ERG SES G 11, Sociologies of Education
In the current higher education landscape, the link between research and teaching is a regular topic of debate. During the past decades, universities have seen a growing emphasis on the research dimension, as research intensity has become an important quality indicator. Moreover, even though the study of the link between the two activities has led to conflicting results (see, e.g., Hattie & Marsh, 2004; Halliwell, 2008), we can observe initiatives that have begun to cultivate a commitment to both research and teaching (de Weert & Beerkens, 2009; van der Rijst et al., 2013).
Studies show that the relationship between teaching and research is complex, and academics’ understanding of what is meant by this link vary depending on many aspects (Marsh & Hattie, 2002; Griffiths, 2004; Brew, 2010). In particular, a topic has received considerable attention in recent years and it concerns the factors that influence whether and how academics use research-related elements into their teaching (Mägi & Berkens, 2016). For this purpose, two set of factors can be identified: internal and external. The internal aspects include teachers’ attitude and beliefs regarding teaching (Prosser & Trigwell, 1999; Hativa & Goodyear, 2002), expectations related to the teacher’s role (Åkerlind, 2004), or the conceptualisation of the research and teaching as distinct activities (Robertson & Bond, 2005). Other factors which can shape the nature of the academics’ teaching practices are the external ones: the seniority of students (Robertson & Bond, 2005); moreover, the discipline or the university department can influence the type of teaching activities in which the academics choose to involve their students (Schapper & Mayson, 2010; Mägi & Berkens, 2016).
In order to gain a better understanding of the nature of the research - teaching relation within the academic departments, an analysis was carried out to explore the extent to which the academics incorporate research elements in their teaching. Nevertheless, another aim of the study is to analyse what are the academics’ conceptions of teaching and research, as tjis can also be an important factor to understand the linkage.
The study was conducted in 3 academic departments from the University of Bucharest, Romania: Department of Pedagogy (Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences), Department of Sociology (Faculty of Sociology and Social Work) and Department of Business Administration (Faculty of Administration and Business) in the academic year 2018–2019. In order to gain an understanding of the relation between research and teaching, 30 interviews with academics were analysed in the light of the literature reviewed. Considering the total number of academic staff in these departments is 18, 23 and 22, respectively, our response rate is about 50%. The academics who were selected had to have at least 5 years of experience in the department, and were required to have taught mandatory courses at the Bachelor level. The study is a qualitative one and proceeds from a review of the literature on the integration of research into academics’ teaching practice in the current context. Furthermore, starting from the premise that the appropriate choice of data collection and analysis tools supports the quality of the investigation and establishes it from a scientific point of view, we have chosen the semi-structured interview, as it allowed us to have a fairly open framework with flexibility to go into details when needed and a focused communication. The qualitative data were analyzed using Dedoose qualitative data analysis software by using descriptive qualitative data analysis technique. The interview forms included questions such as: “How would you describe the link between teaching and research in your department?”, “How important is the transfer of research elements in the teaching act for you?”, “What are the most common ways to integrate the research elements into your teaching practice?”, “What do you think are the three most important factors that facilitate this transfer?”, “What benefits could the institution in which you work gain through the promotion of the research-based teaching approach?”, “What is the students’ role in this process? Are they are aware of the benefits of such an approach?”, “What do you think are the most common ways to encourage students to become more involved in the teaching process?”, “What do you consider to be your role in the university from the perspective of the relationship between research, teaching and learning?”
The initial findings on these discussions suggested that the use of research-related teaching practices is indeed influenced by academics’ beliefs regarding research and teaching in higher education and the department in which the teacher is conducting his/her practice has an effect on the dynamic of the link between the two activities. In the departments of social sciences it is particularly evident that there is a research-related teaching environment in which academics have an advantage in adopting such practices, as they are part of socialisation and are cultivated generation by generation. In the further data analysis we expect to get a more detailed and rich picture of teachers´ beliefs and practices in order to grasp an accurate picture of the link between research and teaching. The findings from this study will be used to inform discussions of the nature of the research-teaching linkage and the benefits and disadvantages of research-related practices. To this end they will be disseminated to academics and fellow PhD candidates through a contribution to the departmental seminar series. Moreover, we expect that the findings will resonate with those of previous studies and will inform academics and educational policymakers who aim to strengthen linkages between research, teaching and student learning.
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