• Author(s): Dr Holly Smith
  • Title: Relationships between Teaching and Research
  • Subject: HE - Education
  • Keywords: UKOER, UKPSF, OMAC, CPD4HE, research-teaching relationship, research-led, research-based, research-informed, research-oriented teaching, scholarship of teaching, higher education
  • Language(s): English
  • Material type(s): Text
  • File format(s): ZIP, HTML, PDF, DOC
  • File size: Various
  • Publish Date: 31 October 2011
  • Licence: CC-BY-NC-SA



1. Discipline as an identity

Can you remember when you first felt like you were a ‘real’ or ‘proper’ [insert your own discipline here; geographer, physicist, etc.] rather than just someone studying [insert your own discipline here; geography, physics, etc.]. Thinking about this feeling write a note reflecting on this time.

  • What made you feel like that?
  • What stage of your studies were you at?
  • Do you still feel that way today?
  • Would other people notice that you are a [insert your own discipline here; geographer, physicist, etc.]?
  • How could they tell?

2. Researching how students use their degrees

Most universities collect data on what their students do after graduation through graduate destination surveys. Some departments collect their own information in addition to this. For this activity, see if you can find out what the students who graduated most recently from your department went on to do. You may already be familiar with this data, but if not, were there any surprises? What percentage of your department’s graduates do you estimate are using what you taught them? Do you think they are using the facts or information they learned, or the methods, approaches, processes, and critical thinking the learned?

See if you can organise a survey of students who have graduated from your department, maybe through the alumni office or department. Try asking them:

  • If there are any similarities between what they are doing now and what they did for their studies of your subject?
  • Of all the things they learned, what do they use most often in their current role?
  • Is there anything they couldn’t see the point of at the time, but now find useful?
  • Is there anything in their studies they really think they will never think about again?
  • Could they have got their current position/carry out their current role with a degree in a different subject?

You could do this very informally if you are still in touch with some of your students, maybe just an email or phone call. Make a note of their responses to share with colleagues in your department. Maybe it could be an item for the departmental teaching committee. What do your colleagues think of your findings?

3. The research teaching relationship in your discipline (Rosalind Duhs & Holly Smith)

You need to find a colleague in your own discipline or department to talk to for this activity. Look at the figure below from Jenkins, Healey, & Zetter (2007) which sets out their conceptualisation of the research teaching relationship.

Fig 1 from Jenkins, A., Healey, M. And Zetter, R. (2007) Linking teaching and research in disciplines and departments. Higher Education Academy. http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/York/documents/LinkingTeachingAndResearch_April07.pdf

Jenkins, Healey, Zetter (2007) research-teaching nexus image

Choosing one topic or sub-discipline of your subject, which of the four approaches described in these quadrants (1. Research-tutored, 2. Research-based, 3. Research-led, 4. Research-oriented) best characterises the approach taken to teaching this topic in your department? Choose another approach you are interested in. How would you change

  • the curriculum
  • the teaching methods
  • the activities for students
  • the assessment

if you wanted to make it more like the approach you have chosen? Which approach do you think is most appropriate for this topic? Can you introduce elements from the other approaches?

4. Set yourself an essay question.

Try this exercise as a piece of ‘free writing’. Set yourself a short time, no more than 10 minutes, and start writing. The rules for ‘free writing’ are no interruptions, and no stopping, even if you think you are writing nonsense just keep going until your time is up!

Suggested Essay Questions

  • How does your teaching inform your research?
  • What do you learn about your subject from your teaching?
  • Can you be a good researcher without being a good teacher, and vice versa?
  • Are students part of the community of scholars in your discipline?
  • Are your teaching methods informed by research about learning, teaching and assessment?

Try making up your own question.

5. Imaginary Research (Gedankenexperiment)

This activity may be more relevant to you if you are from a natural or social science discipline where laboratory work and experimental design are important. There are many barriers to getting students engaged in ‘real’ research; equipment is expensive or requires special training, there are ethical questions, it can be too dangerous, or it takes longer than the duration of the unit of study. One solution to all these problems is to get students to design or plan a piece of research, without all the trouble, expense and time of actually carrying it out.

Planning research can be a really useful way for students to practice solving problems in the discipline, and group discussion with can allow a tutor to share experience of the common pitfalls and practical difficulties in actually carrying it out. The biggest advantage is that designing an experiment is so much quicker than actually doing one, you can get students to design 10 experiments in the time it would take them to collect a trivial amount of data for one experiment in a lab class. You can assess their research plans too, criteria might include: would the research generate data that could be analysed to answer the original question? Does the research plan enable alternative explanations to be ruled out? Could the research be carried out safely in line with ethical guidelines?

Design a formative or summative assessment for students in your discipline which requires them to design an experiment or plan a piece of research to address an important question in your subject. 


Creative Commons Licence
Relationships between Teaching and Research by Dr Holly Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Based on a work at www.ucl.ac.uk.

Contact us: cpd4he@ucl.ac.uk

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