Linking Teaching and Research in the Disciplines

The Higher Education Academy: SNAS Strand 3 Project:
Linking Teaching and Disciplinary Research:
Case Studies of Effective Practice in the Disciplines
“Universities need to set as a mission goal the improvement of the nexus between research and
teaching. The aim is to increase the circumstances in which teaching and research have occasion to
meet.” Hattie and Marsh (1996, 533)
“In constructing links between research and teaching the discipline is an important mediator” Healey
(2005, 67)
The Higher Education Academy Supporting New Academic Staff (SNAS) project, directed by Mick Healey
( and Alan Jenkins ( sought case studies from disciplines
covered by 15 Subject Centres
Linking Teaching with Disciplinary Research
Case studies for Courses and Course teams
While our understanding of how to link teaching and research/consultancy is still developing, we think this
‘classification’ will help you describe your practice to others:
1. Developing student appreciation of research/consultancy in the discipline.
2. Development of student research/consultancy skills (explicitly, in addition to other disciplinary and
generic skills).
3. Using teaching and learning processes, which simulate research, processes (e.g. project-based
modules, dissertation modules, inquiry-based learning etc).
4. Using assignments which involve elements of research processes (e.g. literature reviews, bidding for
grants, drafting bids or project outlines, analysing existing project data, presenting at a ‘conference’).
5. Giving students first hand experience of research based consultancy (whether commercial or pro-bono)
(e.g. as an ‘intern’, as work-based learning, as a consultant assistant, or as a laboratory assistant).
6. Bringing data/findings from staff research/consultancy into the curriculum.
1. Title of case study:
The use of a learner-centred teaching approach to promote research methods skills in Politics
2. Contact details
Name and address:
Cristina Leston-Bandeira
Tel: 01482 466618
Fax: 01482 466208
3. Classification Category: (Please choose one or more of the classifications above which best reflects your
example – e.g. develop student appreciation)
2., 3. and 4.
4. Context:
 Course/unit/module title:
Paths of Research in Politics
 Course title:
All Politics single-honours students (includes from British Politics to International Politics)
 Level:
Level 5 (Year 2)
5. What does the teacher do?
This is a level 5 undergraduate research methods module catering for 80 plus students every year. The main
principle followed is that this module acts as a means to develop the students’ interests in other
disciplines/modules, rather than an end in itself. That is, students are not expected to become experts in the
use of research methods, but rather to be able to employ them to develop their own subject interest. This
principle lends itself very well to learner-centred teaching activities, as these allow for the development of
each student’s own interests through the path that they choose to follow. The module deals with a wide
range of subject interests and abilities. The use of blended teaching has been key to the successful
development of these teaching activities, in particular in terms of meeting the needs of a wide range of
This is a long-thin module (that is in which the credits are taught over two semesters rather than one), where
students have to develop individual research projects. Students define their own research question, write a
Research Proposal (which is assessed, 20% of the overall mark) and a final Research Report (80% of
overall mark). This development is supported by the following teaching structure: five consecutive weeks of
one hour lectures, followed by five consecutive weeks each with a 15mn workshop in Semester 1; the same
pattern is then repeated in Semester 2. The face-to-face teaching is supported throughout both semesters by
the use of a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).
The lectures provide the tools needed to develop a wide variety of research styles, from qualitative text analysis
to the application of questionnaires. Each lecture is made as specific to each student as possible. This is
done thanks to small tasks that students have to prepare prior to each lecture, which are then used within
the lecture for small exercises. Students find out what to do for each task by logging in the VLE prior to the
lecture. This not only helps making the lectures more meaningful, but also more specific to each student’s
own subject interest. All of the lectures material, and other support handouts, are stored in the VLE and can
be consulted at any stage by the students.
The workshops are 15mn meetings with groups of three students and provide individualised support to the
development of each project. Attendance to the workshops is compulsory and students are required to give
an update on the progress made during that week, and/or put any queries specific to their research project.
Listening to one another’s research development helps to demystify the process of undertaking research,
where common problems and successes are shared. In the workshops, students also browse through
Research Proposals and Reports done in previous years by similar students. This helps to foster an
understanding of what is intended, but it also helps to demystify the complexity commonly associated to
doing research, by showing that previous students in a similar situation to them were able to produce high
quality primary research.
