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We present an update to Explorations, a program at Stanford University that allows undergraduates in an introductory biology course to explore specialized topics in the biological sciences while providing graduate students and postdoctoral scholars the unique opportunity to develop and teach single-session, research-focused classes. We provide an assessment of eight iterations of the program, using program attendance, student and instructor evaluations, senior exit surveys, course grades, and completion of undergraduate honors theses to assess the impact of our program on students and instructors. Students rated their experiences highly, and most reported that the program had a positive impact on their undergraduate careers and positively influenced their decision to participate in scientific research. Correspondingly, we found that undergraduates who participated in Explorations were more likely to complete an honors thesis. Instructors reported that the program provided a valuable opportunity to develop their teaching skills. Our work demonstrates the potential impact that one-time, research-focused classes can have on promoting undergraduate participation in authentic research experiences and in providing teaching experiences for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, and we urge other universities to consider implementing such programs.


This article was originally published in Journal of College Science Teaching, volume 45, issue 6, in 2016.


National Science Teachers Association



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