Sharing Insights: KIITE Learning Developer publishes work on undergraduate research conferences

Dr Chris Little, Teaching Fellow and Learning Developer within the Keele Institute for Innovation and Teaching Excellence (KIITE) has recently published an article on undergraduate research conferences in the journal ‘Educational Research.’

Dr Little’s research looked at Keele’s undergraduate research conference, the JADE Student Learning Undergraduate Conference (JSLUG), and the longer-term benefits to students who took part in the conference. Now in its fifth year, JSLUG is an extra-curricular undergraduate conference occurring annually in June, at the end of the academic year and assessment period. This conference is non-assessed and carries no academic credit.

Recent studies of extracurricular undergraduate research conferences have focused on measuring immediate feedback surrounding conference events, finding that participants report improved skills such as public speaking and networking, and development of self-authorship, and an appreciation of the conference as a transformative space.

Dr Little wanted to look at the longer-term benefits for students, and investigate what impact participation in an undergraduate research conference has upon students’ long-term study practices, and whether participation in an undergraduate research conference influences any other student practices. The project gathered data from two years worth of conference presenters and attendees, with students from all of Keele's faculties represented.

The research found that students reported that the conference had developed their longer-term academic and personal skills, increased their confidence with research and helped them to learn more about their own disciplinary identity. Students also reported that taking part in the conference made them more likely to engage with further extracurricular activities.

Dr Little commented:

“I'm really pleased to have this piece published in Educational Research. It looked at our undergraduate conference across two years, and investigated whether our brilliant participants found any long-term impacts from engaging with JSLUG.

“Along with increased confidence and skills, students also reported that taking part in JSLUG meant they were more likely to go and participate in other external conferences and symposia, which is brilliant. This additional engagement has not been reported in previous studies so it is really heartening to add something to the field.

“We hope that the insights from our investigation will be of value to practitioners internationally who are considering engaging with undergraduate research initiatives, as well as to those already engaged in providing undergraduate research experiences for students.”

For the full research paper, visit Educational Research.