22 SES 10 B, Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education
The idea that undergraduate research may provide the basis for university pedagogy in the twenty-first century is one that has gained ground in recent years (e.g. Dotterer, 2002). This has been accompanied by continuing discussion of research-teaching links and recognition of the value of undergraduate research particularly within US universities, and increasingly within European universities – especially within the sciences (e.g. Hunter, 2007; Tatalovic, 2008; Laursen, et al., 2010). This project puts the student perception at the centre of the discussion.
We report on a project in which student researchers undertook interviews of academic staff members within their own Faculty areas to build a picture of the relationship between teaching and research as perceived by staff and interpreted by students. The project featured students in the role of partners in research, as we were seeking to move beyond the consideration of students as ‘data points’ in the investigation of student voice to move towards the inclusion of students as co-enquirers and co-creators of emerging curriculum models (e.g. Partridge and Sandover, 2010; Bovill et al., 2011; Werder et al., 2012). From their interviews the students started to build a picture of staff perceptions of the links between teaching and research within their own disciplines. The students each wrote a report of their findings in the style of an academic paper, and these were collated into a journal special issue (Kandiko and Kinchin, 2013).
Analysis of the students’ discipline-based reports and the interview quotes given within them reveal a number of interrelated themes that warrant further study. Some academics clearly feel that students need to have acquired knowledge before undertaking research, needing to have already grasped theories in order to test them through research. Others see the purpose of the research to enable students to gain knowledge. These opposing ‘knowledge first’ or ‘enquiry first’ conceptions of undergraduate research may be related to academics’ ability to see ‘research as pedagogy’ as a valuable general principle or as an imposition on their research and teaching context. When academics make comments (reported in the students’ accounts) about “undergraduate teaching being too simple” to support undergraduate research, or that “research has become extremely complicated and it is difficult to find something for students”, it would appear that they are considering research as generating knowledge new to their discipline or society in general rather than knowledge that is new to the student (Willison and O’Regan, 2007; Brew, 2013). They are, therefore, trying to place the undergraduate within their own research agenda, rather than thinking in more general terms about a wider research-rich curriculum. When an academic states that, “teaching does not challenge the mind enough … [as] … it is like spending time with small children”, it re-affirms the separation of teaching and research that has been reported previously and suggests that the conception of the curriculum simply as ‘content to be covered’ is still one that can be found inhabiting the corridors of academia.
Students identified the social nature of teaching as being contrasted with the often more individual role, and rewards, of research. The focus on research as a means for personal professional development led some interviewees to consider research as a selfish activity, whereas the rewards for teaching are not seen to come from personal progression, but from the progression of others. Academics clearly value ownership of their own research, but find the concept of ownership more difficult to apply to the students in their care.
The student reports also suggest that academics’ personal perspectives may be more significant than any widely perceived disciplinary perspective, with individuals from the same department verbalising contrasting views.
Bovill, C., Cook-Sather, A. and Felten, P. (2011) Students as co-creators of teaching approaches, course design, and curricula: implications for academic developers. International Journal for Academic Development, 16(2): 133 – 145. Brew, A. (2013) Understanding the scope of undergraduate research: a framework for curricular and pedagogical decision-making. Higher Education, 66(5): 603 – 618. Curtis, W., Goodson, A. McDonnell, J. Shields, S. and Wyness, R. (2012) Learning together and expanding horizons: reflections on a student-lecturer collaborative enquiry. Enhancing Learning in the Social Sciences, vol. 4 (3): www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/disciplines/social-sciences/ELiSS0403Practice_paper07.pdf Dotterer, R.L. (2002) Student-Faculty collaborations, undergraduate research, and collaboration as an administrative model. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 90: 81 – 89. Harvey, A. (2011) Disciplines and knowing: exploring the implications of disciplinary context for pedagogic practice. Higher Education Research Network Journal, 3: 29 – 38. Available at: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/study/learningteaching/kli/research/hern/hernjvol3.pdf Hunter, P. (2007) Undergraduate research: Winning the battle for students’ hearts and minds. European Molecular Biology Organization, EMBO reports, 8(8): 717 – 719. Kandiko, C.B. and Kinchin, I.M. (Eds.) (2013) Student perspectives on research-rich teaching. Higher Education Research Network Journal, 6 (Special Issue): 1 – 98. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ian_Kinchin2/?ev=hdr_xprf Laursen, S., Hunter, A-B., Seymour, E., Thiry, H. and Melton (2010) Undergraduate research in the sciences: Engaging students in real science. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass. Partridge, L. and Sandover, S. (2010) Beyond ‘listening’ to the student voice: The undergraduate researcher’s contribution to the enhancement of teaching and learning. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 7(2): Available at: http://ro.uow.edu.au/jutlp.vol7/iss2/4 Tatalovic, M. (2008) Student science publishing: an exploratory study of undergraduate science research journals and popular science magazines in the US and Europe. Journal of Science Communication, 7(3): 1 – 9. Werder, C., Thibou, S. and Kaufer, B. (2012) Students as co-inquirers: A requisite threshold concept in educational development. Journal of Faculty Development, 26(3): 34 – 38. Willison, J. and O’Regan, K. (2007) Commonly known, commonly not known, totally unknown: a framework for students becoming researchers. Higher Education Research & Development, 26(4): 393 – 409.
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