• Improving Student Learning Theory and Practice - 10 Years on

    Title: Relating Teaching and Research through Scholarly Understanding of the Subject Matter

    Author(s): 1. Michael Prosser, 2. Paul Ramsden, 3. Elaine Martin, 4. Keith Trigwell
    Institution(s): 1&2 The University of Sydney, 3.Victoria University, 4.Oxford University
    Session: Conceptual Paper  

    This paper addresses an issue of international concern for teaching and learning in higher education how academic research relates to and informs teaching, student learning and the overall teaching and learning environment. In particular, drawing upon our previous research into the relation between the way academics experience their understanding of their subject matter and their teaching, we conceptualise the relation ship between the experience of teaching and the experience of research from a student learning perspective.

    Conflicting evidence and contrary viewpoints characterise current understanding of relations between teaching and research. Internationally, academics assert that there is a positive relation between teaching and research; students declare their desire to be taught by practising researchers; universities contend that the two aspects of academic practice enrich each other; and quality assurance audits often indicate that research-intensive universities discharge undergraduate teaching functions more effectively (Neumann, 1993; Brew and Boud, 1995; Rowland, 1996; Jenkins, Blackman, Lindsay and Paton-Saltzberg, 1998; Brew, 1999; QAA 2000). In addition, it has been argued that global changes in modes of knowledge production imply an increasing use of inquiry-based, transdisciplinary and client-centred curricula which aim to develop research and problem-solving skills in undergraduates (Gibbons, 1998). These would prima facie tend to tighten connections between university teaching and research functions.

    Previous studies of associations between research and teaching have focused either on direct relations between outcomes, or on faculty and administrator opinions. This research suggests that there is little or no relation between teaching and research performance. Ramsden and Moses (1992) reported small negative correlations between teaching and research activity and outputs in Australian higher education. A key meta-analysis based on 58 (principally North American) studies contributing 498 correlations found an overall correlation of .06 between measures of teaching (such as student evaluations) and measures of research output (such as publications and competitive grants) (Hattie and Marsh, 1996). There is no available evidence that research productivity among academics is predicted by a strong commitment to teaching, either at individual or aggregate level (Ramsden, 1994).

    We propose to explore the connection using a framework from our own research into teaching and learning from a student learning perspective. In a paper presented at the 8th Symposium we outlined the results of some of our research which showed that teachers who adopt more student-centered approaches to teaching were able to articulate a more coherent understanding of their subject matter and how that subject matter fits into the broader field of study. In this paper, drawing upon the result of this previous research, we will argue that the key to the research-teaching connection lies in how active researchers and teachers experience the two activities, and that the association is mediated by the way in which they understand their subject matter.