22 SES 12 A, Paper Session
Among the challenges faced by higher education institutions, providing high quality education is critical to attracting and retaining students. On the other side, the student body is very diverse as they put more and more emphasis on how and if the academic program can meet their expectations and needs. In this context, one of the key topics that dominate most universities’s agenda nowadays is focused on strengthening the relationship between the three main processes in academia: teaching, research and learning.
Teaching and research are perceived as two core academic activities, but building an effective linkage is still a challenge, as this topic was debated in many specialty articles (Spronken-Smith, 2014; Vereijken et al., 2016; Visser-Wijnveen, 2010). On the one hand, some studies show that the link between the two activities has led to conflicting results (Hattie & Marsh, 2004; Halliwell, 2008), but on the other hand, 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).
Therefore, numerous attempts have been made to incorporate research into the teaching process, as this appears to be an important factor in fostering student learning. Moreover, studies reveal that the linkage between research and teaching not only improves students’ subject knowledge, but also their problem-solving and critical thinking skills (Hensel, 2012; Walkington, 2015).
However, there is still a lack of the needed research that would lead to efficient ways of linking teaching and research in order to deliver positive outcomes for the entire academic community. In that sense, this paper will focus on how such linkages can be developed as there are several reasons to consider such an endeavour as one of the most efficient, especially in consolidating and developing teaching and learning in higher education. Specifically, the paper will present a set of strategies for enhancing the teaching – research linkage in higher education starting from examined good practices.
The methodology includes literature review, as well as quantitative and qualitative primary research focusing on the experiences of the undergraduate students and the academia teaching staff. We draw data on 544 questionnaires filled in by students in their 1st, 2nd and 3rd year of bachelor level, including 6 focus groups with undergraduate students (a total of 54 individuals) and 25 in-depth interviews with members of higher education staff (teachers and university leaders). Fieldwork was conducted in three higher education institutions in Romania: Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Faculty of Sociology and Social Assistance, and Faculty of Administration and Business (University of Bucharest). The questionnaire on student perception of research integration (Student Perception of Research Integration Questionnaire - SPRIQ) was developed and validated in 2015 by researchers Visser-Wijnveen, van der Rijst and van Driel (Visser-Wijnveen, G., van der Rijst, R., & Driel, 2015). For the purpose of the study, the questionnaire was adapted to fit the educational sciences context, since the SPRIQ has been validated for the medicine, sciences, and humanities. It includes 40 items (5-point Likert-scale) distributed on 6 scales: (1) critical reflection on the way research results are produced; (2) research participation as a student; (3) familiarity with current research conducted by staff; (4) fostering interest and motivation for research and propositions to measure (5) students’ beliefs about the value of research for learning and (6) perceived quality of the learning environment. The qualitative data were analyzed using MAXQDA qualitative data analysis software by using the descriptive qualitative data analysis technique. The interview forms and focus groups included topics such as the importance of the research – teaching linkage in their institution, the most common ways of integrating research elements into the teaching process, the most important factors that facilitate the transfer, as well as those which hinder it, the perceived benefits and disadvantages of the linkage, teacher’s and student’s role from the perspective of the research- teaching-learning relationship, or the role of each individual in the process of developing strengthening the relationship.
The initial findings on these discussions suggested that there is a need for an enhanced focus on the research - teaching linkage in order to enact significant change. Drawing from the data analysis, we were able to get a detailed and rich picture of teachers´, university leaders’ and students’ beliefs and practices. Thus, there is a growing need to enhance the communication between all levels, as university leaders, scholars and students should be able to collaborate in order to create effective practice and undertake concrete measures to promote their educational offer. In this context, inter- and intra-institutional cooperation can be considered key to developing integrative impactful strategies in this context. Particularly, in order to provide a comprehensive perspective on this matter, three types of strategies were identified at course/teacher level, department level and institution level, each with its own specific measures. The findings from this study are directed primarily to university leaders and scholars and will be used to inform discussions of the nature of the research-teaching linkage and to promote meaningful and coherent strategies for enabling higher education institutions in strengthening the relationship.
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