Research Learning Experiences: Request for Proposals

Intro & Justification

Supported in part by a generous donation from the Harold Alfond Foundation, we are continuing the Research Learning Experiences (RLE) pilot program in the 2022-2023 academic year. Our goal is to engage students in discovery, knowledge creation, and authentic professional practices—regardless of their area of study—starting in their first year at our university.  The format of RLEs combines a suite of best practices for first-year retention to give our students a mindset that will both help them to get the most out of their degree and put them on a path to long-term success.  We are asking faculty or teams of faculty to offer RLEs for the 2022-2023 academic year for first and second year students. Instructors of current RLE courses (Fall 2021) should also submit an abbreviated proposal to offer the course again in the upcoming academic year. 

RLEs use authentic research experiences to foster student identity, agency, and a sense of purpose for UMaine’s first- and second-year students.  These student attributes are not only linked to retention and student success, but also to well-being long after graduation.  RLEs are varied in their design to match with a particular scholarly project, but shared elements include:

  • A small-cohort to build a supportive, academic social network (20 students max)
  • An intensive week-long experience prior to a regular semester (often in the summer) paired with continued meetings during the regular semester (often in the fall)
  • A one-credit-hour course, a one-credit-hour portion of a linked new or existing course, or a one-credit hour addition to a new or existing course (e.g., a current general education course or other required first-year course)

What is considered “Research”?

RLEs are meant to provide experiences for all of our students, regardless of their degree program or career interests.  RLEs provide them with a mindset that will help them with “research,” which we define as a process or approach for scholarly exploration.  A research mindset is one that allows students to explore questions for which there is no certain answer and to frame questions that inform how they will make their next steps.  Key to this process is an iterative approach, where students expect to encounter obstacles as they begin their exploration in their area of inquiry, and are encouraged to develop skills to overcome those obstacles and continue their exploration.  Students in RLEs will begin their transition from knowledge consumers to knowledge producers.  

RLE Design Elements

Aligned with this, a key element of the Research Learning Experience is the idea of “authenticity” and a “sense of purpose.”  The products of an RLE should have meaning outside of or after the completion of the course itself.  We hope students will be motivated in their inquiry by the idea that RLEs are not just a cookbook exercise giving them exposure to a practice, but are, in fact, an authentic expression of inquiry that will lead to new knowledge.

There are many ways to express the RLE philosophy in the design of a course, and we encourage you to come up with a design that you think will make the best experience.  Last year RLE students:

  • Designed an artistic performance to create an audience experience
  • Conducted bench science to better understand the inner workings of a cell
  • Used primary literature and interviews to construct a map of a local historical event
  • Gathered critical data to assess the promise of investment in a new business sector
  • Helped design and execute a sampling protocol to assist with the conservation of an endangered species
  • Participated in a local town planning process that will make decisions about how land is used

Instructors of the Fall 2021 RLEs worked collaboratively with the pilot assessment team to design seven, core Program Learning Outcomes of the Research Learning Experiences.  These are:

Cognitive Outcomes (changes in cognitive skills)

  • Students will formulate appropriately scoped topics or questions that will guide their scholarly exploration.
  • Students will describe their iterative approaches to exploration for work without a defined answer.
  • Students will effectively communicate with collaborators about their experience.
  • Students will demonstrate responsibility for the discovery process.

Dispositional Outcomes (changes in beliefs or attitudes)

  • Students will identify the relevance/applicability of their experience beyond the RLE course.
  • Students will reflect on how their exploratory process has helped them develop as learners.
  • Students will explain the importance of belonging to a community for their learning.

This year, each RLE instructor designed their course to address at least one of the outcomes above in both the cognitive and dispositional lists.  Many instructors designed experiences to address many more. For more information about assessing these outcomes, please refer to this webpage prepared by CITL. You are not prohibited from having additional learning outcomes that are not shared by any other RLE.  If you think a course you are already teaching meets the RLE criteria, or might come close, we encourage you to reach out to Peter Schilling at the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (, who can discuss specific strategies to align your course with the RLE initiative.  We will also be holding a Q&A session on November 2nd at 9:30 am for questions about RLEs or the application process.

Proposals for Academic Year 2022-2023 Research Learning Experiences can be submitted for any of the following categories:

  1. First-year RLE with Generalized Bridge Week ($3,000 budget) – Fall 2022 RLE designed for incoming 1st year students where they attend a Bridge Week program the week before the fall semester start, which is designed and facilitated by Academic Affairs with minimal involvement of the fall instructor(s). 
  2. RLE w/Tailored Bridge Week ($3,000 budget plus optional bridge-week fee)Fall 2022 RLE that is opened to both incoming 1st year students or rising sophomores, where students attend a 1-week summer Bridge Week program the week before the start of classes that is designed and facilitated by you. A student fee of up to $390 can be added to cover off-campus bridge week costs, including student housing and food.
  3. Sophomore RLE without Bridge Week ($3,000 budget)RLE geared toward rising 2nd year students that runs a full semester (fall 2022 or spring 2023), and does not include a summer Bridge Week program. In this category, preference will be given to RLEs that allow sophomores to work with an off-campus partner organization.
  4. Travel RLE ($6,000 budget plus student travel fee) – RLE geared toward 2nd year students that includes a domestic or international travel experience outside of Maine.  Travel may occur in either the summer, fall, winter, or spring terms and may be linked to a semester-long component.  In this category, preference will be given to RLEs that allow sophomores to work with an external partner organization.  The execution of these RLEs will be contingent upon COVID policies prior to travel. Please familiarize yourself with DLL’s resources on travel courses as well.

How to Apply

To apply please fill out the two templates that are linked below and submit them to Eden Kalyanapu, via email at, by November 12th, 2021 at 4:30 pm. Any questions about this proposal process should be directed to Eden Kalyanapu.

Link to the Q&A session held November 2nd.

Proposal template can be accessed here.

Budget template can be accessed here.