Undergraduate Research in Environmental Science: Using FYRE to Ignite Student Curiosity and Discovery

Thursday 3:30pm TSU - Humphries: 203


Alec Aitken, University of Saskatchewan
Krys Chutko, University of Saskatchewan
Xulin Guo, University of Saskatchewan
Kara Loy, University of Saskatchewan
Ryan Banow, University of Saskatchewan
Undergraduate student engagement in scholarly and applied research is foundational to the student experience; it unleashes curiosity and through discovery students develop skills such as critical thinking and problem solving that are in high demand by professional colleges and employers. For the past five years, faculty in the Department of Geography and Planning, University of Saskatchewan have participated in the First Year Research Experience (FYRE) program. This is a joint endeavour between the Offices of the Vice-President Research and the Vice-Provost Teaching, Learning, and Student Experience. The FYRE program in Geography exposes students enrolled in extant first-year (freshmen) environmental science courses to an authentic research experience that encompasses the full research arc: posing a research question, investigating their research question, and sharing the results of their research with a community of their peers. The courses enroll ~300 students per year distributed across two semesters. Students were presented with the freedom to select research topics of their own choosing. Teaching faculty, graduate students hired as research coaches, and complementary workshops offered by the Library's Student Learning Centre support students along their journey of discovery. The research activity concludes with the production of a research poster and a brief, three-minute format oral presentation to an audience of their peers, coaches, and faculty instructor. In-class surveys were administered prior to the final exam to assess the students' learning experiences in FYRE. Questions related to the research process, acquisition of research-relevant skills, and opportunities to share their research with persons other than teaching faculty received high scores. On the other hand, questions related to strengthening connections to course materials and identifying potential career paths fared less well. These outcomes indicate that FYRE is worthwhile for research-relevant skill development, but provides a limited transformative learning experience for these students.

Presentation Media

First Year Research Experience (FYRE) (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 15.4MB Jul18 19)