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Strategies for developing an active research curriculum. Mick Healey University of Gloucestershire, UK .

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Strategies for developing an active research curriculum

Mick Healey

University of Gloucestershire, UK

We need to encourage universities and colleges to explore new models of curriculum. …They should all: …Incorporate research-based study for undergraduates(Ramsden, 2008, 10-11, emphasis added)

our argument a research active curriculum
Our argument: a ‘research active curriculum’

All undergraduate students in all higher education institutions should experience learning through, and about, research and inquiry.

We argue, as does much recent US experience, that such curricular experience should and can be mainstreamed for all or many students through a research-active curriculum. We argue that this can be achieved through structured interventions at course team, departmental, institutional and national levels.

Professor of Geography

Director Centre for Active Learning, University of Gloucestershire

Higher Education Consultant and Researcher

Director HE Academy project on Undergraduate research

Ex-VP for Europe International Society for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

National Teaching Fellow and Senior Fellow HE Academy

Advisor to Canadian Federal Government ‘Roundtable on Research, Teaching and Learning in post-Secondary Education’ (2006)

Advisor to National Academy for Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (Ireland) (2007-11)

Advisor to Australian Learning and Teaching Council Project on the teaching-research nexus(2006-08)

Advisor to League of European Research Universities on research-based teaching (2009)

Honorary Professor University of Queensland; Visiting Professor Edinburgh Napier and University of Wales at Newport

Research interests: scholarship of teaching; linking research and teaching; active learning; developing an inclusive curriculum for disabled students

Brief Biography

session structure
Session structure
  • International perspectives on undergraduate research and inquiry
  • Integrating research and inquiry into first year courses
  • Discipline-based case studies
  • Department-based strategies
  • Institutional strategies
  • Action planning for developing a research active curriculum
linking research and teaching
Linking research and teaching

‘The research universities have often failed, and continue to fail their undergraduate populations and thousands of students graduate without seeing the world-famous professors or tasting genuine research’

(Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, 1998, p.3).

linking research and teaching6
Linking research and teaching

“For the students who are the professionals of the future, developing the ability to investigate problems, make judgments on the basis of sound evidence, take decisions on a rational basis, and understand what they are doing and why is vital. Research and inquiry is not just for those who choose to pursue an academic career. It is central to professional life in the twenty-first century.”

Brew (2007, 7)

linking research and teaching7
Linking research and teaching

“Developing the Student as Scholar Model requires a fundamental shift in how we structure and imagine the whole undergraduate experience. It requires, as a minimum, the adoption of the Learning Paradigm in everything from the first introductory course through the final capstone experience. It requires a culture of inquiry-based learning infused throughout the entire liberal arts curriculum that starts with the very first day of college and is reinforced in every classroom and program.”

(Hodge et al. 2007, 1)


The developmental journey of the student

Source: Hodge et al. (2007, 3)

See Table 6 p6 for application of Baxter Magolda’s ideas to Miami, Ohio


Undergraduate research and inquiry:


I would like you to position yourselves on a line according to the extent to which you agree or disagree with the following statement

Talk to the persons next to you about why you have positioned yourself where you have and as a consequence you may need to ‘move’

undergraduate research and inquiry line up
Undergraduate research and inquiry: line-up

‘Undergraduate research is for ALL undergraduates’

Strongly ------------------------------ Strongly

Agree Disagree

undergraduate research and inquiry line up11
Undergraduate research and inquiry: line-up

“It would be easy to ‘mainstream’ undergraduate research and inquiry for all students in my department / at Georgetown University”

Strongly ------------------------------ Strongly

Agree Disagree


Different ways of linking teaching and research

  • Learning about others’ research
  • Learning to do research – research methods
  • Learning in research mode – enquiry based
  • Pedagogic research – enquiring and reflecting on learning
mainstreaming undergraduate research and inquiry in year one case studies 1 1 1 6
Mainstreaming undergraduate research and inquiry in year one case studies (1.1-1.6)

In pairs, each skim read at least ONE different year one case study1.1-1.6 (pp 7-9)

Discuss whether and how any of the ideas may be amended for application in your course team or departmental contexts

5 minutes





Undertaking research and inquiry

Engaging in research discussions



Learning about current research in the discipline

Developing research and inquiry skills and techniques




Curriculum design and the research-teaching nexus

(based on Healey, 2005, 70)

mainstreaming undergraduate research and inquiry through the disciplines
Mainstreaming undergraduate research and inquiry through the disciplines

In pairs, each skim read at least ONE strategy for engaging students with research in disciplines(2.1 -2.4 pp 9-14)

Discuss whether and how any of the ideas may be amended for application in your course team or departmental contexts

6 minutes














Inquiry-based learning: a conceptual framework

(Based on Levy, 2009)


Different views on undergraduate research and inquiry

“An inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline”

Centre for Undergraduate Research

"Undergraduate research is original work conducted by undergraduate students working in collaboration with a faculty mentor”