This support is reinforced by the material and advice posted in the VLE, as well as its group discussions. A
section on Frequently Asked Questions in the VLE allows for regular advice on key themes (as well as
questions to be posted). And again, the group discussions in the VLE act as a way of demystifying the act of
carrying out research – by each student becoming more aware of what the other students are doing in their
projects. This is particularly useful when they develop their research question.
Students submit their Research Proposal at the end of Semester 1 (this includes research question, planned
methods and sources, plus a time plan; 1000 words maximum) and develop most of their research in
Semester 2, at the end of which they submit a Research Report (4000 to 4500 words). The Research Report
is mainly an analysis of results, but it also includes a Reflective Statement through which students have to
reflect on their own experience of carrying out research.
The module is able to accommodate a wide variety of students, who feel encouraged to develop research on a
subject area that interests them. Also, through its unique form of assessment (Research Proposal and
Research Report), students have to plan and develop a primary research project. This has proved
particularly useful for when students have to develop a dissertation. Through the use of a learner-centred
approach, students feel ownership of the learning process and become more aware of how they can use
research tools to develop their own subject interests.
This module was developed to provide students with a preparation in research methods. This need emerged not
only in response to the type of skills sought for by employers, but also as a way to better prepare students for
the dissertation process. Prior to this module, the Department did not have any teaching provision on
research methods for undergraduate students. Based on experience in teaching research methods to Postgraduate students, the module was first based on fornight two-hour long seminars, supported by material
posted in the VLE. This proved inadequate to cater for such a diversity of students (in styles of research and
abilities). It was following this experience that the module was adapted so that students have contact time
every week and are provided with key contents through lectures. The tasks have subsequently been
developed to engage students to the material being taught in each lecture and to make the lectures specific
to each student’s research project.
6. Hot tips and things to look out for:
Make sure that the VLE is used as a way of engaging students with the module, by regularly posting information
in there and/or making student slog in regularly for one reason or another. Without this regular engagement,
students tend to drift and disengage from their research projects, starting far too late.
7. Does it work?
The feedback to this module has been extremely positive. This is particularly gratifying as this is a compulsory
module and one which students often do not want to do at first. It has also led to many high quality research
projects and to the development of more sophisticated primary research at the dissertation level.
8. What problems/issues have arisen?
Support to the module is quite time consuming, as all students have an individual topic. The module co-ordinator
is now supported by another tutor who takes half of the workshop groups. Each tutor supports around 40
students. Besides the fact that all projects are different, some students contact their tutor outside the teaching
time. This means that tutors in this module teach, on average, one hour more per week than the time timetabled.
In the weeks of workshops, each tutor has an average of 3.5 hours of teaching per week timetabled for this
module; in reality that takes one hour longer than that, on average. Further support could therefore be given by
way of acknowledging in the timetable extra time to deal with the demands of this module. Alternatively, each
tutor should be supporting 20 students at a maximum.
9. Details of support material/course work/assessment methods
I attach some PowerPoint slides which outline the key components of this module and gives specific examples
of: (1) task to carry out prior to a lecture; (2) discussion to develop Research Questions; (3) list of resources
available to students
Semester 1
Yearly Calendar for Paths of Research in Politics
Teaching Session
Lecture: Introduction to the module – how to study political events?
1 hour
Lecture: The diversity of sources in politics: choosing the right one(s)
1 hour
Lecture: The components of an empirical research: planning it
1 hour
Lecture: When people are the focus of the research
1 hour
Lecture: When text and secondary data are the focus of the research
1 hour
Submission of Research Proposal
No Teaching
Semester 2
Christmas Break and Exams
Lecture: Collecting the data I
1 hour
Lecture: Collecting the data II
1 hour
Lecture: Interpreting the data: making sense out of an empirical research
1 hour
Lecture: Data preparation and data entry (use of SPSS)
1 hour
Lecture: Data analysis (use of SPSS)
1 hour
Easter Break
No Teaching
No Teaching
Submission of Research Report
Notes: In the workshops, the tutor sees students in groups of three for weekly slots of 15 minutes to provide
advice and receive an update on progress of their research projects. Throughout the whole of the academic
year, support is also given through the Virtual Learning Platform.