Page 1

ISSN 2050-9995 (Online)

Journal June–August 2003 This edition of the Teaching Fellows Journal has been restored from an archived online edition, hence the simplified form. Please note - Some links and content within this document may now be out of date.

Edinburgh Napier University is a registered Scottish charity. Reg. No. SC018373


Contents 2 Editorial 4 Eureka!

Editorial Shirley Earl, Senior Teaching Fellow and Head of Learning and Teaching Development, EdDev, contributes this quarter’s editorial

5 Reports

Research-led teaching: meanings for Napier?

6 Review corner

New build 60’s universities believed that research-led teaching could help them establish credibility and they strove to create reputations accordingly. The phrase has remained in use ever since.

7 Web spotlight

Edition Editors Angela Benzies Senior Teaching Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Academic Practice Coordinator of the Teaching Fellowship Scheme Margaret Nairn tfj Web Editor and Publications Officer Educational Development, Bevan Villa, Craighouse Campus, Edinburgh Current enquiries to: Office of the Vice Principal (Academic) Sighthill Campus, Sighthill Court, Edinburgh EH11 4BN Email:

Now once again vaunted and in common parlance, ‘research-led’ teaching came under review in the 90s1. First stirrings of renewed discussion were heard2 around the time of the emergence of the UK modern universities. Dearing3 became persuaded of the importance of the role of research in informing and enhancing teaching and since then the sector has learned to discuss the research-teaching nexus with abandon, tripping the phrase regularly off its tongue. Deeper debate is now being engaged in at conferences, within which Australasian, North American, Hong Kong and UK teachers and researchers consider a fast changing world of supercomplexity and the place of energetic enquiry within its globalised mass HE system4. Both academics and those engaging in debate, however, have so far failed to scrutinise the term rigorously. Research-led teaching sounds like something we should do, something that will encourage enthusiasm in staff and students alike. Most of us recognise that there is a research-teaching nexus within which the inspiration of research and enthusiasm for teaching can meet. Some universities, in a partisan manner, propound the idea that the best research-led teaching can be offered only by the best researchers in the best institutions. Others, at Napier and elsewhere, assume that research-led teaching is something that involves direct transfer of findings and cutting-edge development that is appropriately related solely to postgraduate and honours provision. Still others, and we have proponents within Napier, argue that the link between research and teaching is a quality factor, lying at the heart of our students’ learning experience with content, questions, method, excitement and engagement intermingling. So, does Napier provide research-led teaching? What is it? Who can do it? And where? There is no recognised authoritative answer to these questions, nor, so far as I am aware, has there been


detailed discourse within Napier. It would appear, however, that four dimensions have been identified in public fora so far — material, experiential, conceptual and operational. We at Napier should include all these in any definition we adopt and, I suggest, add one further — contextual. And where would this lead us? It would mean that within our university we would continue to welcome researchers and research foci, for their own value and for the benefit that their material insight and discovery brings to our research degree teaching, other postgraduate teaching, honours curricula and, when appropriate, earlier levels. Thus Napier would have research-led teaching that allows for • material — where the content of research challenges and provides vitality as well as currency (reviews reveal that we have much of this, sufficiently extensive across the university for it to be unnecessary to cite instances here). As an institution we would welcome also the dimensions suggested by Jenkins and Zetter5 of Oxford Brookes University • experiential — whereby research processes and innovative exploration benefit staff and students alike (at Napier, Gallagher clearly uses this in his comprehensive case studies and McManus would seem to consider something similar when he argues that researchers in his department ask questions akin to those they daily encourage their students to frame)

interfaces like Buchanan’s distributed systems and the TCS knowledge transfer programme or professional/research alliances that lead to innovation, like the work of Forrest et al with practitioner interface in curriculum design). Research-led teaching at Napier would then, indeed, be about presentation of up to date material in our lectures and classrooms — and about much more. Whether individuals believe that research is about the external environment or whether they believe it to be internal in focus7 would be irrelevant. They could see research-led teaching either as inspirational, importantly involving encouragement to team and network to external ends, mirroring conferences and mirroring publication and so on. Or they could be more concerned with students’ internalisation, enhancing their powers of analysis and understanding through emphases on methodology and interpretation. From three positions, then, we should recognise that we are involved in research-led teaching and that both teaching and research are vital to our survival. Then we can proselytise a definition of research-led teaching as something that is alive at Napier and benefiting us all because it • accommodates currency of information as key to curricula • encourages central focus on the conceptual change in our own and our students’ minds • appropriately reflects specificity of subject or corporate culture.

