Research Informed Teaching

Introduction

These pages are designed to assist staff and students who are actively, or wish to become actively engaged in Research informed Teaching (RiT). The philosophical and pedagogic issues associated with RiT are expanded upon in the RiT background section. For the moment it is suffice to say that Staffordshire University has a mission to "...recognise the importance of the reciprocal relationship between teaching and research in enhancing the students’ learning experience.  In the University Research and Enterprise Strategy, for example, it is stated that applied research activity will underpin the student experience through its support of learning and teaching, and many staff already make good use of their research in the teaching context."

The Executive Business Unit has created a (temporary) part-time post of Research Informed Teaching Projects Officer, currently held by Tim Harris, who is also senior lecturer in the Department of Geography. The role of the officer, through these pages, is to promote RiT in the University. Thus within these pages you will find links to past and current RiT projects and links to the forthcoming Staffordshire University Undergraduate Research Conference, the British Conference on Undergraduate Research and the Conference on Undergraduate research in the USA. 

University Mission

Whilst we are not a research-led University, we have a strong commitment to academic excellence and this must include a commitment to learning styles that involves students in research. The nature of the nexus between teaching and research is contested (see RiT background section) but we seek to promote, in particular, undergraduate engagement with research across the University. It should be noted at this point that the emphasis of RiT is at undergraduate level, since research is either the essence or a mainstay of post-graduate study.

In large areas of undergraduate study, research-based learning is already an important component of honours degree awards: for most academic subjects the individual level 6 report (dissertation) is the sine qua non of the honours degree.  Yet very often, (too often?) a third year project is submitted approximately a month prior to the final exams, and from there the project becomes a dust collector on an obscure shelf, occasionally consulted by an undergraduate in search of an idea. One of the major aims of the RiT project in the University is to raise the profile of undergraduate research at all levels. Within some faculties a great deal is done to celebrate undergraduate research. The Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Technology hosts an annual 'GradEx' exhibition of graduating students work, (over 300 undergraduate exhibitors in 2011), whilst Arts, Media and Design celebrated the work of 300 of its undergraduate (from all levels) and postgraduate students in their annual show.

In March 2012 the university will host its first Undergraduate Research Conference . The idea for the conference was inspired by the British Conference on Undergraduate Research that was hosted by UCLAN in Preston during April 2011. The conference was an enormous success and is likely to grow in stature following the 2012 event planned for Warwick University next April (2012).

The ultimate aim of the RiT project at Staffordshire University is to see undergraduate research forming an important part of all curricula, and to see that work celebrated at all levels, from departmental displays and seminars through to the University-wide research conference. Research is something all scholars do ( you wouldn't expect a lecture to be given that hadn't been researched?) and is something all students do. It is also something that staff and students can engage in together, to their mutual benefit, and is the major driver of the funded RiT projects recently approved by the EBU.

The Pedagogy of RiT

The Case for Research informed Teaching

The framework developed by Griffiths (2004) and added to by Healey (2005) is a useful way of envisaging current courses and institutional policies and practices and in adapting innovations from elsewhere.  Their combined views state that teaching can be:

  • Research-led: where students learn about research findings, the curriculum content is dominated by faculty research interests, and information transmission is the main teaching mode;

  • Research-oriented: where students learn about research processes, the curriculum emphasises as much the processes by which knowledge is produced as learning knowledge that has been achieved, and faculty try to engender a research ethos through their teaching; or

  • Research-based: where students learn as researchers, the curriculum is largely designed around inquiry-based activities, and the division of roles between teacher and student is minimised.

  • Research tutored where students learn in small group discussions with a teacher about research findings.

Healey (2005, 70) has expressed these differences diagrammatically using two axes (Fig 1).  The vertical axis classifies approaches to linking teaching and research according to the extent to which they are teacher-focused and students are treated as the audience or student-focused and treat students as participants, while the second, horizontal, axis classifies the approach as emphasising research content or research processes and problems. A variant on this matrix has been proposed by Levy and Petrulis (2007, 3).  They also have a staff-led and student-led axis and another axis distinguishing between information-led and discovery-led inquiry in which the former is based on existing knowledge and the latter on new knowledge (Fig 2).

Curriculum design diagram

HTML version of Figure 1

RIT conceptions diagramHTML version of Figure 2

At Staffordshire University we have interpreted Research informed Teaching as:

  • Understanding how to link teaching and research/consultancy.  Research informed teaching projects aim to highlight innovative ways of demonstrating and promoting the research-teaching link.  Research informed teaching activity can include:

  • Developing student appreciation of research/consultancy in the discipline and research/consultancy skills in addition to other disciplinary and generic skills.

  • Using teaching and learning based processes which simulate research processes

  • Using assignments which involve elements of research processes

  • Giving students first hand experience of research based consultancy

  • Bringing data/findings from staff research/consultancy into the curriculum

Given this interpretation of Research informed Teaching, the continuing developments in technology supported learning and e-pedagogy (identified in our elearning policy) and the importance of information literacy (recognised in our statement of good practice) it is our view that there is an opportunity for triangulation and synergy between these approaches.

Triangle comprising Research Informed Teaching, Information Literacy and Technology Supported Learning

In our view inquiry-based approaches which underpin Research informed Teaching can be scaffolded using the information literacy process.  Often technology supported learning is a useful means for facilitating this endeavour and several of our projects have explored this synergy.

For further information on past projects, please see the previous projects page.

 

For further information on current projects, please see the current projects page.


  •  

Contact

Research Informed Teaching
D112,
Thompson Library,
Cadman Building,
College Road,
Stoke-on-Trent
ST4 2XS
t: +44 (0) 1782 294448
e: research_informed_teaching@staffs.ac.uk