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COURSE HISTORY. THE RESEARCH EXPERIENCE. ASSESSMENT PLAN. Learning courses have a long history of including an animal laboratory component. When I first began teaching, I adopted a lab experience similar to what had already been in place at Concordia.

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  • Learning courses have a long history of including an animal

  • laboratory component.

  • When I first began teaching, I adopted a lab experience similar

  • to what had already been in place at Concordia.

  • This included animal training exercises that allowed students to

  • apply principles of learning and behavior, which the students

  • enjoyed a great deal.

  • It did not include an opportunity for students to investigate

  • a current phenomena of interest to psychologists, to do a

  • thorough literature review, or to write a major

  • empirical paper.

  • Over the years, because of my commitment to undergraduate

  • research and because of noted value of integrating

  • undergraduate research into the curriculum1 , I have developed

  • a more extensive research-based lab experience.

  • The class works as a group to design an experiment that

  • must be a novel extension of previous work; however, it often

  • also replicates well-known findings.

  • Students work in pairs to collect data; each pair gets one rat to

  • work with and care for. Data collection happens outside of

  • class time and the course has no designated lab time.

  • Students collect data for three to five weeks. Professor

  • synthesizes data and discusses analysis with class.

  • Students write an empirical report of findings using

  • progressive draft-revision cycle . Three versions turned in for

  • professor feedback and graded; one is peer reviewed.

Open-ended questions: Students were asked to comment in general on their experiences with the lab and to articulate what worked well and what changes they might recommend.

Self-reported responses to a series of statements (modified URSSA survey questions2) answering: How much did you gain as a result of this research experience? How confident are you as a result of this research experience?

Completed CURE: Lopatto’s Classroom Based Undergraduate Research Experience survey.3 Response rate on this survey was lower than for in-class administered measures and outcomes differed based on semester.

Integration of Research into Learning and Behavior: An example of curriculum renewalSusan J. Larson, Department of Psychology, Director of Undergraduate Research Concordia College, Moorhead MN 56562



  • Many positive comments about the lab experience. Students say it was fun, enjoyable, and a good experience. Positives noted also include:

  • Valuable hands on experience

  • Opportunity to apply knowledge

  • Experience with writing

  • Challenges noted include:

  • Scheduling (using of equipment, finding time

  • outside of class to collect data)

  • Some students wished for more/clearer

  • instructions

  • Time commitment, since there was no

  • designated lab time.

  • PSYC 318: Learning and Behavior fulfills the Behavior &

  • Cognition component of Psychology major requirements

  • and is taken by approximately 50% or our majors.

  • Maximum course enrollment: 30; typical enrollment 17-22.

  • The course includes a rat lab experience worth ~ 35% of

  • student’s final grade. Course content covers a basic

  • Learning textbook and the remainder of the grade comes

  • from exams and participation.

  • Students assist with the design of the research project ,

  • collect data and write an empirical research paper

  • using a draft-revision cycle. 

  • Sophomores: n=8

  • Juniors: n=15

  • Seniors: n=11

  • Had taken Psych Methods: n=13

  • Enrolled in Psych Methods: n=5

  • Had not taken/not enrolled in Methods: n=17

1: Not at all confident

5: Very confident

1: No gain

5: Great gain



  • Students will

  • Read, summarize and synthesize research articles.

  • Formulate research questions, develop hypotheses, and

  • choose methodology to test hypotheses.

  • Work with non‐human animals and increase their

  • awareness of ethical considerations in psychology

  • research.

  • Collect and interpret data.

  • Practice written communication skills by writing an APA‐style research paper.

  • Apply the principles of conditioning and behavioral

  • analysis.

  • This class is one of the most invigorating and exciting I teach and I highly recommend the integration of authentic research experiences into similar lab courses. My enthusiasm for integrating undergraduate research into the course is not dampened by the challenges.

  • The research experience is only one component of the class making it difficult balancing time committed to the lab versus other course material.

  • All students do one project and spend a lot of time writing about it when many are not personally invested in the project; this may impact the self-reported development of interest in science (see CURE survey results).

  • No designated lab section makes oversight of data collection difficult.

  • Differences in level of preparation of the students, which most impacts the writing component.

  • References:

  • Karukstis, KK. & Elgren, T. eds. (2007) Developing and Sustaining a Research-Supportive Curriculum: A Compendium of Successful Practices. Washington, DC: Council on Undergraduate Research.

  • Laursen, S., Hunter, A-B., Seymour, E., Thiry, H., & Melton, G. (2010). Undergraduate Research in the Sciences: Engaging students in real science. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

  • Lopatto, D. (2009) Science in Solution: the Impact of Undergraduate Research on Student Learning. Tucson, AZ: Research Corporation for Science Advancement. 

Some of this information was previously presented at the CUR Biennial Meeting (June 2012) in a session titled: Course-embedded undergraduate research in psychology.