EUI heeds the call to infuse research into the undergraduate curriculum, a call issued by numerous higher education associations(national and regional), postsecondary education policy centers, charitable foundations, and the higher education press. This pedagogical agenda is in part a response to the perception that major public universities' investment in undergraduate teaching has declined as their commitment to research has increased.
In 1998, the Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University recommended significant reforms aimed at aligning the teaching and research missions of institutions such as UIUC. Perhaps the commission's most compelling recommendation was that undergraduates should be drawn into campus research activities so as to introduce them to the processes of inquiry entailed in the production of new knowledge. Three years after its initial report, the Boyer Commission found that the move to research-based teaching in undergraduate humanities and social science classes has lagged behind the laboratory sciences and engineering.
Complementing the Boyer Commission's assessment of curricular matters are the findings of a sustained study of the undergraduate experience conducted by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) at Indiana University. NSSE results indicate that a challenging curriculum featuring active learning and enriched faculty-student interaction greatly enhances students' sense of engagement in college life. Engaged students arguably learn more and learn better-and, in the context of research universities, cultivate a life-long habit of critical inquiry that is as important to responsible citizenship as it is to career success.
For its part, EUI directly addresses the Boyer Commission's finding that research-based learning has yet to flourish in the humanities and social sciences. It does so by advancing specific research-based learning strategies that are intended to heighten student engagement with learning. Furthermore, while EUI is currently focused on securing EUI across UIUC's undergraduate curriculum, EUI is intended to develop so that its essential elements are readily adaptable to a range of higher education environments.
"When a university accepts an undergraduate student for admission and the student then enrolls, implicit commitments constitute an unwritten contract between them. Each assumes obligations and responsibilities, and each receives benefits. The student commits to a course of study intended to lead to a degree, agrees to follow such rules of civil behavior as the university prescribes, accepts the challenge of making an appropriate contribution to the community of scholars, and pledges to cultivate her or his mind, abilities, and talents with a view to becoming a productive and responsible citizen. The student at a research university, in addition, must come with appropriate preparation for the opportunities that will be provided, must commit to the strenuous burdens of active participation in the educational process, and must be prepared to live in a diverse and heterogeneous environment."
"Occasionally an idea comes along that seems to clarify complex issues and to potentially resolve fundamental problems in a given line of endeavor. Such is the connection between student engagement and collegiate quality. Student engagement represents the intersection of the time and energy students devote to educationally sound activities and the policies and practices that institutions use to induce students to take part in such activities."
"It's a deceptively simple premise: the more students do something, the more proficient they become. For example, the more students study a subject, the more they learn about it. Likewise, the more students practice a skill-reading, writing, or problem solving-the more adept they become at the respective activity. Faculty members and administrators in all types of colleges and universities know this. And students realize it as well. Moreover, decades of research studies show that students learn more when they direct their efforts to a variety of educationally purposeful activities, inside and outside the classroom."
"Colleges and universities cannot accurately judge their effectiveness in the absence of good information about what students do and the quality of the student experience."