Initial Publication Date: May 4, 2018

CURE as Pedagogy

Research on undergraduate research experiences indicates that students who engage in research realize a range of positive outcomes, including more confidence in their ability to do science, greater identification as a scientist, and increased persistence in science, including taking additional science courses and completing a science major. What do CUREs have to offer that research internships can't?

First, traditional research internships are inherently limited in number because they involve one-on-one mentorship by graduate students, postdoctoral associates, faculty members, or other more experienced scientists. Students from under-represented or under-served backgrounds are often least likely to get access to research internships. Second, students typically don't get access to research internships until late in their undergraduate careers, which is often too late to allow them to make an informed decision about their educational or career trajectory. Finally, faculty members who teach CUREs are able to integrate their teaching and research responsibilities.

The unique potential of CUREs, and the growing body of research on their effectiveness, has piqued the interest of many faculty members and institutions across the country who are now integrating CUREs into their undergraduate curricula.

Keep reading for more insights into CUREs as Pedagogy.

What is a CURE?

CUREs involve whole classes of students in addressing a research question or problem that is of interest to stakeholders outside the classroom. During a CURE, students will engage in scientific practices, such as collecting and analyzing data and developing and critiquing arguments. There are other worthwhile instructional strategies that similarly involve students in scientific practices, such as inquiry or discovery lab courses where students engage in scientific practices in which they "discover" phenomena that are not discoveries for the instructor or of interest to the broader scientific community. Several features make CUREs distinctive as a pedagogy. Specifically, during CUREs, students:

  • Have opportunities to make relevant discoveries, meaning that students generate results that are novel to themselves and their instructors and that are of interest to some group of stakeholders, such as other scientists in the field.
  • Engage in iterative work, meaning that they must trouble-shoot, problem-solve, and repeat aspects of their work for the research to progress.
  • May have opportunities to communicate their research results to that group of stakeholders, either orally or in writing or both. This means that students have to engage with the literature related to their research in order to understand the rationale for the research their are doing and to articulate how their results build off and contribute to this body of knowledge.

Because students in CUREs are contributing to an ongoing research project, the research will progress as students work on it. This means that students' work and students themselves will raise new questions that takes the research in new directions. Thus, students who enroll in the CURE during different semesters may learn different knowledge or skills as the focus and goals of the research change.

For more information, visit the What is a CURE? page

Why CUREs?

Many faculty members choose to teach CUREs and many institutions choose to offer CUREs to benefit their students. Although research on CUREs is still in early stages, a growing body of literature has shown that CUREs can help students realize:

  • Affective gains, such as increased interest and enjoyment of science, both for majors and nonmajors;
  • Career outcomes, such as clarifying whether they are interested in getting more involved in research or pursuing a research related career;
  • Cognitive gains, such as developing science practice skills and learning scientific content;
  • Psychosocial gains, such as developing confidence in their ability to do science, increased scientific identity, and improved sense of belonging both at college and within the scientific community; and
  • Behavioral outcomes, such as taking additional science courses, coauthoring conference presentations and research articles, and completing a science major.

Faculty members also report teaching CUREs because they themselves benefit both personally and professionally. For example, faculty members report that they enjoy teaching CURE more than traditional lab courses and that CUREs enable them to accomplish both teaching and research goals.

In addition to the teaching and learning benefits of this pedagogy, CUREs can forward research goals. See the CUREs for Research page

How to Use CUREs

The first and most important consideration when deciding whether to teach a CURE is to define the purpose for doing so. In other words, what is the goal for teaching a CURE? For example, if a college or university wants to offer CUREs to retain more students in science majors, then it would be important for the institution to examine when students are leaving science majors and integrate the CURE strategically into the curriculum. If faculty members want to teach CUREs to attract more students to their research groups as interns, then the CURE needs to be offered early enough in the curriculum for students to have time to do a research internship afterward. If an instructor wants students to learn how to analyze data, they need to provide opportunities in the CURE for students to practice and get feedback on how to analyze data. Here are questions that may be useful for determining whether to proceed with developing or offering a CURE:

  • What goal(s) am I aiming to achieve with a CURE?
  • What evidence is there that a CURE would be an effective way to achieve my intended goal(s)?
  • How would the CURE be positioned in the curriculum and would this allow progress toward achieving the intended goal(s)?
  • How would the CURE "count" for students, so they would actually be encouraged to take it?

The references below may also be helpful for thinking about this.

Once the decision has been made to teach a CURE, here is a brief overview of how the CURE Institutes being offered by CUREnet support faculty members in developing and teaching CUREs:

  • Articulate research goals for the CURE. There are many ways to achieve desirable student outcomes. What makes CURE distinctive is the research element, which functions as the scientific goalpost or boundary for the CURE.
  • Articulate student goals. Consider a broad range of student goals, not just knowledge and skills. For example, could the CURE be a context for students to explore research as a career path or develop tolerance for ambiguity or resilience in the face of failure?
  • State objectives and design tasks that students complete to make progress in the research AND their own learning and development.
  • Maximize equity and inclusion by identifying potential inequities that may affect students' experiences and success in doing research (e.g., whether students have prior lab experience) and structuring the CURE to mitigate or eliminate these inequities.
  • Design assessments that align with doing research, such as students' contributions to group meeting discussions, lab notebook entries, research progress reports, and culminating papers or presentations.
  • Identify the various people who may play an instructional role in the CURE, such as scientist collaborators, graduate teaching assistants, lab prep staff, and experienced undergraduates as peer mentors. Evaluate the strengths and limitations of each and develop plans for their ongoing involvement.

CUREnet is hosting a series of professional development Institutes for faculty members to work through this process in small cohorts with guidance from CUREnet leadership. See the CURE Institute page for more details.

Also see the CUREs for Research page

Examples of CUREs

The CURE Collection contains a growing number of examples of CUREs submitted by faculty members from across the country. You can search the collection for CUREs that fit your needs and context.


  • Bangera, G., & Brownell, S. E. (2014). Course-based undergraduate research experiences can make scientific research more inclusive. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 13(4), 602-606. Link
  • Cooper, K. M., Soneral, P. A., & Brownell, S. E. (2017). Define your goals before you design a CURE: A call to use backward design in planning course-based undergraduate research experiences. Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education, 18(2). Link
  • Corwin, L. A., Graham, M. J., & Dolan, E. L. (2015). Modeling course-based undergraduate research experiences: an agenda for future research and evaluation. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 14(1), es1. Link
  • Shortlidge, E. E., Bangera, G., & Brownell, S. E. (2015). Faculty perspectives on developing and teaching course-based undergraduate research experiences. BioScience, 66(1), 54-62. Link
  • Shortlidge, E. E., Bangera, G., & Brownell, S. E. (2017). Each to Their Own CURE: Faculty Who Teach Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences Report Why You Too Should Teach a CURE. Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education, 18(2). Link