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Teaching Curiosity to Question Through an Integrated Curriculum Focused on Tiered Mentorship and Experiential Learning

Preparation for scientific career trajectories of the future arguably requires educational frameworks that encourage designing, experimenting, and exploring. Empowering diverse perspectives and approaches should be a core aim. Recognition of a key role for experiential learning in both course and lab settings has become mainstream. However, scaling these experiences up to allow participation of more, or most, of the undergraduate population at large R1 public universities remains a core challenge.

A University of Texas at Austin (UT) program includes three linked initiatives and aims to:

  1. Support development of authentic research design skills both within and across traditional disciplines in course and laboratory settings
  2. To evaluate modules focused on strengthening scientific self-efficacy and use of written, quantitative and visual expression of data as tool kits for refining project design
  3. To recruit and retain more traditionally-underrepresented groups in the geosciences

The UT Curiosity to Question (CtQ) course model creates a supported context for open-ended inquiry while simultaneously providing graduate students and postdoctoral fellows training in, and a native context for, learning research mentorship skills. Students also develop projects for summer Distributed Learning Academies (DLAs) at partner labs outside of the geosciences. DLAs provide more in depth trans-disciplinary training for the undergraduate students and postdoctoral researchers as well as facilitate idea transfer to other universities.

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