in humanities and social science courses may not have ample opportunities
to engage in original research and scholarship. In addition, it
is often difficult for faculty in a particular discipline to discuss
how teaching or course strategies that are successful in other disciplines
can be modified and adapted productively. This session was designed
to address both of these challenges by offering a flexible model
that enables faculty in a wide range of disciplines to convert conventional
course assignments into research projects by bringing advanced graduate
students into the course for part of the semester to direct the
projects. Session participants were then asked to consider how cross-campus
adaptation of successful strategies can be encouraged.
Overview of Graduate Research Consultant (GRC) Program
The Graduate Research Consultant (GRC) program (http://www.unc.edu/depts/our/GRCprogram.html)
is a new initiative at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
directed at humanities and social science faculty who teach undergraduate
courses and want to add a research dimension to their students’
experience. The program is designed to encourage and assist these
faculty to convert conventional course projects and assignments
into research projects that are carried out by undergraduates within
the course context. The approach is to help them to re-think their
curriculum, with the goal either of modifying the way they teach
certain aspects so that they become “research-based”
projects that can be carried out by individuals or small groups
of students in the class or, in cases where ready modification is
not possible, to add a research component. A key feature of the
GRC program is the involvement of graduate students, or Graduate
Research Consultants (GRC), whose primary role is to assist the
undergraduates as they plan, carry out and disseminate the results
of their projects. The faculty member may choose to work with one
or more graduate consultants. The graduate students are paid the
standard UNC Teacher Assistant (TA) hourly rate for 30 hours of
work throughout the semester. Initial funding for the GRC program
came from the University’s Office of Undergraduate Research
and Center for Teaching and Learning. In 2003- 2004, the first year
the program was implemented, 19 faculty, 27 GRCs, and 650 students
Collaboration and Inquiry in the GRC Program
The GRC program is a collaborative effort of the Office of Undergraduate
Research, directed by session leader Pukkila, and the Center for
Teaching and Learning, where session leader Arnold serves as Director
of Curriculum Development. It is dynamic and flexible program, readily
adaptable across disciplines and perhaps in other curriculum contexts
as well. These program emphasizes collaboration, ongoing inquiry,
and support for experimentation and adaptation at every level.
Underlying the process of collaborative development that gave rise
to the program is the belief that multiple perspectives and the
collective academic experiences of faculty yield rich ideas for
changing courses and the classroom environment. The initial GRC
program collaboration began at the institutional level with discussions
between Directors Pukkila and Arnold on how together they could
support and encourage inquiry-based courses for undergraduates in
social science and humanities courses. To broaden their thinking,
they brought together faculty from social science departments to
offer their perspectives on barriers and possibilities for undergraduate
research within course settings. The idea to create the position
of GRC, to collaborate with faculty in designing and the implementing
the course research component, emerged during the discussion.
Collaboration throughout the development process was informed by
a framework of inquiry in deliberate forms. These forms of inquiry
investigations with faculty to better understand the barriers
and possibilities for research in undergraduate courses.
- A series
of research questions that guided the pilot program from the beginning
(e.g., Is the GRC adequate support to encourage faculty to provide
these research opportunities within courses for students? What
steps need to be taken and what needs to be built into the program
for this collaborative model to work effectively for faculty,
the GRCs, and the students?
- A mid-year
meeting in which participating faculty and GRCs reflected on their
experiences in the program and teaching their revised course and
the extent to which these experiences met their expectations and
- A meeting
with the directors of undergraduate studies to get their perspectives
on the barriers and benefits of the GRC program for their individual
- A qualitative,
formative evaluation of the GRC program
to assisting faculty in developing and implementing research activities
in their courses, the GRC program provides support for faculty experimentation
and adaptation both within courses and across disciplines. One way
faculty have experimented with the GRC model is by working with
GRCs from departments and disciplines other than their own. This
arrangement enables the graduate students to enrich the course by
offering a second perspective on the course material and adding
an interdisciplinary dimension. In addition, many of the GRCs have
brought skills in research methods that have complemented those
of the faculty member.
Evaluation of the GRC Program
A qualitative, formative evaluation of the GRC program was conducted
in order to help both individual faculty and program planners assess
and refine the course-based research experience for undergraduate
students. All faculty and GRCs who participated in the nine courses
involved in the program in the 2003-2004 academic year were interviewed
about their experiences, as were a subset of students from the nine
courses. A summary of the responses can be viewed on the “Frequently
Asked Questions” page at http://www.unc.edu/depts/our/grcfaq.html.
The major benefits of the program cited by the three groups follow:
Benefits from Faculty Perspective
- The experience
contributed to overall satisfaction in teaching the course.
- The GRC
was more knowledgeable than I in particular methodologies.
- The addition
of the GRC improved students’ accomplishments.
- The program
contributed to the professional development of the GRC.
from GRC Perspective
the undergraduates helped me to conceptualize how research is
conducted in a classroom setting.
- The experience
provided me with information on capabilities of undergraduate
- The experience
increased my confidence in helping students learn.
- It helped
me to become a better instructor in the future.
from Student Perspective
- I learned
valuable skills in setting up a research project.
- The interdisciplinary
nature of small research groups was beneficial.
- It was useful
to apply lessons learned in class to the real world.
- It was beneficial
to learn statistical software.
Participants in this session considered how the GRC program could
be modified or adapted to facilitate and strengthen the integration
of research into undergraduate education on their own campuses.
Numerous suggestions were put forward:
should broaden the definition of research beyond one-on-one mentoring
in labs and incorporate some exposure to research in introductory
courses by adding to the content of lectures, journal clubs in
lab, or discussion sections.
- The GRC
program could be applied to a Humanities and Social Sciences college
(e.g., History and English) where research opportunities are not
of freshman level courses should create assignments that necessitate
information retrieval and research-related skills like inquiry
and critical thinking.. This can be accomplished through projects
that require students to use the rich library resources that are
available on-line via library websites or in the library building.
a consensus that the GRC program has the potential to bring together
and strengthen three interests that many research universities have:
to involve graduate students in undergraduate research, to raise
awareness of ways research and elements of research can be incorporated
into classroom settings, and to ensure that all undergraduates have
access to and take a class with a research component as a requirement
- The Reinvention
Center should conduct a study to determine how programs like the
GPA program are modified when they are adopted across disciplines
or between campuses.
- When the
Reinvention publishes the Conference Proceedings, it should include
- The Graduate
Research Consultant Program at The University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill increases research opportunities for undergraduates.
The program encourages humanities and social science faculty to
convert conventional course projects and assignments into research
- To read
the responses to the 2003-2004 GRC participant interviews visit:
- The Odum
Institute for Research in Social Science offers many diverse services
to support the research and training of social science faculty
and graduate students. http://www2.irss.unc.edu/irss/home.asp
- The Center
for Teaching and Learning at The University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill offers excellent program ideas in support of faculty
and graduate student development. http://ctl.unc.edu/
- The First
Year Seminars Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill builds and sustains a vibrant campus-based educational community
committed to the success of first-year college students. http://www.unc.edu/fys/