Evaluating undergraduate research conferences as vehicles for novice researchers and transferable skills development

Kneale, Pauline, Edwards-Jones, Andrew, Walkington, Helen and Hill, Jennifer ORCID: 0000-0002-0682-783X (2016) Evaluating undergraduate research conferences as vehicles for novice researchers and transferable skills development. International Journal for Researcher Development, 7 (2). pp. 159-177. doi:10.1108/IJRD-10-2015-0026

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Purpose This paper aims to focus on the undergraduate research conference as its sphere of study and investigate the impact of significance of participation and socialisation in such activities on student attitudes and professional development. Using situated learning to theoretically position the undergraduate research conference as an authentic learning context, connection is also made with the concept of graduate attributes. Design/methodology/approach The Vitae (2014) Researcher Development Framework (RDF) is used to provide a template for charting the experiences and development of undergraduate students as researchers. This can be applied to short-term activities and programmes and to long-term career plans. The insights from 90 undergraduate students participating in three national undergraduate research conferences were obtained through interviews, and thematically analysed to map the students’ skills development against the RDF criteria. Findings Three main aspects of undergraduate research conference participation were considered particularly important by the students: the value of paper presentations, the value of poster presentations and the value of the overall conference experience. Within these themes, participants identified a wide range of skills and attributes they felt they had developed as a result of either preparing for or participating in the conferences. The majority of these skills and attributes could be mapped against the different domains of the RDF, using a public engagement lens for comparing actual with expected developmental areas. Research limitations/implications This research helps undergraduate research conference organisers construct programme content and form it in such a way that students’ skill development can be maximised prior to, and during, the course of an event. Learning developers can also use these findings to help understand the support needs of students preparing to deliver papers at such conferences. So far, little empirical research has examined students’ skills development within the undergraduate research conference arena. Originality/value The outcomes of this study show the diversity of the skills that students developed and the value of the conference format for offering networking practice and enhancing the communication skills which employers value.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Undergraduate research conference; Communication; Researcher development framework; Employability skills; Student development
Related URLs:
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Divisions: Professional Services > Academic Development Unit
Research Priority Areas: Place, Environment and Community
Depositing User: Marta Kemp
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2020 08:56
Last Modified: 13 Nov 2023 12:45
URI: https://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/8003

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