22 SES 01 B, Assessment and Conditions of Student Learning
The relationship between research and teaching functions is of great interest in higher education (HE) because it is central to conceptions of the role of a university. The origin of the modern view of universities is often traced to Wilhelm von Humboldt, founder of the University of Berlin in 1810, who believed that teaching and research should be combined in the activities of university staff, though, in his view, research was secondary to the teaching role (Zupanc, 2012). The priorities attached to research and teaching have been reversed in the two centuries since von Humboldt’s education reforms, and research-intensive universities now dominate the HE landscape. Tensions remain however and concern has been expressed about whether the research is now too highly valued relative to teaching, with consequences such as the ‘unbundling’ of these functions in the HE sector generally, and within research-intensive universities specifically (de Jonghe, 2005; Hajdarpasic et al., 2015).
University College Dublin (UCD) is a large research-intensive university, situated in an open, knowledge-based economy, with a global outlook. A key part of the UCD Strategy 2015-2020 is a commitment to student-focused, ‘research-led’ education in a community based on strong research-intensive disciplines. However, what exactly is meant by the term ‘research-led education’, and how that can be realised in an institution that includes a wide range of disciplines, in a time of tightly constrained resources, is not entirely clear. In this study we aim to examine undergraduate students’ awareness of research, and perceptions of research-teaching linkages across seven programmes/disciplines in UCD with the aim of informing policy on how UCD can implement its “research-led education” ambitions at the undergraduate level.
The aims of this study are to examine undergraduate students’ awareness of, and exposure to, research in their discipline/programme, and their perceptions of how studying at a research-intensive university in Ireland has impacted their learning.
The research questions are:
- To what extent are undergraduate students aware of research conducted by staff in their chosen discipline/programme, and in their discipline/programme area more generally, and to explore how this awareness (if any) has developed?
- In what ways (if any) do undergraduate students perceive that research has been linked to their learning and/or teaching experiences, in the curriculum and/or the wider university?
- What examples of good practice do undergraduate students identify and describe in terms of research-teaching linkages?
- In what ways (if any) do students perceive that studying at a research-intensive university has impacted on their skills and attitudes?
- In what ways (if any) does students’ awareness and experiences of research, and their perceptions of the impact research has had on their learning, vary according to their stage of study and discipline and/or programme?
Studies have been conducted in Australia, Canada New Zealand and the UK that examine students’ perceptions of the research-teaching nexus (Robertson and Blackler, 2006; Hajdarpasic et al., 2013; Healey et al., 2010; Neumann, 1994; Wuetherick and McLaughlin, 2011). Our study not only adds Ireland to the list above, it builds on these studies by combining a survey methodology, based on that developed by Healey et al. (2010) along with a focus group methodology to provide detailed picture of final year undergraduates’ perceptions of research-teaching linkages across seven quite distinct discipline/programmes.
We are interested in the implications of our findings for embedding research experiences in a coherent, yet discipline-sensitive way, in undergraduate programmes. The Boyer Commission (1998) provided a catalyst for research-intensive universities in the US to examine this issue in the early part of this century (Katkin, 2003), and we hope to add to this work and the work of others in this area (Healey and Jenkins, 2006).
Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, Kenny SS (chair) (2008) Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America’s Research Universities. Report, State University of New York-Stony Brook. Hajdarpasic A, Brew A and Popenici S (2015) The contribution of academics’ engagement in research to undergraduate education. Studies in Higher Education 40(4): 644–657. Healey M, Jordan F, Pell B and Short C (2010) The research–teaching nexus: a case study of students’ awareness, experiences and perceptions of research. Innovations in Education and Teaching International 47(2): 235–246. Healey, M and Jenkins, A (2006) Strengthening the Teaching-Research Linkage in Undergraduate Courses and Programs. New Directions for Teaching and Learning 2006(107): 45–55. de Jonghe AM, (2005) Reorganising the Teaching-Research Tension. Higher Education Management and Policy 17(2): 61–74. Jenkins A (2009) Research-Teaching Linkages: enhancing graduate attributes, Glasgow: Scottish Quality Assurance Agency. Katkin W (2003) The Boyer Commission Report and its Impact on Undergraduate Research. New Directions for Teaching and Learning 2003(93): 19–38. Neumann R (1994) The teaching-research nexus: Applying a framework to university students’ learning experiences. European Journal of Education 29(3): 323–338. Robertson J and Blackler G (2006) Students’ experiences of learning in a research environment. Higher Education Research and Development, 25(3): pp.215–229. Wuetherick B and McLaughlin L (2011) Students’ perceptions of the learning environment: a partnership to enhance our understanding of the undergraduate student experience. In: Little S (ed) Staff-student partnerships in Higher Education. London: Continuum International Publishing Group, pp.185-200. Zupanc GKH (2012) Undergraduate research and inquiry-based learning: The revitalization of the Humboldtian Ideals. Bioscience Education, 19(June).
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