Transforming an REU Program from Good to Great: Lessons Learned from External Evaluation
The UH IfA REU Program has consistently used an external evaluation team to interview and survey students and mentors at the beginning, middle, end, and even years after the summer. Beyond the intuitively obvious aspects of what constitutes a good program, evaluation reveals: (1) students believe regular face-to-face time with a faculty member is more important than having unlimited time with knowledgeable graduate students or post-docs; (2) a sequence of learning and social activities that goes beyond their individual research projects is essential; (3) for undergraduates trying to decide whether to go into physics or astronomy, students often decide they will pursue graduate programs in astronomy; on the other hand, for students deciding between astronomy or some more distant field, such as medicine, they often decide to not pursue astronomy or physics based on their experiences; (3) students consistently state that they choose IfA due to the possibility of more observing opportunities than in other programs; (4) faculty are consistently surprised at students incoming limited astronomical and computational knowledge base and how long it takes students to get up to speed. Faculty members further state that if the summer program was longer, they would not assign different projects; rather, hope projects would simply be done better; (5) students prefer to live and work in close proximity with one another, facilitating social interaction and reducing isolation in laboratories; (6) analysis of daily log books of hour-by-hour student activities reveals students initially spend 25% time reading papers and half their time doing data analysis or debugging code they were manipulating. After one month reading papers falls to an eighth of their time, with the time reallocated to realms outside of research work. Working with their mentors rarely exceeds 7.5% of logged time.
Slater, T. F., Slater, S. J., Bailey, J. M., & Williams, J. P. (2007). Transforming an REU Program from Good to Great: Lessons Learned from External Evaluation. Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 211, 39, P.783
Type of Publication
Slater, Timothy F. | Slater, Stephanie J. | Bailey, Janelle M. | Williams, Jonathan P.
University of Wyoming | University of Wyoming | University of Nevada | University of Hawai’i
Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society
American Astronomical Society
Nation(s) of Study
United States of America