An Evaluation of the Teaching/Research Nexus at Ulster: A Cross-Faculty Study


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An Evaluation of the Teaching/Research Nexus at Ulster: A Cross-Faculty Study

  1. 1. An Evaluation of theTeaching/Research Nexus at Ulster: A Cross-Faculty Study Presenting: Dr Sharon Ponsonby-McCabe and Dr Gillian Armstrong
  2. 2. Teaching vs. Research...
  3. 3. Rationale• Institutional Audit Team “found evidence that the University values and is exploring facets of the connection between teaching and research or scholarship”. But... “saw little systematic demonstration of the connection…and would encourage the University to make this a more explicit facet of its course design monitoring, evaluation and review processes” (QAA, 2010, p. 21)
  4. 4. Assumption• Teaching and Research links have a positive impact on: – Module content – Course content – Student learning experience
  5. 5. The HE Context• The ideology of a positive link (nexus) underpins the need for HE strategies to cultivate and maintain strong integration between these activities.• Suggested Benefits (HEFCE, 2000): – Direct knowledge-led benefits to student learning (accrue when curricula are informed by cutting-edge knowledge), – Direct culture-led benefits to student learning (accrue where students are exposed to research culture comprising scholarly rigour); and, – Indirect resource-based benefits (potential to attract high- calibre research staff to teach).
  6. 6. Ulster’s Alignment with IdeologyMission… • Teaching and Learning Strategy- “to provide courses and programmes which are scholarship-informed, and, where appropriate, research-informed, and taught and supervised by those engaged in research and/or scholarship”. • Guiding Principles: “that value is attached, and encouragement given, to scholarship in teaching, and the scholarship of teaching with staff integrating their own research and professional practice into all aspects of curriculum delivery, leading to research- informed teaching and evidence-based effective pedagogic practice”.
  7. 7. Study Aim• To get a sense of the nature of the teaching/research nexus at Ulster by undertaking a cross-faculty scoping study (Ulster Business School; Art, Design and the Built Environment).
  8. 8. Research Objectives• To understand perceptions of the: • influences on curriculum design; • links between ‘teaching’ and ‘research’; • links between teaching and research in practice; • benefits of the nexus to students; • factors which cultivate and enhance the nexus.
  9. 9. Methodology• 3-stage process: 1. In-depth literature review examining nature of teaching/research nexus and how it is studied; 2. Develop and pilot research instrument; and, 3. Conduct empirical study/scoping exercise.
  10. 10. Issues and Considerations Along the Way...• Sheer breadth of material on topic not anticipated: – Theoretical insights have helped ‘frame’ discussions on how to approach next stage- primary data collection• Research ethics issues to be addressed: – Respondent selection – Reporting findings (internally/externally)• Results to inform strategic thinking: • Expansion to larger study- funding/practical implications• Researcher reflexivity: – Commenced project with positive assumptions about the nexus
  11. 11. Stage 1: Literature Review• Key terminology• Existing models• Empirical approaches used in international studies
  12. 12. Key Findings - Stage 1• Positive relationships supported (Newby, 1999; Zaman, 2004); and, contested (Ramsden & Moses, 1992; Hattie & Marsh, 1996).• Most projects study how research can impact teaching, rather than how teaching can impact research (Halliwell, 2008).
  13. 13. Empirical Approaches• Most projects are Qualitative, Interpretive, Attitudinal Studies - examining perceptions, attitudes, conceptions, preferences, values, outlooks of different actors including academics (Smeby, 1998), senior academic administrators (Neumann, 1992) and students (Zamorski, 2002; Healey et al., 2010).• Use case studies, interviews, focus groups, reviews of institutional policies
  14. 14. Two Kinds of Positive Views of T/R Relationship (Ramsden and Moses, 1992)• Strong integrationist view – good University teacher must be active in research• Integrationist view - positive interconnections at level of department or institution but not necessarily at level of individual
  15. 15. Key Contextual Variables• Cultural, ideological, epistemological factors influence actual and perceived interaction between research and teaching (Brew and Boud, 1995; Hoddinot and Wuetherick, 2005, 2006).• Government policy influences decision- making in Universities (Halliwell, 2008).
  16. 16. Links?• Contested nature of the links between teaching and research reflect differences in: – how terms are conceptualised; – environmental/discipline-based cultures in which teaching/research occur; – views of academic tribes (Becher & Trowler, 2001) or communities of practice (Wenger, 1998). (Healey, 2005)
  17. 17. Links?• “The twentieth century saw the University change from a site in which teaching and research stood in a reasonably comfortable relationship with each other to one in which they became mutually antagonistic” (Barnett, 2003, p. 157).
  18. 18. Links?• “The relationship between research and teaching has been the focus of much scholarly debate. Recently, the very existence of such a relationship has been questioned. In addition, government policies are undermining this defining feature of the modern university, creating an ontological crisis for those working in the academy. In order to understand better how academics conceptualise the research/teaching relation and how this in turn shapes their pedagogies, we need a research approach that addresses individual academic experience as a coherent whole, as well as taking account of variation in experience across a cohort” (Robertson, 2007, p. 541).
  20. 20. Key Conclusions - Stage 1• HE stakeholders continue to subscribe to notion that teaching and research are/should be positively related;• Research undertaken in this area must reveal what the researchers and participants understand by the key concepts (e.g. research, teaching, knowledge); and,• Meaningful interpretation of attitudinal findings requires an ideological contextualisation of staff perceptions in terms of departmental and institutional variables.
  21. 21. Interviews with Academic Staff• “In order to understand better how academics conceptualise the research/teaching relation and how this in turn shapes their pedagogies, we need a research approach that addresses individual academic experience as a coherent whole, as well as taking account of variation in experience across a cohort” (Robertson, 2007, p. 541).• Academic staff from Accounting, Marketing and the Built Environment using a semi-structured questionnaire.
  22. 22. The interviews seek to establish:• Key influences on curriculum design within the disciplines;• Staff members’ interpretation of the term ‘research’;• Key influence of research on curriculum design;• How research informs teaching and vice versa;• How the integration of research and teaching benefits students;• Factors which might be influential in strengthening the links between research and teaching; and,• How the teaching/research relationship might be positioned on Healey’s nexus model.
  23. 23. Participants• Volunteers will be sought from each of the following categories across the three disciplines:Lecturers (2 from each of the 3 disciplines) = 6Senior Lecturer (1 from each discipline) =3Reader/Professor (1 from each discipline) = 3_______________________________________TOTAL 12
  24. 24. Stage 2: Instrument Development and Pilot• Semi-structured interview questionnaire designed (adapted from Krause et al. 2008; Lucas et al. 2008)• Two in-depth interviews conducted as pilot in early May 2011• Interview questionnaire refined• Ethical approval gained
  25. 25. Stage 3: Empirical Research• Conduct scoping interviews in late May and during June 2011• ‘Content analyse’ data• Produce findings and highlight implications for subject areas by end August 2011.
  26. 26. Concluding Discussion• On review of the Healey model, where would you position your teaching (plot by module)?• What factors might strengthen the links?• What are the constraints on the enhancement of the links: – in your discipline? – for you personally?