C) Why implement a CURE in your class

High-impact practices are associated with learning gains for students and benefits to the university community that include gains in GPA, increased student retention, improved student-instructor interactions, and more supportive campus environments (Kuh, 2008). Research experiences specifically have been demonstrated to benefit students’ knowledge gains, skill acquisition, motivation, identity as researchers, comfort, and engagement (e.g., Follmer et al., 2017; Hanauer et al., 2017; Hunter et al., 2007; Landrum & Nelsen, 2002; Lopatto, 2007; Newell & Ulrich, 2022), including, and sometimes particularly, for students from underrepresented minorities (Daniels et al., 2016; Genet, 2021; Hanauer et al., 2017, 2022; Lopatto, 2007; Malotky et al., 2020; Martin et al., 2021; Matyas et al., 2022; Rodenbusch et al., 2016; Shuster et al., 2019), contributing to reducing the equity gap (Shapiro et al., 2015). CUREs are one tool that contributes to implementing a more equitable model of education moving forward (Elgin et al., 2021).

There is an extensive literature on the benefits of research experiences and CUREs, particularly for students. However, much of this literature is composed of studies that do not control for student-level characteristics, which could explain differences between groups (e.g., GPA, level of preparedness, enrollment preferences, prior research experience). In fact, many studies consist of pre-post comparisons of single groups and do not include comparison groups. Additionally, most of the assessments (e.g., quizzes, tests, and exams) of the content knowledge that was undertaken in published studies was subject-specific, preventing comparisons across learning experiences. Finally, analyses of skill gains and personal development overwhelmingly rely on self-reporting by students (Linn et al., 2015). In addition to cultural and identity issues associated with self-reporting and confidence, it can be difficult to determine whether students have indeed improved in a particular skill through the experience or merely became more confident about their skills (Dolan, 2016). Because CUREs are demonstrated to benefit self-efficacy (Martin et al., 2021), this type of data should be considered with care.


  1. Benefits to students and learning gains

CUREs are widely recognized to benefit students. Most of the research is based on pre-post comparisons of self-reported levels of confidence, but numerous studies also include knowledge assessments using quizzes, comparisons with traditional laboratory or recitations sections employing “cookbook” labs and activities, and comparisons with mentored research experiences. There are some analyses that fail to identify strong signals of improved skills (e.g., Brownell et al., 2015), but for many aspects of the research experience, student gains in CUREs meet or exceed those observed in summer internship and mentored student research experience models (Bixby & Miliauskas, 2022; Evans et al., 2021; Frantz et al., 2006; Hanauer et al., 2012; Jordan et al., 2014; Lopatto et al., 2008; Overath et al., 2016; Shaffer et al., 2010; Shapiro et al., 2015; Smith et al., 2021). Student gains in CUREs are higher than those experienced by students in traditional labs (Blumling et al., 2022; Brownell et al., 2012; Evans et al., 2021; Hanauer et al., 2017; Jordan et al., 2014; Lopatto et al., 2008; Newell & Ulrich, 2022; Pavlova et al., 2021; Pontrello, 2015; Wolkow et al., 2014; Wu & Wu, 2022). Analyses of CUREs across institutions, disciplines, and course levels show that the greatest gains are found in CUREs that are implemented over the course of an entire semester, allow for student input in the research process, and focus on novel research with outcomes unknown to both instructors and students (DeChenne-Peters et al. 2023; Mader et al., 2017). Additionally, students enrolling in a course-sequence including more than one CURE see additional gains (Corwin et al., 2022). There have also been reports that student gains are higher or more critical in CUREs at the introductory level than the upper level (Hanauer et al., 2017; Handelsman et al., 2022; Ruttledge, 1998).

Broadly speaking, the impacts of CUREs on students can be assigned to five categories:

  1. Gains in content knowledge and technical skills
  2. Gains in broadly applicable skills
  3. Changes in attitudes towards and understanding of research
  4. Gains in confidence and self-efficacy
  5. Changes in professional/career paths


