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Exploring the Dynamics of Directed Studies Courses: Student, Instructor, and Administrator Perspectives

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • North American universities are encouraged to increase opportunities for undergraduate research experiences
    (UREs). To this end, many universities offer directed studies courses (DSCs) which are 1-2 semester long
    courses involving one-on-one instruction, with a focus on student-led independent research. Building on the
    understanding of dynamics generally related to UREs, this paper seeks to compare the motivations, benefits,
    and barriers specifically related to DSCs from student, instructor, and administrator perspectives. Based on a
    set of qualitative focus group discussions at a small undergraduate liberal arts institution, we present the
    similarities and differences in these perspectives and recommend a set of best practices for DSCs. All three
    groups reported motivations for engaging in a DSC that addressed working with a particular student or
    instructor, assistance with graduate school preparation, and meeting program requirements. In terms of
    perceived benefits of DSCs, both students and instructors indicated the mentoring relationship and practical
    outcomes arising from DSCs. Students recognized the benefits of developing research skills, but stressed the
    motivation and benefit of independent learning more than was found in other studies. Instructors focused on
    benefits of research engagement and relationship building. The major challenges to participating in DSCs were
    workload and time (all groups), unprepared students and lack of guidelines (instructors and administrators),
    and the oral presentation requirement and lack of information about DSCs (students). Based on these results,
    we suggest increased clarity in DSC expectations, consistent standards of quality, and promoting research
    processes common to the DSC’s home discipline.

  • Date created
  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Type of Item
    Article (Published)
  • DOI
  • License
    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International
  • Language
  • Citation for previous publication
    • Hvenegaard, G., A.-M. Link, S. Moore, and J. Wesselius. 2013. Exploring the dynamics of directed studies courses: Student, instructor, and administrator perspectives. The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 4(2): Article 5. Available at: