Content Types

Linking Research and Teaching

Two of the main roles a modern academic has are as a researcher and a teacher. The two are often unfortunately to be found in practice to produce conflicts for the individual academic faced with apparently separate pressures. The connections (and indeed necessity of the connection) between the two is often discussed and debated, particularly at the level of institutions and on the topic of what a university is, or should be. This post instead presents the experiences of a set of academics, who in their research and teaching practice, have found different beneficial ways of linking the two activities, from using their research results, to using research as a teaching tool, to using teaching to inform research.

In the first video, Prof Alastair Hudson discusses how he tries to link his research and his teaching in Law (which is unrelated to the chance police siren to be heard from the Mile End Road in the background!). As for a number of academics, this includes using his own published books on his research as entry points for the students, but also in finding ways of bringing the subject to life, and producing a range of multimedia material based on the work.

Writing textbooks (for use by their own students, often from expanding lecture notes originally) is a route that many academics have taken to bring their research into the classroom and to the students as teaching material. In the video, Prof Hudson describes how this publishing can go beyond the hard copy text to other multimedia material as well.

Students (particularly undergraduates) are often in the position of being on the receiving end of research in the form of its results, whether expressed in textbooks or otherwise, and being taught by those actively involved in the generation of these results is often regarded as a major benefit for the students. One reason is the chance to provide a better understanding of not just the product, but the processes by which they come about, “warts and all”. Remaining with Law briefing, Prof Rachael Mulheron explains how she relates her research in class actions to her teaching so that students experience Law as it is being made.

On a similar theme of aiding students’ understanding of the process of research, but in a different department (Politics), Dr Judith Bara uses research based learning to give students experience in applying theoretical concepts and understanding the reality of political surveys. Many third year project modules and dissertations are designed with similar benefits and experiences in mind and this is another method of linking research and teaching, but this time with the students themselves as the researchers, providing them with the opportunity to plan and utilise some of the research techniques behind their lecturer’s work and in this case also to link with their own outside, political and social experience.

In the next video, Dr Hazel Conley explains the connection between her research and the way that she teaches international students. In this case, as well as the subject content being related to the lecturer’s research, the research actually impacts on and informs the activity of teaching itself and coping with different cultural expectations and traditions, in this case with a group of diverse international students.

For the final video the usual expression of the link between research and teaching, that of research informing teaching or learning for the students in some way, is turned on its head to consider the reverse process, as Dr Erez Levon discusses how his teaching, whilst informed by his research, in turn informs and provides ideas for his research.

Acknowledgements

Spotlight compiling and commentary: Giles Martin

With thanks to the following contributors whose ‘ideas’ videos have been used:

  • Alastair Hudson
  • Rachael Mulheron
  • Judith Bara
  • Hazel Conley
  • Erez Levon