Research-Led Teaching: A Personal Perspective

The fact that candidates for jobs in the United Kingdom higher education sector (UKHEs) are continually asked to make presentations on topics such as ‘What are your views on, and experience of, research-led teaching in education?’, ‘How will your research contribute to the delivery of the University’s Learning and Teaching strategy?’ and ‘Describe how your research will contribute, over the next 3-5 years, to the international teaching profile of this University’, indicates the importance and perennial need to link teaching and research in the UKHEs. Additionally, those employed are encouraged to make their teaching ‘more research-led’. From this perennial desire locally, emerges coined phrases such as ‘research-led’, ‘research informed’ or ‘research enhanced’ teaching, which have now become established jargons in the sector.

One University in its learning and teaching policy defines research-led teaching as that which introduces students to the latest findings in their subjects and develops students’ powers of critical insight and intellectual synthesis. This idea is supported by writers such as Tushman & O’Reilly (2007), Anthony & Austin (2008,) Prichard (2000), and Paul & Rubin (1984) who see the role of research and its connection with teaching as enabling knowledge growth and improving practice and/or teaching.

Embedded in this definition is a reason for engaging in research-led teaching that is, to keep students informed of current developments in their chosen field and to aid the development of a cognitive skill. Another reason for engaging in research-led teaching in education and related careers, include the fact that it enables students to effectively function in many educational and related roles such as (Teaching, Educational Management or Administration in schools, Youth work, Community and Charity work, or the caring professions generally) which require:

  • the skill of critical analysis
  • critically evaluating knowledge
  • making rational judgment in light of good evidence
  • gathering and reflecting on the evidence
  • being creative in light of rapid change and uncertainty (Brew 2010 and Brew, & Boud 1995).

So what exactly constitutes research-led teaching?

To answer this question I pull on personal experience ‘in the field’. My experience in this area involves:

  1. Sharing research with students. I do this in four ways:

One, I use personal research reports as teaching material during classes to enrich both postgraduate and undergraduate students’ learning. For example, my 2001 research on the church school relationship in the Cayman Islands resulted in the publication of a book with a similar title. This book is required reading for a module I teach. During specific sections of the module, the work is discussed and students are encouraged to critically think about, evaluate and challenge the claims made.

Two, during teaching, I utilise personal experiences and anecdotes/stories related to my own research to convey points of interest to students. For example, I might tell of interviewing a research participant and her responses, which betrayed her true belief about an educational issue.

Three, in addition to using personal research publications and personal stories during teaching, there is a list of required and recommended readings provided for all modules I teach. It is my responsibility to research the local archive, libraries, journals, and to order text books for all these modules. These readings are discussed during lessons and used to guide and broaden students’ thinking about the subject being studied and to actively engage them in critical examination of literary sources.

Four, I utilised the knowledge gained and data from own research on reflective teaching to construct face-to-face, online and hybrid modules for undergraduate teacher education students. Examples of my research used are:

  • Reflective Teaching and… (Paperback and Kindle Edition)
  • Reflective teaching: Properties, Tool, Benefits and Support (Paperback)
  • Reflection and Reflective Teaching, A Case study of Four Seasoned Teachers in the Cayman Islands (Paperback).
  • Reflective Teaching as Self-Directed Professional Development: building Practical or work-related knowledge.
  • The Role of Reflection in the Differentiated Instructional Process.
  • Valli’s Typology of Reflection and the analysis of pre-service teachers’ reflective journals.
  • A Reflective Approach to Teaching Practicum Debriefing.

  1. Engaging students in enquiry based learning

Firstly, this involves encouraging students to engage in research by making it a required element of modules I develop and teach. By engaging in a small research project, they develop an understanding of the research process; examine the literature; pass judgement about what counts as evidence, and reflect on the evidence (Brew 2010 and Brew, & Boud 1995).

Secondly, I involve students in personal research. For example, undergraduates were involved in searching the literature which contributed to the production of the following piece: Reflective Teaching, Critical Literacy and the Teacher’s Tasks in the Critical Literacy Classroom (A Confirmatory Investigation).

Thirdly, students are required to produce a final thesis as a course requirement in a department of Education for which I was in charge. This further facilitated their induction in to research, for their involvement in the actual production of a high quality research thesis results in a greater appreciation for, and involvement in the research process.

  1. Researching and Reflecting on own Teaching (Scholarship of Learning and Teaching.

In this approach I am involved in researching and reflecting on my own teaching and the students’ learning via action research or applied research, which involves identifying a learning/teaching problem, researching the problem, applying the solution to my teaching and publishing the results. Current examples of this occurrence are:

  • Encouraging Secondary Students’ Deep Reflection-on-learning: a case for a Reflective Approach to Student Learning Evaluation.
  • Reflective Teaching and Disruptive Behaviour in Regular High School Classrooms in London, England.
  • Teaching Tasks and the composition of a ‘piece’ using music technology in the classroom: Implications for the education and training of teachers.

I reflect on or critically think about my own teaching. Via this process, I reflect on what steps need to be taken to improve the learning and teaching process, using a variety of evaluation methods (i.e., reflective journals, students’ evaluation form, and personal and peer observation) and then act on them in practical ways.

