Dr Jo Cahill, Associate Director of Academic Quality Assurance, University of Hertfordshire
A collaborative research project to examine the extent to which research-informed teaching is embedded progressively in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes of study was undertaken in a school comprising a range of professional disciplines. The research was conducted collaboratively with academic staff, students and users and carers of the health service. Programme documentation, module documents, teaching resources and virtual learning environment sites were reviewed using a tool developed and piloted in the School. The tool was modelled on the work of Healey and Jenkins (2009) and locally written principles of good practice in research-informed teaching. Individual interviews with academic staff and a focus group interview with students were undertaken to examine the extent to which the research-informed teaching was embedded in curricula and the context of everyday teaching practice.
Findings of the study revealed that there is much variation in how research-informed teaching is perceived and implemented in everyday academic practice. An optimistic relationship between research and teaching was evident. There was enthusiasm for research-informed teaching from both students and staff. It was linked positively to enhancement in student learning, skill development and career opportunities. Many good examples of research-informed teaching were found; however, evidence suggests that the synergetic link between research and teaching requires further development. Research-informed teaching and specifically the development of research and enquiry skills and the use of active learning experiences were not always embedded progressively in the curricula reviewed. The picture was however complex. Research-informed teaching clearly had a contextually embedded nature. Variation existed between and within academic disciplines and successive levels of study.
Infrastructures within the school were seen as fundamental to the promotion and facilitation of research-informed teaching. Investment in particular infrastructures was viewed to be vital if research-informed teaching is to be seen as a gold standard within programme delivery. Investment in staff awareness, staff development and support was seen as key. Specifically, the creation of a learning space or environment to empower staff and allow for engagement in research and critical discussion with peers about discipline and pedagogic research, academic practice and the challenges faced was deemed to be critically important. The sharing of good practice in research-informed teaching was also found to be imperative. Structured guidance with regards to how research informed teaching can be embedded progressively in curricula and teaching practice and what pedagogical interventions should be employed was reported to be needed. Incentives to reward excellence in research based teaching were deemed essential for staff motivation.
Dr Jo Cahill was the Principal Investigator for the Project. The Research Team comprised Dr Kate Young, Dr Loraine Murray, Sue Murray, Dr Mary Sexton, Rose Parkes and Natalie Visick – a student on the BSc (Hons) Nursing at the University of Hertfordshire.