Teaching-based research: Models of and experiences with students doing research and inquiry: results from a university-wide initiative in a research-intensive environment

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Overall abstract

The purpose of this symposium is to explore and compare a multitude of different approaches to implementing research based teaching in a specific institutional setting. The four case studies are characterized by including teaching based research, see e.g. Wilcoxon et al., 2011, where students coproduce knowledge together with teachers. Two case studies, (3) and (4), also relate to students engaging in research-like activities, where students are engaged in inquiry, but do not produce new knowledge as such. One project was done across faculties (3), one was done in the humanities faculty, but cut across faculties (1), one was done in the theology faculty (2), and one was done in the science faculty (landscape architecture and biochemistry) (4).

The background of the institutional setting is a research-intensive university with approx. 5,831 academic staff and 40,000 students. Following a 4 year’s strategy with a strong emphasis on research, pressure from scientific staff led to a 2012-2016 strategy with teaching as main focus of enhancement at the University. In a process of application by individual or groups of teachers, 8 thematic projects were initiated of altogether £ 9.7 million. In this symposium we report results from the project entitled ‘Research Based Education’, a four-year project of approx. £ 1 million. The project group consisting of the case study owners was established to share experience, generate synergies, and develop concepts. The group has meat two to three times a year.

The over-arching purpose of the project was to integrate research and teaching in order to qualify the students and their academic skills by organizing lessons in ways which introduces the students to the key research methods and processes of the subject. Several questions have been raised during the project.

How do teachers and students experience the process of co-creation of knowledge? When teachers and students engage in teaching based research, students become co-creators of knowledge. This has raised issues in some of the projects. As has been pointed out by Chang (2005), there may be occasions where students would feel they are just ‘cheap labor’ for the teachers, when they are engaged in actual knowledge production together with the teacher. This was seen with some students, and can be explored from the perspective of distribution of authority as it is in presentation (1), where students and teachers in different disciplines were interviewed about their views of and experiences with research based teaching. It can also be viewed as an issue with ownership, as it is (briefly) in presentation (4), and the challenge also represent itself when students and teachers practice the linking research and teaching in joint supervision (3).

The idea of the Humboldtian university was that students and teachers ‘sat around the same table and explored the world’, so to speak. Can we revive that format in order to cater for the elite and strengthen the research teaching nexus? This is the idea of presentations (2) and (4). In presentation (2), students could apply for participation in a course where students and teachers together explored a research question in church history. In presentation (4), the joint supervision format sometimes worked in this way.

Healey (2005) has proposed a two-dimensional model distinguish between different research-based forms of teaching:
Research-led: Students are mainly an audience, emphasis on research content
• Students learn about current research in the discipline.
Research-oriented: Students are mainly an audience, emphasis on research processes and problems
• Students develop research skills and techniques.
Research-based: Student are active, emphasis on research processes and problems
• Students undertake research and inquiry.
Research-tutored: Student are active, emphasis on research content
• Students engage in research discussions.
Can we use Healey’s model to design an instrument to evaluate research-based teaching? This is explored in presentation (4) where students in a 2nd year biochemistry course and students in their whole first year of the landscape architecture program have answered a 19 items questionnaire pre and post instruction. The responses are analyzed using descriptive statistics to compare pre and post responses and a factor analysis to see if Healey’s model is reflected in the students’ answers.

Wider implications: Through the exploration in the case studies of the questions above, we have gained important insights across disciplines and faculties about how to strengthen the integration of teaching and research in a research-intensive environment. Collaboration in the project group has led to inspiration and new insights across the university, and an anthology will cover the relevant insights and syntheses (expected to be launched in the autumn). A web-portal with case examples have been established to inspire teachers across the university: https://fbu.ku.dk/english/examples/.

All in all, we find that the studies across the four cases have wider implications by offering important different perspectives on vices and virtues of research-based teaching practiced as teaching-based research.

Original languageEnglish
Publication dateJun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017
EventConnecting Higher Education: International perspectives on research-based education - University College London, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Jun 201728 Jan 2018


ConferenceConnecting Higher Education
LocationUniversity College London
CountryUnited Kingdom
Internet address

ID: 187628676