Journal Article

How does engaging in authentic research at undergraduate level contribute to student wellbeing?


In the context of rapidly growing numbers of university students reporting that they have experienced mental health problems, this paper argues that doing research as an undergraduate can contribute to student wellbeing. Although the benefits of undergraduate research are well documented, underlying reasons for its efficacy on positive student outcomes require investigation. This paper uses Self-Determination theory, which has empirically shown that fulfilling one’s need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness fosters wellbeing. Using authenticity as a conceptual lens to understand undergraduate research experiences, and a novel connection to Self-Determination theory, the theoretical proposition that authenticity within undergraduate research contributes to wellbeing is elaborated. The paper suggests that authenticity within undergraduate research experiences offers a way to stimulate wellbeing among our students which hinges on effective curriculum design and mentoring. Two case studies, drawn from Medicine and Geography, explore the way in which curriculum design coupled with mentoring pedagogy can enhance authenticity in research, student motivation, and therefore wellbeing. The paper reveals how authentic research-based learning can form an entitlement for all students through an embedded curriculum-based approach. The paper advocates for research-based learning to begin early in the undergraduate curriculum, in order to establish a sense of belonging for students and healthy learner-centred pedagogy. In addition to the framework for authenticity adopted, this paper reveals the importance of attention to the quality of learning spaces (novelty, professionalism, inclusivity) and the practice-based elements of mentoring for effective relationships between learners and teachers to ensure the wellbeing of all involved.

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Walkington, Helen
Ommering, Belinda W.C.

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of Social Sciences


Year of publication: 2022
Date of RADAR deposit: 2022-05-19

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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