University of Central Florida

“Discovery Learning”

University of Alberta


Different views on undergraduate research and inquiry

  • Our working definition includes Boyer’s (1990) scholarships of discovery, integration and application (engagement) and is characterised by breadth:
    • “undergraduate research describes student engagement from induction to graduation, individually and in groups, in research and inquiry into disciplinary, professional and community-based problems and issues, including involvement in knowledge exchange activities”
    • Childs et al., 2007

Dimensions of undergraduate research and inquiry

Student, process centred Outcome, product centred

Student initiated Faculty initiated

All students Honors students

Curriculum based Co-curricular fellowships

Collaborative Individual

Original to the student Original to the discipline

Multi-or interdisciplinary Discipline based

Campus/community audience Professional audience

Starting year one Capstone/final year

Pervades the curriculum Focussed

(Source: Adapted from Beckham and Hensel, 2007)

course team and department strategies
Course team and department strategies

Review understanding and practice of undergraduate research and inquiry

Develop a set of related curricula interventions starting in year one

Offer undergraduate research and inquiry as a pervasive and early element of the curriculum

Give students experience of undertaking research and inquiry with different levels of independence

Link undergraduate research and inquiry to student employability

Ensure assessment practices and policies support students as researchers

Include all and be selective


Departmental perspectives

In a different pair this time each skim read at least ONE of the case studies (pp14-17)

Discuss whether and how any of the ideas may be amended for application in your course team or departmental contexts

5 minutes


Mainstreaming undergraduate research and inquiry: discipline and department strategies

“Once you have learnt how to ask questions – relevant and appropriate and substantial questions – you have learnt how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or need to know.”

Postman and Weingartner (1971, 23)


The developmental journey of the student

University curricula need to support student and citizen development from

“absolute knowing [where] students view knowledge as certain; their role is to obtain it from authorities … (to) contextual knowing [where] students believe that knowledge is constructed in a context based on judgement of evidence; their role is to exchange and compare perspectives, think through problems, and integrate and apply knowledge” (Baxter Magolda, 1992, 75).


The developmental journey of the student

Source: Hodge et al. (2008)

institutional strategies
Institutional strategies

This time get together with another pair and between you explore ONE group of strategies A-D (Table 6.1 pp15-26)

Come up with a recommendation for ONE strategy which you think should be developed at Georgetown

8 minutes


Issues in designing courses to engage students in research and inquiry

  • How much do your u/g students know about the research which goes on in your department?
  • What opportunities are there for students to present / publish / celebrate their research?
  • Is research-based learning primarily for honours and graduate students?
  • Is research-based learning for all students or a highly selected group?

Students’ perceptions of research

  • A comparison of over 500 final year students’ perceptions of research in three universities CanRI; UKRI; and UKLRI(Table 5):
  • Students agreed that being involved in research activities is beneficial
  • Students do not perceive the development of their research skills
  • Communication is one of the issues that we need to address – language used can exclude

Students’ perceptions of research:

  • About three-quarters of the items followed our hypothesis (particularly about the awareness of research)
  • Those where the hypothesis did not hold up were mainly in the experiences with doing research, where there were no significant differences
  • Regardless of institution, there is the perception amongst students that learning in an inquiry or research-based mode is beneficial

Designing courses for engaging student in research and inquiry

In groups of four identify ONE way in which you might design student research and inquiry into one of your courses

One of you may like to suggest an idea and the others can act as critical friends

8 mins


Mainstreaming undergraduate research and inquiry: conclusions

  • Getting students to learn through doing research is a powerful way to re-link teaching and research
  • Key institutional challenges include introducing inquiry / research in year one; balancing opportunities for all and for selected students
  • Adopting a broader definition of undergraduate research than is currently common is a way forward (Boyer et al.), which should benefit the learning of students in institutions with a range of different missions
  • For some people though this may dilute what is research
  • Institutional and national researchpolicies could more effectively support undergraduate research and inquiry

Developing a Mission and Purpose for a Centre for Undergraduate Research

  • “Undergraduate research, as an activity, has been going on at colleges and universities across the country for decades. It’s most common form, probably, has been the senior honors thesis — a capstone experience for the best students. Today, educators see the value in broadening the opportunity for undergraduate research:
    • making it available to students earlier in their undergraduate careers
    • integrating research-like experiences into courses
    • supporting struggling students by giving them the chance to apply the more abstract concepts in their fields to hands-on activities.”(Stocks, 2008)

Models of undergraduate research

Engineering and Sciences Humanities and Arts

Centralized Departmental

School year Summer

Capstone Formative

Stipends Academic Credit

Individual Group

Program elements: Grants, travel awards, symposia, peer mentoring, research seminars, undergraduate research journals,

Curriculum led initiatives e.g. inquiry led courses, client-based

(Source: Adapted from Stocks 2008)