How does motivation in K-12 teachers influence student learning? Certainly there is a strong correlation, but what dynamics and factors really are at work in the move from teacher motivation to successful student learning? Honors senior Cassidy Flow and first-year student Kasey Porr set out in the 2015-2016 school year to answer these questions under the guidance of Education faculty Dr. Cathy Box and Dr. Jennifer Hardin. Cassidy and Kasey were taking advantage of one of LCU’s primary learning approaches, undergraduate research. With undergraduate research, students work closely with faculty in mentoring relationships over the course of one or more semesters, taking a question or idea from the early stages of surveys and data collection all the way to presentation of research results and, in some cases, publication of that research.
For Cassidy and Kasey, this research led to presentations at LCU’s annual
Scholars Colloquium, where they were honored with second place in the university Best Undergraduate Research Award, and at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR). The NCUR event has become an annual highlight for the university’s best student researchers. Since 2010, seventy-eight LCU students have been accepted to present at NCUR, and in 2014 NCUR named Lubbock Christian University as one of its “Leading Institutions” for supporting students in undergraduate research. LCU formally established an undergraduate research program in 2009, when the Honors Program recommended the formation of the LCU Council on Undergraduate Research, with three goals: To provide the best possible preparation for students pursuing prestigious graduate fellowships, to coordinate and monitor various LCU research projects and steward them toward success, and to create a culture that will continue to draw high performing students to the university. By all indications, the council’s goals are being met.
Chemistry professor Dr. Julie Marshall notes one other obvious result of undergraduate research — the developing of strong faculty-student bonds. “The strongest point can always be made in the uniqueness of the mentor/student relationship,” Marshall reflects. “There is no other experience that develops the level of relationship between teacher and student quite like this. It is special.” These sentiments are shared by the students. Cassidy admits that she accepted the undergraduate opportunity because “it would make her more marketable to future employees.” But what she did not realize at the time was “that I would gain . . . relationships that came with spending hours upon hours poring over our research.”
In the Honors College, students are encouraged to take advantage of such opportunities, and they are given academic and financial support to excel. And excel they do; witness, for example, that recent Honors researchers are now in graduate schools at Duke and Carnegie Mellon. The research that LCU students present at places like NCUR reflects the highest quality of academic work. As Cassidy reflects, “It was also encouraging to see how well the LCU students matches up beside the bigger D1 schools. Our programs are top notch and I am so grateful for the opportunities that I have been given at LCU.”
Among the more distinctive features of LCU’s undergraduate research program is the accessibility for all students. Kasey began her work in her first semester of college, and she will have three more years to develop projects if she wishes. “We are pleased that the university supports undergraduate research with faculty incentives and real dollars for student assistance and travel to conferences,” Honors dean Dr. Stacy Patty notes. “From the time a student steps on campus, whether in the Honors College or not, she can begin working closely with a faculty member — in any major — to develop a premier academic vita for future graduate study or employment.”
Congratulations to Cassidy and Kasey, and to the many other students who have found this rich opportunity while at Lubbock Christian University!
For a video summary of Cassidy’s experience, see this profile at the LCU home page.