Lean and Lab-rich Psychology: Undergraduate Research for the Behavioral and Social Sciences

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



undergraduate research, psychology, community college, involvement, hands-on, research experience


Recent years have witnessed a growing recognition of the importance of involvement in research to the cognitive and professional development of undergraduate students (Froyd 2008; Bransford 2000; Kuh 2008). Increased recognition is also being given to the fact that quantitative literacy must an essential outcome of college (Association of American Colleges and Universities). Nonetheless, programming to achieve such educational outcomes often appears concentrated in the physical and natural sciences. Much less emphasis has been placed on the relevance of undergraduate research for undergraduates in the behavioral and social sciences. However, this situation appears to be changing. The National Science Foundation (NSF) now recognizes psychological science as relevant among the scientific disciplines, and the American Psychological Association (2011) advises that research experiences are a basic component of a quality undergraduate education. It was in this context that the psychology department at Inver Hills Community College opened its psychology laboratory in 2009. Undergraduates at Inver Hills now have the opportunity to engage in handson psychological science through the measurement of muscle responses, the tracking of eye movements, and the observation of brain waves in an introductory course in general psychology. These experiences provide opportunities for students to become motivated by the thrill of exploration, with the cognitive and practical skills they gain in the process potentially sparking greater passion for the discipline and improving students’ likelihood of transferring to a four-year institution or improving their job prospects. As such activities become increasingly central to the mission of the department, the faculty will be better able to prepare a broad range of students to continue their academic journeys with a keener understanding of psychological science, its application to the real world, and a feel for how to engage in the scientific method.



Publication Title

Tapping the Potential of All: Undergraduate Research at Community Colleges