Here are a few strategies for encouraging and enabling research-led teaching

The development of a culture of research is one way of encouraging and enabling research-led teaching in a HEi. This can be achieved by developing and facilitating faculty’s professional development, which enables and encourages them to engage in the ‘scholarship of teaching’. This may include instituting awards /incentives that recognize outstanding teaching, based on researching and/or studying ones’ teaching; developing policy and criteria for this recognition scheme; facilitating in-house training in the area of the scholarship of teaching, and organizing a special lecture series by noted scholars to address the idea of the scholarship of teaching.

Developing or facilitating faculty’s engagement in research and publications is another way to encourage and enable research-led teaching in a HEi. Strategies to encourage this may include: building time in the teaching schedule for faculty to engage in research; providing funding for faculty attendance and participation in local and overseas conferences; developing policies to regulate faculty attendance and participation in local and overseas conferences; providing internal forums for faculty to showcase their research, for example, a lunch hour series that is broadly advertised, where faculty can talk about and present their research ideas for discussion, and present research that they have completed; encouraging internal review of publications that faculty are planning to submit to journals or conferences, and encouraging students’ research by requiring (where appropriate) the completion of a thesis or portfolio.

Other ways to encourage and enable research-led teaching in a HEi is to encourage consultancy work by faculty by showcasing to the local university and wider community their credentials, experiences and achievements; hosting and organizing annual or biannual conferences at the University to address issues relevant to education; and using the University’s website to display faculty research and scholarship achievements.

References

Anthony, E. K & Austin M.J. (2008). The Role of an Intermediary Organization in Promoting Research in Schools of Social Work: the Case of the Bay Area Social Services Consortium. Social Work Research 32(4) 287-294

Brew, A. (2010). Imperatives and Challenges in Integrating Teaching and Research. Higher Education Research & Development 29, 139-150.

Brew, A, & Boud, D. (1995). Teaching and research; establishing the vital link with learning. Higher Education, 29, 261-273

Paul, C.W and Rubin, P.H. (1984) Teaching and Research: The Human Capital

Paradigm. Journal of Economics Education 15(2), 142-147

Prichard, R. (2000) Future Directions for Research in Caribbean Higher Education Institutions. Chapter 11 in Higher Education in the Caribbean: Past, Present & Future Directions. 251-265, ISBN 9789766400798

Tushman, M & O’Reilly III, C. (2007). Research and Relevance: Implications of pasteur’s quadrant for doctoral programs and faculty development. Academy of Management Journal 50(4), 769-774

Meeting Facilitation: The Aspects of Becoming Successful

In business, facilitation refers to the successful running of a productive and impartial meeting, without leading or distracting the group from the main goal. Facilitators aid in meetings that involve a decision, finding a solution to a problem, and in the exchange of ideas for discussion.

Meetings are the perfect avenue to do find resolutions as they are where people come together to work on a common goal. Good and effective meetings include: a) one goal that everyone is familiar with. b) A plan to reach those goals. c) Understanding that everyone comes from different backgrounds, therefore, opinions and points of view will vary. d) A sense of responsibility and involvement with the company and one another.

One single and simple way to achieve a successful meeting does not exist. Building synergy usually comes with experience and cooperation from the group. The more people are aware of good group dynamics, the easier the job of the facilitator, and the more productive the end result.

Some of the aspects of facilitation include the following:

The role of the facilitator – Their task is likened to that of a mediator, who helps out in the process during a grievance, but not involved with what occurred before and what happens after. These are individuals who assist groups of people to effectively reach a goal and work diligently toward accomplishing that goal. They do not take sides or express their points of view, allowing the floor to discuss among themselves.

Consulting with the client – A third-party individual affiliated with another company may seek out the help of the facilitator. This usually involves business deals that include both companies to work together towards a common resolution. The facilitators will be able to understand the purpose and the best expected outcome.

Making arrangements – The meetings are to be arranged and managed by the facilitator. This involves the location to be approved by the participants and the acceptance of the invitation by those needed to be in attendance. This aspect involves researching for background information regarding why the meeting is being held in the first place.

Setting the agenda – In compliance with the previous aspect, this field also involves understanding in detail how each goal can be reached and how long it could take. With enough experience and practice, facilitators explain to the participants the issues and each possible course of action.

Understanding group norms and dynamics – Given that everyone comes from a different department, culture, and background, having enough knowledge on group dynamics can help the overall flow of the discussion and the productivity of the team. Facilitators should not make assumptions, but rather adapt to the differences. They should also be aware of the body language of each participant, and make sure everyone is comfortable.

All of these aspects make up sound and effective facilitation, with improvement noticeable in following meetings. At the conclusion of each gathering, everyone should have a sense of what to expect at the next showing. It is also critical for the facilitators to ask the group what they believe should happen next.

Presentation Skills: Be More Productive Using a Facilitator Mode

There are many definitions for presentations. When you present there are also many different modes you can focus on. Are you a facilitator or an educator? The mode of facilitator is often misused in the corporate world and interchanged with words like trainer and educator. Facilitation is an exceptional skill, once you learn this skill you can boost your productivity and it can make you a better presenter.

