Last week I had the privilege of being on a panel at the University of Illinois Chicago, titled, Undergraduate Research Journals as a Pedagogical Tool, as part of Open Access Week.
The panelists included:
Dr. Sara F. Hall: Associate Professor of Germanic Studies, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and Administrative Advisor for Honors Publications at the UIC Honors College
Dr. Robert Klie: Associate Professor of Physics, Principal Investigator of Nanoscale Physics Group, and Managing Editor of The Journal of Undergraduate Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago
Dr. Sumana Datta: Executive Director for Honors and Undergraduate Research andÊManaging Editor of Explorations: The Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal
Myself presenting on behalf of Dr. Heather Whitney, Assistant Professor of Physics and Managing Editor of Wheaton College Journal of Undergraduate Physics
Overall, every panelist reported that integrating OA publishing into their teaching has helped students move beyond thinking about research as problem sets or blue book exams, and instead approach research as a process that involves the evolution of their work through the peer review process.
For example, Dr. Datta found that students gain an intimate understanding of the submission and review process they would most likely not experience otherwise. They begin to see what research is like from “the other side” of the knowledge consumer/producer divide. They also become more sensitive to the need to explain their research to people who may be outside of their field or subfield. During the peer review process, students see how easy it is to slip into jargon and how that can alienate readers.
The peer review processes for the journals vary. Dr. Klie’s journal, The Journal of Undergraduate Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago, uses faculty reviewers; Wheaton College Journal of Undergraduate Physics uses a single-blind process, while Explorations: The Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal uses a double-blind peer review process that uses both student and faculty reviewers who work in tandem together.
During Dr. Hall’s talk, she mentioned that UIC has six undergraduate research journals and in some cases students handle everything from peer-review to layout. After working in a publishing process that is similar to that of their professors, students are on the road to conducting research in the real world.
I was really excited after this session. I had an opportunity to work on a journal when I was an undergrad, but in speaking with the rest of the Scholastica team who didn’t have this sort of chance as undergrads, I realized how revealing these sorts of educational opportunities can be. Learning that in the real world knowledge is produced through an iterative and social process was very empowering for me as a student, and broke down the imagery that most early scholars have of the final theory bursting forth fully formed from the genius’s mind. Because of this, I was very excited to hear that this sort of learning process seems to be gaining traction as journals are easier to run and can thus be more easily incorporated into teaching efforts.