Gains in content knowledge and technical skills

One of the strongest gains experienced by students in CUREs is an improved content knowledge. This impact is observed across disciplines including CUREs in molecular biology (Harvey et al., 2014; Makarevitch et al., 2015), plant biology (Ward et al., 2014), ecology (Valliere, 2022a,  2022b), microbiology (DeHaven et al., 2022), geosciences (Gonzales & Semken, 2009; Kortz & van der Hoeven Kraft, 2016), genomics (Drew & Triplett, 2008), ecology (Genet, 2021), and cell biology as well as genetics (Makarevitch et al., 2015; Siritunga et al., 2011). This increased content knowledge can translate to improved grades through time or compared to non-CURE course sections (Blumling et al., 2022; Ing et al., 2021; Jordan et al., 2014; Olimpo et al., 2016; Shaffer et al., 2010; Waynant et al., 2022; Winkelmann et al., 2015). It may also participate in increasing student retention within courses (Blumling et al., 2022) as well as between first and second years (Jordan et al., 2014). Importantly, the time-constraints of CUREs on content coverage does not have a detrimental effect on students’ understanding of biological concepts beyond the focus of the CURE (Jordan et al., 2014) or overall content knowledge in the discipline (Wolkow et al., 2014). Several assessments of CUREs across disciplines have also found strong gains in students’ technical skills (Kortz & van der Hoeven Kraft, 2016) including in computer modelling, software program use, and general computer use (Drew & Triplett, 2008; Pavlova et al., 2021; Williams & Reddish, 2018), enhanced statistical knowledge (Olimpo et al., 2018; Pavlova et al., 2021; Ward et al., 2014), and laboratory techniques (Bixby & Miliauskas, 2022; Evans et al., 2021; Jordan et al., 2014; Large et al., 2022; Siritunga et al., 2011; Stoeckman et al., 2019). CUREs also improve students’ ability and confidence in their ability to design experiments and interpret data (Bixby & Miliauskas, 2022; Blumling et al., 2022; Brownell et al., 2012; Genet, 2021; Kloser et al., 2013; Large et al., 2022; Martin et al., 2021; Pavlova et al., 2021; Shaffer et al., 2014).


Gains in broadly applicable skills

Students also widely report great gains in soft skills. Those skills are applicable to courses and experiences through the student’s academic career and beyond in their professional careers; they are not limited to the discipline associated with the CURE. Thus, students indicate a greater familiarity with the structure of scholarly papers and a greater ability to engage with the primary literature following engagement in a CURE (e.g., DeHaven et al., 2022; Drew & Triplett, 2008; Evans et al., 2021; Jordan et al., 2014; Martin et al., 2021; Shelby, 2019; Valliere, 2022b). Several studies also report improved written and oral communication, including the graphical representation of data and the presentation of both the research process and research findings (DeHaven et al., 2022; Genet, 2021; Jordan et al., 2014; Large et al., 2022; Makarevitch et al., 2015; Shaffer et al., 2014; Shelby, 2019; Stoeckman et al., 2019; Valliere, 2022a,  2022b; Ward et al., 2014; Wiley & Stover, 2014; Williams & Reddish, 2018). This improved ability to communicate is associated with increased willingness and confidence in communicating research (e.g., Kloser et al., 2013; Valliere, 2022a). There is also evidence that CUREs lead to improved time management and organization skills (Kortz & van der Hoeven Kraft, 2016) as well as increased problem-solving skills (Olimpo et al., 2016; Wu & Wu, 2022). Students engaged in CUREs gain an appreciation for the obstacles and challenges of research (Drew & Triplett, 2008). In fact, a major impact of CUREs is their ability to increase tolerance for obstacles in students (Corwin et al., 2022; Evans et al., 2021; Jordan et al., 2014; Large et al., 2022; Stoeckman et al., 2019; Williams & Reddish, 2018; Wu & Wu, 2022). Students report valuing the ability to learn from their mistakes in the CURE (Harrison et al., 2011). Even when research goals are not met, students engaged in CUREs increase their ability to navigate research obstacles (Gin et al., 2018). CUREs lead students to become more active learners who can better think independently, are motivated to learn, and better able to think in new ways (Evans et al., 2021; Harrison et al., 2011; Kortz & van der Hoeven Kraft, 2016; Shaffer et al., 2010). Research has also showed that students value the potential for publication of the research they engage in as part of the CURE (Wiley & Stover, 2014); these publications may facilitate future admission into graduate and professional programs.


