About: Rationale - Why Now

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.


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