Research-informed teaching

Research-informed teaching

Research-informed teaching is a term used to describe the different ways in which students are exposed to research content and activity during their time at University. Linking research and teaching benefits students by:

  • providing students with meaningful and deep learning experiences 
  • enhancing the student experience of real-world issues
  • developing critical thinking 
  • improving student confidence 
  • enhancing employability 
  • developing digital and networking skills 
  • highlighting the profile of undergraduate research.

(Elken and Wollscheid 2016; Healey 2007)

For an overview check out the body of work produced by Mick Healey and Alan Jenkins. This literature provides us with some useful models and ideas to start creating research-informed learning experiences for students. For example research-led, research-orientated, research-tutored, research-based teaching and teaching-led research. 

Research-led teaching 

Research-led teaching describes how existing research underpins curriculum content. This might be our own research findings or the research outputs of others. 

Research-orientated teaching

Research is the process of asking questions and applying scientific method to answering them. Graduates of higher education should recognise and apply research methods to solve issues in their disciplinary and professional context. 

Students should therefore learn about the suitability and application of different methodological approaches in their discipline. 

Research-tutored teaching

Students and lecturers engage in critical discussions about research process and outputs. Check out Professor Tansy Jessop’s vodcast on research-tutored teaching

Research-based teaching

Is where students learn about a subject through a process of inquiry using methods of inquiry, analysis and dissemination appropriate to their discipline. This is beneficial for students’ meta-cognitive, disciplinary and professional development. Research projects can be small and low stakes or a capstone project such as a dissertation or exhibition. Check out Professor Tansy Jessop’s vodcast on research-based teaching

Teaching-led research

Teaching-led research happens when the curriculum is designed so that students learn through activities which contribute to departmental research projects, simultaneously learning for themselves and progressing real world projects. Tony Harland writes persuasively about the benefits of this approach. 

Research-informed teaching at the University of Plymouth 

The University is committed to enhancing the student experience of research-informed teaching. This is evident in its Research and Innovation Strategy (2017-2022) that states Plymouth will:

equip our researchers with the skills, opportunities and environment to engage in disciplinary and interdisciplinary research and research-led teaching.

Research-informed teaching is also integral to the Education and Student Experience Strategy (2018-2023). In this Plymouth aims to be:

recognised nationally and internationally for our high-quality, research-led education … by ensuring that…all curricula include Plymouth research-based material, and that students have opportunities to generate knowledge in their programmes. 

Historically Plymouth has a strong legacy in research-informed teaching supported by projects, events and resources

The contact for research informed teaching is Dr Jennie Winter.

Research-informed teaching scheme

Between 2006–2010 HEFCE funded over 40 projects at the University of Plymouth to explore research-teaching links. Projects covered different themes including:

  • collaborative research
  • research skill development
  • course development
  • learning environments
  • teaching materials
  • student publication and dissemination
  • student placements
  • technology-enhanced learning. 

Download research reports from Plymouth's research informed teaching scheme and read the review of the scheme

Linking undergraduate research and community

Developing research partnerships between the University and community is important so that research subjects are authentic, applied and have real value. Looking to community for research ideas that students can contribute to can be a great learning experience. Check out Dilly Fung’s connected curriculum which links employability, globalisation and research-informed teaching for ideas on how to do this. 

Although normally student research takes place within the curriculum, there are extra-curricular research possibilities at Plymouth through student jobs, placements and internships. Plymouth undergraduates regularly undertake authentic research with peers, academics and the wider community

Involving students in the scholarly community 

Exposing students to academic events like research seminars and conferences can be fantastic for their development. If your discipline or institution holds a local conference then promote this to students. The Plymouth annual research festival is a good example. Encourage students emulate academic scholarly activity by holding their own meetings to critique literature or artefacts and encourage them to share useful resources. 

Disseminating student research 

Conferences 

Student participation in conferences is an excellent way to disseminate their work and develop employability skills. Disciplines will often hold student research conferences and there are some national events worth noting. 

The British Conference on Undergraduate Research (BCUR) is an annual event attended by Plymouth undergraduates. The BCUR also hosts the annual ‘Posters in Parliament’ that brings together high-quality undergraduate research from across the country to present at Westminster. The Plymouth link for both these events is Priska Schoenborn

Competitions 

Student research competitions are useful in motivating and celebrating undergraduate research success.

Student journals 

A good example of students contributing to academic activity is through student e-journals. Authors from Oxford Brookes and Plymouth (Walkington, Edward-Jones and Gresty, 2013) provide a useful account of the benefits of student e-journals and BCUR provide guidance for how to set journal up. Plymouth currently hosts three journals. 

  • The Plymouth Student Scientist showcases excellence in undergraduate student research from the University of Plymouth's STEM disciplines. Since its launch in 2008 its papers have had 400,000 views. 
  • The Plymouth Student Educator highlights examples of good undergraduate research practice from courses within the Plymouth Institute of Education.
  • The Plymouth Law & Criminal Justice Review encourages and promotes legal scholarship and writing on a wide range of legal issues. It also provides a forum for disseminating information about current projects in the Law School and includes articles by staff and students. 

The British Conference on Undergraduate Research (BCUR) hosts a repository of student journals some of which are tied to institutions, and others which are open to all students to submit papers. For example, the Journal of Student Research, Transformations and Reinvention. Transformations is an education research journal and Reinvention is dedicated to the publication of high-quality undergraduate student research from all disciplinary areas. 

Useful resources 

Professor Mick Healey's recent publications – Professor Healey has worked extensively linking discipline-based research and teaching and engaging students in research and inquiry. Good for getting an overview of how research-informed teaching has developed in the UK context and reviewing benefits for students, academics, departments and institutions. 

The Council on Undergraduate Research is an American organisation with the mission to support and promote high-quality undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research and scholarship. They host a range of resources including student and scholarly journal material. Good for disciplinary examples for research-informed teaching in practice. 

Advance HE present numerous relevant resources. Particularly useful is their publication What does research-informed teaching look like? Good for institutional examples of research-informed teaching. 

Professor Dilly Fung has developed the ‘Connected Curriculum’. An institution wide initiative at University College London, which links teaching, learning, research, real world application and employability. Students undertake research iteratively throughout their programmes and work on authentic research issues. 

Helen Walkington has produced a concise and comprehensive overview of how to support undergraduate research in the curriculum.