Harriet Dunbar-Goddet

  • A study of the relations between student learning and research-active teachers

    Harriet Dunbar-Goddet, University of Oxford, UK

    Keith Trigwell, University of Oxford, UK

    Session 1a, Monday 15.45

    Research paper

    Themes addressed:

    • Supporting learners
    • Institutional strategies

    This research paper focuses on an investigation of the effects on student learning of contact between students and research-active university teaching staff.

    The debate on the relations between research and teaching, which has policy implications for the nature of universities and the way they are staffed has, to date, been inconclusive. An important set of relations which have yet to be considered in this debate are those between research and learning. This paper will focus on those relations and address the question: is student learning likely to be enhanced by increasing the proportions of research-active staff in universities?

    A pilot study of university students’ experience of interaction with research-active teachers has been conducted quantitatively, as part of a large-scale study of the student learning experience carried out at the University of Oxford in 2001-3 (Trigwell & Ashwin, 2003). The study used previously tested questions on student satisfaction, approaches to learning and perceived benefits of contact with research-active teaching staff (Ramsden, 1991; SCEQ, 2004). The results show that students who feel they benefit most from contact with research-active teaching staff are also the students who adopt more of a deep approach and less of a surface approach to learning, and have a higher quality learning outcomes (Trigwell, 2005). Key questions which follow from these results are whether the same sorts of relations are found in other contexts, including those from less research-intensive universities, and if they are not, what are the policy implications.

    This paper will present the results of a project that follows up on the Oxford study, and uses the same instrument to study the relations between student learning and research in contrasting subject areas (Arts and Sciences) and contrasting institutional environments (pre-1992 universities and post-1992 universities). The discussion will focus on results from ten different contexts and their relation to the two initial hypotheses. Firstly that the proportions of students in different academic contexts who feel they benefit from engagement with research-active staff varies in line with these different contexts, with higher percentages of students being found in research-intensive universities. Secondly, that there is variation within one context, and that the students who place more value on their contact with research-active staff are more likely to be the higher achieving students.