Changes in attitudes towards and understanding of research

CUREs are an enjoyable experience for students (Carr et al., 2018; Drew & Triplett, 2008; Harvey et al., 2014; LaForge & Martin, 2022; Pontrello, 2015). Students like the experience of exploring an open-ended question with no known outcome (Brownell et al., 2012; Hanauer et al., 2012; Harrison et al., 2011; Williams & Reddish, 2018), making decisions in their work (Hanauer et al., 2012; Harrison et al., 2011), and the relevance of their work to the scholarly community and the world (Drew & Triplett, 2008; Hanauer et al., 2012; Jordan et al., 2014; LaForge & Martin, 2022; Tomasik et al., 2013). Students often find CUREs to be community-building (e.g., Kulesza et al., 2022; Large et al., 2022; Hanauer et al., 2017; Werth et al., 2022) and recognize the positive impact of CUREs on their professional paths (e.g., Amir et al., 2022). CUREs also contribute to a better understanding of and confidence in the research process and science (Bascom-Slack et al., 2012; Bixby & Miliauskas, 2022; Evans et al., 2021; Freeman et al., 2023; Hanauer et al., 2012; Harrison et al., 2011; Jordan et al., 2014; Kulesza et al., 2022; LaForge & Martin, 2022; Large et al., 2022; Shaffer et al., 2014; Stoeckman et al., 2019). Harrison et al. (2011) reported increased interests in science and research in students who took a CURE. Valliere (2022a) documented a significant increase in students’ perception that they can personally relate to a scientist. Kortz and van der Hoeven Kraft (2016) found an increased general appreciation for science and scientists in students engaged in CUREs. This positive attitude towards research is retained for years (Harvey et al., 2014). CUREs also lead students to identify as researchers or as members of the scholarly community and not merely students more than they do after traditional courses (Hanauer et al., 2017; Mraz-Craig et al., 2018). Additionally, students involved in a CURE were found to have developed a better understanding of the distinctions between hypotheses and theories as well as a deeper grasp of the importance of creativity in research compared to students who completed a traditional lab course (Russell & Weaver, 2011). Interestingly, Dewey et al. (2022) found that different CURE models lead students to perceive scientific research in different ways and identify different elements as central to the culture of research in the discipline. Designing an inclusive CURE experience is therefore critical to the experience of the students and their view of research.

Gains in confidence and self-efficacy

Because of the nature of the data collection undertaken in evaluating many CUREs, much of the information collected on the benefits of CUREs concerns the confidence of students with specific tasks and general self-efficacy. Kortz and van der Hoeven Kraft (2016) reported increased student confidence in talking with other people and more open minds in students. In fact, an increased willingness and ability to engage in conversations and collaborations is a common outcome of CUREs (Brownell et al., 2012; Jordan et al., 2014; Martin et al., 2021; Stoeckman et al., 2019; Vater et al., 2021). Yet, CUREs also promote the ability to work independently (Stoeckman et al., 2019; Jordan et al., 2014). More broadly, students report greater confidence with their ability to conduct research (Fendos et al., 2022; Jordan et al., 2014; Siritunga et al., 2011, Wu & Wu, 2022) and self-efficacy in general (e.g., Hanauer et al., 2017).


Changes in professional/career paths

CUREs have a significant effect on students’ identity as scholars, particularly in the sciences, boosting their intention to pursue a career in STEM (Newell & Ulrich, 2022). In fact, for many students, CUREs help clarify their career path (Jordan et al., 2014; Shaffer et al., 2014; Stoeckman et al., 2019). CUREs increase the matriculation in STEM majors (Rodenbusch et al., 2016). They also directly or indirectly lead to increased graduation rates (Rodenbusch et al., 2016; Waynant et al., 2022). Additionally, several studies have found that engagement in a CURE leads to increased interest in conducting research in other settings following the course (Bascom-Slack et al., 2012; Brownell et al., 2012; Carr et al., 2018; Fendos et al., 2022; Harvey et al., 2014; Overath et al., 2016; Shaffer et al., 2014; Ward et al., 2014). Students also mention feeling better prepared to undertake research projects following their engagement in a CURE (Bascom-Slack et al., 2012; Drew & Triplett, 2008; Jordan et al., 2014; Newell & Ulrich, 2022; Stoeckman et al., 2019; Williams & Reddish, 2018). This leads to greater engagement in traditional research experiences (Harvey et al., 2014). This interest in research also translates to changes in career paths with increased interests and matriculation in graduate school and medical school (Harrison et al., 2011; Bascom-Slack et al., 2012; Shaffer et al., 2014). Many years later, CUREs lead to increased retention in scientific careers (Harvey et al., 2014; Shaffer et al., 2014).


