Transformative Learning

Undergraduate Participation in Research: A High Impact Practice

Icon squareby Mitch Lorenz, Graduate Assistant, Reinert Center

This week, a resource guide related to undergraduate involvement in research is being added to our collection of pedagogical materials on our website [link]. This brief overview includes links to articles detailing how undergraduate students benefit from participation in undergraduate research and ways to improve student involvement in research within your department. As a responsible researcher, I decided to support evidence-based claims with anecdotal evidence by sharing my experiences with undergraduate research.

As an undergraduate, I completed an independent research project and subsequently presented it at a regional conference. “Talking shop” with faculty, graduate students, and fellow undergraduates during the conference exposed me to the field of psychology in ways that are not possible in the classroom. This experience led to my pursuit of graduate study and, having transitioned to the role of instructor, I recognize the potential impact of undergraduate involvement in research.

As a graduate student, I have had the privilege of mentoring undergraduate researchers and observing the way they are able to apply their research experience after graduation. As pointed out by David Lopatto (2010), the benefits for student researchers are applicable in both graduate study and the workforce. These benefits can be enhanced when students’ interests are considered as they participate in research, providing more targeted experience and knowledge for eventual pursuit of employment or additional qualifications for graduate study. Many opportunities for undergraduate research are built into the curriculum but, as a teacher, you can look for ways to maximize the effectiveness of these opportunities for your students’ development.

Undergraduate involvement in research is only one of the high-impact practices outlined by the Association of American Colleges and Universities to provide more standardized, evidenced-based methods through which schools may engage students in active learning. If undergraduate research is not good fit in your department or discipline, you may look for other opportunities to engage students in high-impact practices. Other high impact practices include community-based learning, collaborative projects, writing-intensive courses, and common intellectual experiences (Kuh, 2008). Please refer to the resource guide to access more information about undergraduate research and high-impact practices.



Kuh, G.(2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and

why they matter. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities


Lopatto, D. (2010). Undergraduate research as a high-impact student experience. Peer

Review12(2), 27-30.