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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.