  1. Benefits to instructors

CUREs provide instructors with opportunities to improve student learning, help undergraduates develop a portfolio of works that help them reach their career goals, and foster chances for students to gain skills (Desai et al., 2008; Lopatto et al., 2014; see also section C1 above). As such, CUREs enable instructors, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate teaching assistants to pursue the mission of their institution as well as their own educational goals.

CURE instructors may be faculty members, instructors, postdoctoral researchers, or graduate student assistants (Goodwin et al., 2021; Heim & Holt, 2019). Cascella & Jez (2018) presented the argument that CUREs represent a great opportunity to train postdoctoral researchers and graduate students in the roles of instructors and principal investigator. They specifically argue that CUREs provide the opportunity to develop instructional materials, practice active learning methods of teaching, and build an identity and practice as a teacher beyond merely assisting in grading and delivering content (Cascella & Jez, 2018). The nature of CUREs also provides a platform for trainees to become familiar with the functioning and management of large research projects that involve personnel, deadlines, and a budget (see also Desai et al., 2008 for a similar argument in a learning community context). Because of the potential for publication of the results of the original research undertaken in CUREs, trainees also maintain or increase their productivity (in the form of presentations, publications, or the generation of data that can feed into proposals or manuscripts). Little research has been undertaken assessing the experience of graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) in CUREs. Heim and Holt (2019) provided limited data that support the conclusion that GTAs value the experience of mentoring undergraduate research, but many report the experience being very challenging. Goodwin et al. (2021) similarly found that graduate student instructors almost universally recognize the pedagogical value and benefits of CUREs (for both students and GTA), but that many report high costs to teaching CUREs, including time and emotional investment. In fact, in an important link between benefits to undergraduates and benefits to instructors in training, research shows that the individual experiences of students across course sections taught by different GTAs vary widely (Goodwin et al., 2022, 2023). These experiences appear to be affected by the beliefs, motivation, interests, training, and attitude of the GTAs more than their research and teaching experiences (Goodwin et al., 2022, 2023). Specifically, the ability of GTAs to provide support necessary for undergraduate students to persevere through failures and repeat their work is likely an important predictor of the quality of the students’ research experience (Goodwin et al., 2022). The motivation of undergraduate students taking the CURE, in particular, appears to be highly affected by GTA training and practice (Goodwin et al., 2023). Support from instructors of record, peers, and undergraduate teaching assistants is therefore critical to the success of GTAs teaching a CURE as well as the success of their students (Goodwin et al., 2021, 2022, 2023). Kern and Olimpo (2022) have developed an effective training program to help GTA facilitate CUREs.

There are also many benefits of teaching a CURE for principal investigators and lecturers. A survey of 16 instructors across disciplines at the Ohio State University who have implemented a CURE shows a range of positive impacts. The open answers of the instructors were categorized in each of eight categories. Instructors were able to identify more than one benefit of teaching a CURE resulting in 24 coded impacts (Table 2). Three instructors did not identify a benefit (responding “unclear” or “not sure”).


The instructors surveyed indicated that increased research productivity, personal satisfaction and fulfillment, as well as increased student engagement and enjoyment were the main benefits they gained from teaching a CURE.
Table 2. Benefits of implementing a CURE identified by 13 instructors at the Ohio State University.
N is the frequency of instructors for each category.

Below, I focus on the benefits of CUREs to instructors that positively impact the career of instructors and are best characterized as self-interests (Desai et al., 2008). Although much less research has been undertaken on instructor gains than students’, CUREs have widely been recognized to benefit instructors. Instructor impacts can be divided into three categories:

  1. Engaging in a meaningful research-driven teaching practice
  2. Boosting engagement in research and increasing productivity
  3. Gaining access to resources and developing a network of colleagues

Engaging in a meaningful research-driven teaching practice

CUREs provide the opportunity for instructors to integrate their research and teaching missions (Fukami, 2013; Shortlidge & Brownell, 2016). This includes the pursuit of one’s research program as well as the chance to go into new directions and satisfy one’s intellectual curiosity (Desai et al., 2008; Roberts and Shell, 2023; Shortlidge et al., 2016). As such, CUREs are more enjoyable to teach than traditional labs (Shortlidge et al., 2016; DeChenne-Peters & Scheuermann, 2022) and enable instructors to meaningfully engage students in the discipline without the barrier of content-coverage (Elgin et al., 2021). Instructors report that CUREs enable them to improve their pedagogical knowledge and develop an interest in the formal assessment of their own teaching (Craig, 2017). CUREs also enable instructors to teach in a way that promotes student enthusiasm and motivation (Lopatto et al., 2014). Some instructors report that CUREs improve their relationships with students (Shortlidge et al., 2016). Others report that CUREs improve their job satisfaction (Shortlidge et al., 2017). CUREs can be components of broader impacts of grant proposals and thus support the success of both research and teaching in one more way (see Shortlidge et al., 2016).


