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Introduction to Research changes to better prepare students for Honors Research

Feedback from former Honors Research students triggered curriculum changes to “Introduction to Honors Research,” an online course offered by Dean of Student Research Catherine Atwell and Honors Science Research Program Head Allison Ponzio.

Although the class remains mostly online, Atwell said that they have begun to implement in-person skill-building workshops with the class, meeting periodically during flex times throughout the term. Atwell also said that they have tried to implement articles and videos that will be more helpful to students, while raising expectations for how students should interact with the material. Additionally, in their last meeting of the year, students will have the opportunity to talk to current research students to see what it is like to make the jump from the introductory class to Honors Research.

Although the Honors Research program has been successful in the past, Ponzio said she and Atwell changed the introductory class after feedback from current Honors Research students.

“The whole change of the Intro to Research class was built because we asked the Honors Research girls ‘What do you wish you had come into this program knowing?’ and we took their responses and built the class. That’s not to say previous years have been unsuccessful, but we’ve tried to tailor the program to be a lot more independent and individualized, which has resulted in many students feeling more secure in their projects,” Ponzio said.

Atwell said student responses have been positive so far.

“We’ve been getting really good feedback from the kids in Intro to Research about what they’re doing. They’ve said they liked the articles they have to read–they see how they could relate to the topic–and they have a more realistic sense of what doing Honors Research will be like,” Atwell said.

Camille ’19 said she feels the class has prepared her well for the possibility of Honors Research.

“I think it’s a very beneficial introduction to the variety of topics and skills that are involved in research. We read some really interesting articles and have watched a lot of relevant Ted Talks this year,” Camille said.

In addition to the curriculum changes, Atwell said that there are around ten more girls in the class this year, increasing the total number of students enrolled to about 50. She said she hopes this means a greater interest in Honors Research.

“I hope there are a lot more girls interested in pursuing a passion and exploring a topic that is not gone into in as much depth as in in other classes but is still meaningful to them… There is a growing recognition that research skills, the ability to work independently, and to work in depth on a topic are really critical skills for success in college and beyond,” Atwell said.

Ponzio said she thinks students’ interest in Honors Research is due to the feedback from current research students.

“The changes, I think, are very much a push from the current Honors Research kids. We have 29 juniors and seniors in [Honors Research], and they’ve been having a great experience in the program this year and that has led to more students thinking about the prospect of doing research themselves,” Ponzio said.

Ponzio said she hopes the students are benefiting from the new changes.

“Ms. Atwell and I have spent a lot of time being cerebral about this and trying to make it more preparatory, so we hope it goes well,” Ponzio said

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