Robin Clark

  • A Bridge Too Far? Breaching the research/ learning and teaching nexus in a previously research-led university

    Robin Clark and Jane Andrews, Aston University

    Research paper

    Themes: teaching methods, assessment methods, course and programme design

    Tuesday 8 September 2009, 09.00 - 10.00 in room G60

    The relationship between research and learning and teaching represents what has been described as ‘amongst the most intellectually tangled, managerially complex and politically contentious issues in mass higher education’ (Scott, 2005, p 53). Despite this, arguments that in order to achieve high quality scholarly outcomes, university teachers need to adopt an approach to teaching similar to that of research (i.e. founded upon academic rigour and evidence), has long been discussed in the literature (see for example, Elton, 2005 & Healey, 2000). However, the practicalities of promoting an empirical and evidence-based approach to teaching within a research-led institution makes dealing with the research/learning and teaching nexus a somewhat challenging proposition. Drawing upon the findings of a mixed methodological study, this paper critically analyses the pedagogical, organisational and practical issues encountered by academics and support staff working within a newly established Centre for Learning Innovation and Professional Practice. Comprising an eclectic group of staff drawn from across the five Schools in the University, the Centre is dedicated to enhancing student learning through the development of evidence based teaching practice.

    Based upon the premise that the promotion of research-led teaching will act to bring teaching and research together, and in doing so enhance students learning experiences (Simmons & Elen 2007), the paper critically analyses the challenges encountered by staff responsible for developing and introducing a  new learning & teaching focused organisational strategy (by reflecting on the previous 12 months work). In doing so it makes a significant contribution to current academic theory and debate in the areas of pedagogic practice and organisational management. Focusing specifically on the impact of the new policy on various aspects of university life including, pedagogic practice, student support, staff training, and organisational management, the paper critically addresses the cultural and attitudinal challenges of change management (Kotter, 1996) within a ‘grey-brick’ university. It concludes by arguing that the move towards becoming a more learning-focused university has started to develop an awareness of the positive impact the change initiative is having on the student experience and wider institution; whilst also drawing attention to the organisational challenges ahead.


    • Elton, L. (2005). ‘Scholarship and the Research and Teaching Nexus’. In Barnett, R. (2005). Reshaping the University: New Relationships between Research, Scholarship and Teaching. Maidenhead. Society for Research into Higher Education. Chpt 8. pp 99-118
    • Healey, M. (2000). ‘Developing the Scholarship of Teaching in Higher Education: A Discipline-Based Approach’. Higher Education Research & Development. 19. 2. pp 169-189
    • Kotter, J.P. (1996). Leading Change. Boston. Harvard University Publications.
    • Scott, P. (2005). ‘Divergence or Convergence? The Links between Teaching and Research in Mass Higher Education’. In Barnett, R. (2005). Reshaping the University: New Relationships between Research, Scholarship and Teaching. Maidenhead. Society for Research into Higher Education. Chpt 4. pp 53-66
    • Simmons, M. & Elen, J., (2007). ‘The Research-Teaching Nexus’ and ‘Education Through Research’: An Exploration of Ambivalences. Studies in Higher Education. 32. 5. pp 617-631