Document 14642735

Conference Presentation: Bleeker, Ty, Joe Arevalo, Linden Brinks, James Karsten,
Steven Musch, Ann Parkin (2013). "Enhancing the first-year geography student
experience: The importance of research mentors in inquiry-based learning." Annual
Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (Los Angeles, CA), 9-13 April
2013; poster.
Abstract: First-year undergraduate students seldom have the opportunity to explore
geography through substantive field-based research experiences. To address this
challenge, Calvin College has developed an inquiry-based course that teaches physical
geography by pairing student mentors with small groups of first-year undergraduate
students who conduct studies on the coastal dunes of Lake Michigan. Students selected to
be research mentors are experienced in the Earth sciences and serve as guides for the
student-led projects. This study evaluates the effect of research mentors on the
educational experience of first-year students enrolled in the course. Data was collected
through behavioral observation, mentor and student interviews, and reflective student
journal entries. Mentors contributed to student education through coordinating logistics,
valuing student contributions, encouraging greater ownership of group research projects,
and promoting the self-reliance of students. The inclusion of research mentors in
undergraduate inquiry-based learning appears to enrich the educational experience of
first-year students through (1) greater engagement in the scientific process of physical
geography and (2) personalized introduction to both academic and geographic study.