Assessing the impact of a course-based research experience on the transition and enculturation of transfer students into the James Madison University biology program
In response to national calls to increase the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce, a focus has been set on improving the entrance and retention rates of students who transfer institutions over the course of their post-secondary education. In recognition of challenges that transfer students face as they transition and become enculturated into the James Madison University Biology Department (JMU BIO), the department piloted a transfer student course-based undergraduate research experience (tCURE) in the Fall of 2019. This course was integrated into one of two sections of the already established BIO203: Bacteriophage Discovery lab, and incoming transfer students were encouraged to enroll in the tCURE section. To gain insight into its impacts on transfer student’s transition and enculturation into JMU BIO, the present study evaluated the tCURE in respect to cognitive, affective, and behavioral outcomes of students in each of two sections of BIO203 (n=32). Data were also collected from JMU BIO students who had transferred into the program prior to Fall of 2019 (n=18), to gain insight on perceptions of their barriers to academic success. At the end of the course, tCURE students saw comparable cognitive gains, greater technical gains, and greater gains in science identity in comparison with the other BIO203 section, as well as having a greater sense of belonging in JMU BIO. tCURE transfer students also reported that the course helped them to navigate JMU BIO and build community within it. Results of this study suggest that a number of design features included in the tCURE framework contribute positively to the transfer student experience.