Boosting engagement in research and increasing productivity

For instructors at primarily undergraduate institutions and lecturers at research universities whose faculty model involves high teaching loads, CUREs offer the opportunity to remain involved in research endeavors (Hewlett, 2018; DeChenne-Peters & Scheuermann, 2022) and provide research opportunities to students when uncommitted time available for mentored research experiences is lacking (Gentile et al., 2017). Instructors benefit from the opportunity to keep up with the field of research and the literature (Lopatto et al., 2014). CUREs also increase the confidence of some faculty members in their own research (Shaffer et al., 2010). Because CUREs enable instructors to explore significant research questions that are broadly relevant to the scholarly community, they can be beneficial in generating data for faculty research (Shortlidge et al., 2016). In fact, the significance of the research itself has been found to be a motivator for many instructors (Lopatto et al., 2014), just like for students. Numerous faculty members have reported productivity benefits from CUREs, particularly co-authorship on publications (Lopatto et al., 2014, Shortlidge et al., 2016). Publication is an important outcome and motivator of engagement in the development and implementation of CUREs for both faculty members and students (e.g., Hatfull et al., 2006; Jordan et al., 2014; Ward et al., 2014). For some researchers, CUREs also offer the opportunity to identify and recruit trained and motivated students for mentored research internships (Overath, 2016; Shortlidge et al., 2016; Stoeckman et al., 2019; Ott et al., 2020; Elgin et al., 2021), or even prepare students for mentored research experiences (Fendos et al. 2022). The many research and teaching gains of CUREs lead some instructors to report increased prestige or improved reputation (Lopatto et al., 2014; Shaffer et al., 2010). CUREs are influential for promotion and tenure (Shortlidge et al., 2016).


Gaining access to resources and developing a network of colleagues

Surveys of instructors who have implemented CUREs show their impacts go beyond direct career benefits. CURE instructors value the chance to gain access to new technology on campus and beyond (Shaffer et al., 2010). Involvements in CUREs, particularly when instructors join national collaborative efforts like the Genomics Education Partnership (Lopatto et al., 2008), the Biological Collections in Ecology and Evolution Network (https://bceenetwork.org/), the Malate Dehydrogenase CURE Community (Provost 2022), or the Science Education Alliance Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES; Jordan et al., 2014) also enable instructors to gain colleagues, grow their network of collaborators, and connect to a larger research and teaching community (Lopatto et al., 2014; Shaffer et al., 2010; DeChenne-Peters & Scheuermann, 2022). Instructors involved in CUREs report professional growth from the experience (Lopatto et al., 2014).


  1. Benefits to the institution

Many of the benefits of CUREs to the institution are encapsulated in the benefits to instructors and students. Institutions benefit from higher student retention and graduation rates, training a more diverse workforce, and developing a more inclusive learning environment. They also gain from having happier instructors with higher research outputs and potentially higher tenure rates, who are less likely to leave their positions (Elgin et al., 2021; Shortlidge et al., 2017). CUREs can in fact contribute to increased enrollment (Bell et al., 2017). Similarly to service-learning courses, CUREs can provide institutions the opportunity to partner with business and community organizations (Elgin et al., 2021; Malotky et al., 2020; Silvestri, 2018) and provide actionable information for the students’ community (Smith et al., 2022; Valliere, 2022a) or partners around the world (Kay et al., 2023). CUREs have also been showed to inspire faculty members to seek grant support for research and education (Shaffer et al., 2010), which can bring the institution additional funds through indirect-cost recovery. The CUREs themselves or the outputs from these CUREs can also participate in increasing the prestige of the institution with an increased number of publications, presentations, and awards (e.g., Ahmad & Al-Thani, 2022; Shaffer et al., 2010; Overath, 2016; Bell et al., 2017). Recent calls for institutions to support the development and implementation of CUREs have emphasized their importance in overcoming the opportunity gap in college (e.g., Handelsman et al., 2022).