Michael Prosser

  • The Experience of Research and its relationship to the Experience of Teaching

    Michael Prosser, Paul Ramsden, University of Sydney
    Elaine Martin, Victoria University
    Keith Trigwell, University of Oxford

    Research Seminar

    Theme(s) addressed: Scholarship of Teaching

    This seminar will explore an issue of contemporary importance for university education, making use of empirical evidence to explicate relations between academic research, good teaching, student learning, and the teaching and learning environment.

    At the 2002 ISL conference, we presented a paper outlining our theory that experiences of research and of teaching are linked through university teachers experiences of understanding their subject matter. This theory derived from our earlier investigations of academics experiences of their understanding of their subject matter. These had provided indications that a teachingresearch association may be essentially indirect, with scholarly understanding of subject matter providing the point of connection between the two areas.

    The previous investigations showed that conceptual change/student-focused experiences of university teaching were associated with clear articulation of the important aspects of the subject matter being taught, how they related to each other, and how the teacher situated the subject matter in the field as a whole. However, teachers who were unable to explain their understanding of their subject matter in these ways were more likely to experience their teaching as a process of information transfer from a teacher-centred perspective. Since the characteristics of the first type of understanding of subject matter resemble processes underlying the experiences of active researchers, these findings seemed to justify a more intensive search for evidence of the link between effective university teaching and research. In this seminar we report the first stage of our analysis of the interview data collected in 2002. The interviews were conducted with university researchers who had strong publication and grant success records and who were teaching and researching in similar topic areas. They represented a range of disciplines. In the paper we show how, in the experiences of these academics, good teaching, research, and understanding of the subject matter are related. We seek feedback from our colleagues on (a) on how the analysis may be sharpened to highlight the relationships identified and (b) how we might explore the issue of good teaching in non-research intensive environments compared with research-intensive ones.