Most high-school science programs have a strong focus on scientific theory and do not train students to conduct independent research. Previous work has demonstrated the efficacy of a mentor-supported, student-driven teaching program to effectively introduce research-specific skills in a classroom context. Despite the effectiveness of such programs, their class-based formats and requirements for multiple full-time faculty mentors limit their throughput, and the finite expertise of full-time mentors requires participants to focus on specific research subjects.
To address these limitations, we introduce R@N, an extracurricular, student-led, and student-driven program for the independent acquisition of research-specific skills through the self-guided completion of a series of formative checkpoints (“nodes”) for mastery. Students in the program can choose specific subsets of nodes to be trained in research in subjects of their interest. The program is developed and moderated by a small team of students in consultation with skill-specific faculty mentors through regular meetings. Students meet weekly to create, update, and revise nodes in collaboration with mentors in order to enable and supplement the learning of students participating in the program.
The program offers a few key results: it electively allows the student body (approximately 400 in our institution) to asynchronously acquire the skills of independent research and enables a group of around 20 students to develop and codify tools and skills for research pedagogy. The program can be sustained with limited faculty involvement, requiring one dedicated faculty mentor working in conjunction with a larger pool of research mentors who commit around 2 hours per month.