A true facilitator is all about creating an environment where people feel safe and able to share their ideas freely. I believe the facilitator’s role is to act as a conduit. The first process a facilitator will undertake is to create operating agreements with their audience. It is the facilitator’s role to remove any blockages and conflicts within the group. They allow the thought processes of the group to be processed and expressed. They are responsible for establishing an environment that does that.

If this is a mode you are interested in developing yourself, the main proficiencies for this mode include:

Removing personal agenda – a facilitator’s role is to set the agenda with the group, not be running their own personal agenda. It is more powerful to seek to fill the agenda of the team and you will be more engaging to your audience.

Creating trust – this can be established in many ways for a presenter. It can occur before the presentation with communications circulated to the attendees, it can be built into the introduction for the facilitator and it can also be established when the agenda is set.

Respecting diversity – valuing each person’s input and recognising the variety of expertise and experience within the audience is the sign of a great facilitator.

Having active listening skills – one of the most important skill for any facilitator is the need to be able to listen and process what the audience is saying … and quickly. Listening intently will assist this.

A good facilitator may take several hours or days to create an environment where all the work may finally come together in the last hour. Don’t be fooled … some may think a facilitator comes into a presentation or meeting unprepared but that is not the case. An exceptional facilitator spends time preparing by taking a comprehensive brief from the client, researching the group/audience they will be working with and determining the questions that need to be asked to facilitate the best environment.

A quick note: Many organisations choose to bring in external facilitators to work with teams to achieve objectives. An external facilitator is neutral, doesn’t participate in office politics and is not influenced by the management hierarchy. If you team is grid locked or not co-operating, an external facilitator can be a great solution for you.

In a true facilitation style you may not even have the first question for your audience! Every discussion is a question i.e. does this feel right for you? Every facilitator should have an arsenal of great questions in their tool kit. Those questions include:

How is that working for you?

How do you feel about that?

I’m having trouble understanding that?

Does anyone want to add anything to that?

What’s that a part of?

If you knew the answer to that, what would it be?

In your experience, is that correct?

Does that ring true for you?

What do you need to get more out of this?

So what else is coming up?

If you had more time, what would the answer be?

If you knew the answer, what would it look like?

What is the biggest problem with the world?

What is the biggest issue with the world?

Facilitators are able to hold the space in tension to understand. They don’t try to fill the silence. They are able to capture conversations, check people’s understanding and expose all opinions. Learning questioning techniques will increase your mastery of this mode.

Here is a Facilitation checklist for you to help build your skills in this mode ask yourself the following questions:

Do you have an arsenal of questions?

Are you an active listener?

Can you “hold the space” in the tension?

Can you continually ask questions rather than try and find solutions to the discussions?

When you master this facilitation mode you will become a more powerful and engaging presenter. This skill can assist you when you have a tough audience, when you need to change the environment and when you are helping a client find a solution.

A Meeting Facilitator Should Come From Outside the Organization

Organizations of all sizes have meetings. These gatherings are a way to get different members of the organization on the same page; and they are also a great way to evaluate current strategies or brainstorm new ones. However, unproductive meetings cause the company to hold even more meetings as resources are continually wasted. By some estimates, the average American worker spends 100 hours per month in meetings. Companies can avoid wasting expensive labor by making a commitment to holding more productive meetings. The best way to make this commitment is by bringing in a meeting facilitator.

When a company works with a facilitator, it sends the message that these meetings will be productive. The first thing that a facilitator will do is sit down with organizational leaders to determine why the meeting is necessary. In some cases, this research might show that a meeting is not the best way to address the problem. When the meeting facilitator determines that this type of gathering will benefit the company, the professional will begin planning the gathering.

A well thought-out meeting is a more productive meeting, so every facilitator will prioritize the planning phase. He or she will work with organizational leaders to outline objectives that need to be met during the meeting. These objectives can then be used to structure the rest of the meeting, by deciding: the types of questions that a facilitator asks, or who is asked to take part in the discussion. Once the facilitator has determined who needs to attend the meeting, he or she should make sure that each individual is able to attend. When a key decision maker is busy, many companies opt to hold the meeting without them, but this is a huge mistake. The end result is that employees will waste time in a meeting that will not produce a final decision.

Next, the meeting facilitator will distribute a summary of the information that he or she has learned. This information might include meeting goals and background information that will be used during the meeting to make decisions. By giving each organizational member access to this information, the facilitator ensures that everyone will be on the same page when the meeting starts.

During the meeting, attendees will understand why it is best to outsource the task of facilitation. The meeting facilitator must: lead the group discussion, ensure that each individual has a chance to speak, and direct the group to discuss certain ideas. A facilitator who comes from within the organization is likely to sway the direction that the discussion takes due to his or her own biases. Additionally, some team members will be reluctant to share thoughts or go against the leader’s opinion if they think that they are jeopardizing work relationships. An outside facilitator focuses on the problem at hand, and guides the group to a solution by asking for a consensus and ensuring that everyone is given the chance to speak. This ensures that meetings are more productive, which means that less meetings are necessary in the future.