURE needs to able to support the professional advancement of stakeholders, who will have different needs in different institutional contexts. For example, different institutions have different requirements for faculty promotion as well as different levels of instructors, such as having graduate teaching assistants. For faculty, it is important that the teaching the CURE aligns with their job responsibilities and guidelines for their continuing appointment, promotion, and/or tenure. This means that at some institutions is will be important to emphasize the pedagogical value of the CURE while at others it will be important to emphasize the science research value.

Santa Rose Junior College has articulation agreements with the University of California and California State University systems, which means we have to meet course-level objectives for students to be able to transfer credits. We worked carefully on each CURE to make sure that students' work was addressing a research question or problem, while students developed skills and knowledge related to the established objectives.
The Cell Biology Education Consortium has worked with a nearby community college and a related four-year institution to allow the CURE to count as a student research credit when they transfer.

Recognize faculty differences

Faculty have different skill sets, require different supports, and have different motivating factors for incorporating a CURE curriculum. Flexibility in CURE design and implementation can facilitate adoption by a diverse group of faculty. Recognize that faculty have different needs and expectations, and often face time restrictions. Being flexible in working with faculty can help increase the level of faculty participation in a CURE. They need flexibility to choose the level of investment that works for them.

The Cell Biology Education Consortium is designed modularly so that faculty can mix-and-match components to address their own research questions. This approach enables faculty and their students within CBEC to address a wide range of research questions, including studying different cancer cell lines and neuron function.
The Prevalence of Antibiotic Resistance in the Environment is a modular CURE that provides a low-barrier pathway for instructors to implement research into their classrooms and create a sustained CURE culture within their classroom and their institution.
BASIL has a modular approach that allows faculty to choose to do all or only some of the research modules based on their needs.

Recognize that faculty have different skill sets, which means that they need different types and amounts of support. Faculty differences are an advantage because they can contribute to and expand the CURE in unique ways.

BASIL has made video tutorials for the bioinformatic modules to support faculty who need to develop particular bioinformatic expertise. Additionally, they provide faculty resource documents with pedagogy and protocol advice as well as a monitored discussion board where faculty can ask questions or discuss and get advice on problems. While BASIL was initially centered around one specific enzyme type, faculty are encouraged to create new modules related to their specific research backgrounds and interests. This way, the whole BASIL group benefits from the wide range of expertise of the members.
The Cell Biology Education Consortium is focusing on creating new modules, relying on faculty to develop new modules related to their particular expertise and interests.

Recognize classroom implementation differences

Flexibility in CURE design can enable students to do research in different lab classroom environments with various time allotments and equipment. For example, not all lab courses have a weekly three-hour lab period with identical facilities and equipment. Some CUREs have overcome these challenges with a modular design to maximize flexibility of implementation.

BASIL is a modularly-designed CURE where faculty can opt to implement all modules or select only a subset that fits their needs. There are also alternate timelines and alternate protocols for different equipment availabilities for certain modules, which allows further flexibility in implementation.
The Cell Biology Education Consortium is a modularly-designed CURE where faculty can select which modules to implement. Protocols have been modified to work in a standard three-hour lab period, but can also work in other formats. For instance, protocols have been annotated to call out "acceptable stop points" to help instructors customize the timing to suit their course schedules.

In addition to these practical constraints, CUREs may also introduce flexibility in terms of the learning goals that are addressed. This may help faculty work within their institutional constraints, such as the need to address certain topics for credit transfer purposes or accreditation. Some CUREs have been designed in a way that allows the specific learning objectives to vary while maintaining the fidelity of a CURE.

BASIL implementers can skip modules that do not align with their learning goals and can include additional skill-based objectives, such as calibrating buffers and calculating pH.
PARE provides "extension modules" that can instructors can choose based on their course learning goals.

Balance flexibility with fidelity of implementation

It is important to be intentional about what aspects of the CURE are flexible. If there are too few guidelines, there is a risk that the elements that make the CURE effective could be lost. In thinking about this, CURE initiatives may want to keep in mind the [link Key Features on this site /curenet/whatis.html 'Key Elements'] that define a CURE.

Vertically Integrated Projects is implemented at a wide range of institutions. A key part of being flexible has been having a clearly understood set of "essential elements" that define the program. Individual implementations are allowed leeway if they are working toward those essential elements.