Gibbs, G. (2014). It is difficult to demonstrate that students benefit from their teachers also being researchers, Idea Number 16, 53 Powerful Ideas All Teachers Should Know About: Staff and Educational Development Association.
Gibbs, G. (2014). Research can help student learning, Idea Number 17, 53 Powerful Ideas All Teachers Should Know About: Staff and Educational Development Association.
Benefits of research and enquiry
How can students benefit?
Research is central to contemporary society. The complexity and uncertainty that characterise daily life in the twenty-first century demands that citizens are able to judge evidence, make critical judgements and present ideas clearly and unambiguously in discussions. The ability to carry out research is thus a key characteristic of any citizen. It is absolutely essential for effective professional engagement. So learning research skills at university is vital (Brew, 2015).
We assume that discipline-based research is valuable to our students - but how? There is much evidence that questions a close relationship between research and teaching in undergraduate curricula. There is certainly potential, but it needs careful planning and to be progressively built into the curriculum. If we do this there are many potential benefits, depending on the activities that students are engaged in. Some examples of potential benefits include:
- Improves student outcomes
- Improves student engagement
- Helps students see their studies as current, stimulating and exciting
- Enables students to answer the questions that they want to ask
- Makes students feel included within an academic community
- Inducts students into research communities
- Promotes students' independence and confidence
- Provides students with experience of collegiate working
- Develops students' transferable skills of finding, creating, synthesising and presenting information
- Provides experience of problem solving
- Develops students' skills of critical analysis and ability to make judgements and come to conclusions
- Enables students to develop their reflexivity as they think about what they are learning and how
- Helps students to recognise rapid changes in knowledge
- Introduces students to appropriate or dominant research methodologies in their subject
- Models the ways in which new knowledge is generated in their subject
- Promotes students' intellectual development through, for example, enabling exploration of epistemological issues as students not only learn how knowledge is created but the nature of knowledge in their discipline (e.g. whether knowledge is certain, or tentative and interpretive)
How can staff benefit?
As well as the benefits for students there are also benefits for academic staff of engaging our students in research and enquiry in our curricula:
- It is a way of bridging the divide between teaching and research within Universities
- It can help us with our research as students can collect or analyse data
- The process of teaching about research with which we are engaged can help us to refine our thinking or conceptual ideas and to evaluate our methodologies
- We gain new perspectives on our research from our students or the process of teaching our students
- Teaching about research and enquiry can generate ideas and issues that are followed up in our research.
Brew. A (Ed) (2015) Learning to Research, Researching to Learn. Libri Publishing, Oxfordshire, P.vii.