22 SES 01 B, Teaching under (Re)Construction: Diverse Perspectives
In the UK, and other European and International contexts, there has been an expansion in the diversity of providers of higher education (HE), with institutions such as Further Education (FE) colleges growing in prominence with respect to their role and commitment to the delivery of HE (Parry, 2009, Parry et al, 2012). FE Colleges are often seen as providing education, orientated towards preparing students for the workplace and therefore designed to meet the requirements of local employers and the business community (Bathmaker and Avis 2005). Rhetoric surrounding college provision at this level is centred on a dialogue of competencies and skill development, with demonstration of these a measure of student success (Bathmaker, 2013).
It is against this backdrop that expansion in HE has taken place. Colleges have had a longstanding commitment to HE at the sub-degree level; however, in most instances HE has been a minority of a colleges’ ‘offer’ (Parry, 2009). College-based HE builds on the tradition of work-place readiness and vocational education associated with FE, with expectations for work-based learning and employer engagement integral to this (Parry, Blackie and Thompson 2009). The renewed focus on HE in colleges has created opportunities for provision to expand beyond the sub-degree level, normally associated with college-based HE. As some larger colleges focus on gaining their own awarding powers and increasingly work with university partners to deliver full honours degrees (Parry, Blackie and Thompson 2009), the traditional boundary dualism between vocational and academic study becomes blurred (Garrod and Macfarlane 2009) and unhelpful (Macfarlane 2015). These developments have implications for the delivery of the honours degree, with colleges expected to prepare students for engaging with dissertation study as part of honours level study whether it be based in a partner university or the college itself (Schofield & Burton, 2013). The vocational focus of colleges means that preparation is taking place in an environment where scholarship and research are not an integral focus of the institution (Bathmaker, 2013). Indeed, limited opportunities for staff to engage with these activities are widely documented concerns with respect to the expansion of college HE (Gale et al., 2011; Mason et al., 2010).
For undergraduates, regardless of the context in which they study, gaining a solid foundation in research methods is essential in preparing them initially to complete the final year dissertation, and more importantly, meeting the demands of many employers who value the research-knowledge graduates possess (MacInnes, 2012). However, engaging undergraduates with research methods teaching has been documented as challenging (Wagner et al., 2011), and more widely is an area of HE teaching that is often poorly conceptualised and resourced (Rice et al., 2001). Research examining the provision and pedagogy of research methods teaching is limited (Wagner et al., 2011), and primarily centred on HE delivered within the traditional university-based setting, little is known as to how this subject is addressed outside of universities.
In this paper we examine research methods teaching within colleges and the pedagogies employed. Drawing on a national data set drawn from college students and staff we consider the issues associated with research methods teaching in colleges, paying particular attention to the need to reconcile what some may perceive as the more ‘abstract’ theoretical basis of research with the vocational focus of colleges.
This work is informed by the research-informed teaching agenda, around which Healey and Jenkins have undertaken seminal work. From their work we are particularly interested in the contribution made to student learning through engagement with research, where pedagogies such as enquiry-based learning, are integral to enhancing student knowledge of research methods (Jenkins et al., 2007).
Anderson, G., Wahlberg, M. and Barton, S. 2003. Reflections and experiences of further education research in practice. Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 55: 499-516. Bathmaker, A-M. 2013. Defining ‘knowledge’ in vocational education qualifications in England: an analysis of key stakeholders and their constructions of knowledge, purposes and content. Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 65: 87-107. Bathmaker, A-M, and Avis, J. 2005. Becoming a lecturer in further education in England: the construction of professional identity and the role of communities of practice. Journal of Education for Teaching, 31:47-62. Benson, A., and Blackman, D. 2003. Can Research Methods Ever Be Interesting? Active Learning in Higher Education 4: 39-55. Gale, K.J., Turner, R. & McKenzie, L.M. 2011. Communities of Praxis? Scholarship and practice styles of the HE in FE professional, Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 63, 159-169. Jenkins, A., Healey, M. and Zetter, R. 2007. Linking teaching and research in disciplines and departments. York: HEA. Macfarlane, B. 2015. 'Dualisms in Higher Education: a Critique of Their Influence and Effect', Higher Education Quarterly, 69 (1), pp. 101-118. Mason, M., Bardsley, J. Mann, J. & Turner, R. 2010. Teaching and Research within Further Education Colleges: Chalk and Cheese? Practice and Evidence of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 5: 115-136. MacInnes, J. 2012. Quantitative Methods teaching in UK Higher Education: The state of the field and how it might be improved. HEA Social Sciences teaching and learning summit: Teaching research methods. Radcliffe House, University of Warwick. Parry, G. 2009. Higher Education, Further Education and the English Experiment Higher Education Quarterly 63: 322–342. Parry, G., Blackie, P. and Thompson., A. 2009. Supporting higher education in further education colleges. Policy, practice and prospects. Bristol: HEFCE. Parry, G., Scott, P., Callender, C. & Temple, P. 2012. Understanding Higher Education in Further Education Colleges. London: Department for Business Innovation and Skills. Available at: http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/higher-education/docs/u/12-905-understanding-higher-education-in-further-education-colleges.pdf. Schofiled, C, and Burton, F. 2013. An investigation into higher education student and lecturer view on research publication and their interest in the production of a college partnership science journal. Innovations in Education and Teaching International. iFirst. Wagner, C., Garner, M. and Kawulich., B. 2011. The state of the art of teaching research methods in the social sciences: towards a pedagogical culture. Studies in Higher Education 36: 75-88.
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