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Embedding links between teaching and research at a research intensive UK university


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Society for Experimental Biology Annual Main Meeting, Gothenburg, July 2017 #SEBAMM

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Embedding links between teaching and research at a research intensive UK university

  1. 1. Embedding Links between Teaching and Research at a Research Intensive UK University Dr Sara Marsham @sara_marine
  2. 2. Introduction Defining research-led and research-informed teaching • Are they the same? From Healey (2005), after Griffiths (2004) Research-informed Curriculum emphasises learning focused on students writing and discussing papers or essays Research-based Curriculum emphasises students undertaking inquiry-based learning or low key research Research-led Curriculum is structured around teaching subject content Research-oriented Curriculum emphasises teaching processes of knowledge construction in the subject STUDENT-FOCUSED STUDENTS AS PARTICIPANTS EMPHASIS ON RESEARCH CONTENT EMPHASIS ON RESEARCH PROCESSES AND PROBLEMS TEACHER-FOCUSED STUDENTS AS AUDIENCE
  3. 3. NSS QB5.4: My learning has benefited from modules that are informed by current research • Identified schools scoring above institutional score • Met with DELTs/HoS to determine activities Year Institution(s) % Agree 2011/12 Newcastle University 84 2011/12 All HEIs 81 2011/12 Top Quartile of sector 81 2011/12 All Institutions in England 81 2012/13 Newcastle University 81 2012/13 All HEIs 82 2012/13 Top Quartile of sector 81 2012/13 All Institutions in England 82 2013/14 Newcastle University 86 2013/14 All HEIs 82 2013/14 Top Quartile of sector 81 2013/14 All Institutions in England 82 2014/15 Newcastle University 86 2014/15 All HEIs 82 2014/15 Top Quartile of sector 81 2014/15 All Institutions in England 83 • How do schools/faculties define these links? • What do schools do to create links? • Does linking research and teaching add value? • How do we translate impact of our research? With thanks to: Debbie Bevitt, Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon, Zan Gunn, David Kennedy, Charlotte Patterson, Patrick Rosenkranz, John Sayer, Liz Stockdale, Tim Townshend, Tony Young Data Collection from Schools
  4. 4. School Approaches Strong focus on links between teaching and research at Open Days Programmes driven by research excellence from the bottom up, rather than research feeding into the teaching from the top down Academics embed own research into generic slides and textbook material - use their own research stories Optional research-informed modules at later stages Final year students attend national research-led conference School conference led by Level 6 students Research lectures / series / symposia aimed at students Student research projects
  5. 5. • Recruited a Student Intern to support research • Six focus groups (two per Faculty) • Online survey • How do our students perceive these links? • Does linking research and teaching add value? • Are we translating impact of our research? • Does it influence the students we recruit? • Do students recognise our research reputation? • Do we create an environment for students to see/be involved in research? With thanks to: Charlotte Huggins, Suzanne Cholerton, Richard Harrison, Claire Irving, Sue Gill, and all participating students Data Collection from Students
  6. 6. Overall Survey Responses • Received 383 student responses to the online survey • Responses were largely positive • Nearly 50% of students felt staff valued research and teaching equally (Fig. 1) • Almost 70% agreed that staff balanced the demands of research and teaching well (Fig. 2) 8% 19% 49% 19% 5% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% Research much more than teaching Research slightly more than teaching Reseach & teaching equally Teaching slightly more than research Teaching much more than research 9% 25% 67% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% Strongly Disagree/Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Strongly Agree/Agree Figure 1: Student responses to the statement “Staff in my department generally value…” Figure 2: Student responses to the statement "University staff generally balance research and teaching demands well"
  7. 7. 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% Strongly Disagree/Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Strongly Agree/Agree 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% Strongly Disagree/Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Strongly Agree/Agree 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40% 45% 50% Strongly Disagree/Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Strongly Agree/Agree Figure 3: Student responses to the statement “Research in my department informs the teaching on my course” Figure 4: Student responses to the statement “Research in my department has a positive impact on teaching quality” Figure 5: Student responses to the statement “Research in my department influenced my decision to come to Newcastle University"
  8. 8. Key Themes • Six focus groups conducted (two per Faculty) • Attendance was positive with 49 students across the six sessions Seven themes identified • Research-teacher gap • Disparities between the priorities of research and teaching among staff, • Disparity of skills between lecturers who were more invested in research • “More as you go” • Research became more central to learning and teaching as students progressed through UG studies, and particularly when moving onto PG “…many lecturers do not appear to be passionate or interested in the teaching of students - but simply do so as a requirement to be able to conduct their own research” “I have felt that lecturers / seminar leaders have under prepared for my contact hours because of their own research” “Can be difficult to arrange time to meet teaching staff with strong research commitments” “You can usually tell which lecturers have lots of lecturing experience from the researchers who leave the lab to do 1 or 2 lectures a year. It's not that they're not good or interesting, but sometimes they're delivery isn't as good as the regular lecturers”
  9. 9. • Benefits of researcher-teachers • Students largely value being taught by researchers • Perception of research-knowledge links • Some students did not seem to understand that research was the way knowledge is constructed • See research studies and course content, such as material in text books, as disparate “I don't always feel it [research] benefits the individual student. Rather more cynically it merely seems to benefit the University reputation” “There is difficulty in maintaining a student's concentration when a lecturer mentions their own research as the information is not necessarily required for examinations, however if the research directly impacts the content of the module, more attention would be paid to it” “Research is of paramount importance. As students we spend vast sums of money on our education and as such we want to be assured that we are learning from world leaders” “Its great to know that your lecturers are actively taking part in research of their own. It increases your confidence in the content they are teaching in the lectures” Benefit Enthusiasm Clarity Staff as resources Authority Cutting edge Key Themes
  10. 10. • Diversity of staff experience • Important that there is diversity among the staff of their research interests and experiences • Lecturer as an individual • Teaching skills and the ability to balance teaching and research demands depended on the individual lecturer - related to personality • Student motivation • Key to their understanding of teaching-research links and their engagement in research “I feel some lecturers don't talk about their own research enough which is sad because all students are curious about what research projects your lecturer has contributed to or is working on at the moment” “I would suggest occasional tours of labs and other research facilities to not only tell but show students what research is currently being conducted and explain how they may help or provide them with inspiration for the future” “I feel that opportunities for undergraduate students to partake in research is not readily available” “There are some exceptional lecturers who manage to teach us extremely well and are very dedicated, although it is clear that they do struggle under some of the requirements… I think it is important that lecturers should have the time and resources to both carry out research and teach effectively, rather than being forced to prioritise one over the other” Key Themes
  11. 11. • Similar approaches to both embedding research activities into programme delivery and communicating these to students • Supplemented by individual approaches • Academic staff recognise the importance of informing our students of our research - committed to delivering research-led/research-based teaching • Positive reaction to linking teaching and research • Students value being taught by active researchers • Students recognised tensions between the two activities, but reflected that on the whole individual academics dealt with these well when delivering programmes • Students did not necessarily base their decision to come to Newcastle on our research activities, but once they were studying here, many felt they would have benefited from being more involved in research and having more opportunities to understand what research was occurring within their schools Conclusions
  12. 12. Thank you Any questions? Dr Sara Marsham @sara_marine