• conceptual — based on the argument6 that the processes of research and teaching are complementary and enjoyably interactive rather than hierarchical and distinct (at Napier, Stone appears to ground her life sciences student readings in this; similarly Laybourn with her psychology posters)

Through strengthening our own understanding of what is happening within Napier on the research-teaching nexus we will become more aware of what we are already doing. Then as a university we will be neither wrong-footed nor forced into a teaching-only role. Rather we will be prepared to join the new academy8 and rising international debate.

• operational — where self-motivation leads to creative reciprocity between teaching and research as learning activities (W McKenzie in authoring student texts, Goldfinch upon aspects of assessment, Duff in explorations of the use of spoken language in HE, to name but a few).

If you wish to contribute to Napier’s debate or simply to take part in conversations with externals, EdDev will welcome you at any of the events it is arranging next session around the research-led teaching theme.

We could enhance our framework further with

References (note that clicking on the links will open new browser windows)

• contextual — where the particularity of an institution’s origin and connectivity is taken into account (for Napier, examples would currently include commercially exploitable research/teaching

tfj June–August 2003

1 Hattie J & Marsh H (1996) The relationship between research and teaching: a meta-analysis Review of Educational Research, 66 (4), 507—542


2 Barnett R (1992) Improving Higher Education Buckingham, Society for Research into Higher Education/Open University Press default.htm [last accessed June 2003]

3 NCIHE (1997) Higher education in the learning society London, Report of the National Committee: The Dearing Report

8 This is the proposed Teaching Quality Academy/ Academy for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. See The future of higher education (2003) London, Department for Education and Skills exec.shtml [last accessed June 2003]

4 Jenkins A, Breen R & Lindsay R (2003) Reshaping teaching in higher education London, Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA)/Kogan Page 5 Jenkins A & Zetter R (2003) Linking research and teaching in departments York, Learning and Teaching Support Network Generic Centre 6 Brew A (2002) Understanding research-led teaching, Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA) News, 25 (1), 1—5 7 Zubrick A, Reid I & Rossiter P (2001) Strengthening the nexus between teaching and research Canberra, Department of Education Training and Youth Affairs

Acknowledgements also to the following staff at Napier: Bill Buchanan (School of Computing), Alistair Duff (School of Communication Arts), Susanne Forrest (School of Community Health), Jim Gallagher (School of Management), Judy Goldfinch (Centre for Mathematics and Applied Statistics), Phyllis Laybourn (School of Psychology and Sociology), Bill McKenzie (School of The Built Environment), Frank McManus (School of Law), Vicki Stone (School of Life Sciences).

Eureka! Complementing this quarter’s book review on how to write a thesis, some tactics for making your research publishable are contributed by Professor Phil Race, Leeds University, and co-author of the famous ‘tips’ published by Kogan Page. Many writers nowadays get started in publishing during their PhD. Traditionally others have started publishing when they enter academic careers. Why should a journal publish your paper? Why should peers and students read what you write? What is your paper about?

3. Don’t lose your nerve Many papers lack clarity because authors aren’t prepared to be bold. Nail your ideas down and tell people what you’ve done or think. 4. Say why your research matters When we1 were researching writing for publication we found the most common reason for rejection was that the implications of the paper were not made clear. ‘So what?’ reviewers asked, again and again. 5. Define your scope You may take your scope for granted. Reviewers and readers will need to have it stated.

Successful tactics are: 1. Know your purpose Editors and reviewers reject a lot of papers. I and colleagues suspect this is often because research is seen as an end in itself. You need to think about what is interesting to others — the outcome. 2. Start with 20 words or less Take yourself out of role of researcher into role of communicator. Record your focus in 20 words and keep coming back to it.


6. Articulate limitations Availability of time, money, resources and the challenges of data gathering may have laid down constraints. Be up front about them and their effect. 7. Accept your imperfections Research that is perfect rarely enters the public domain. There will always be further questions. See publication as a contribution to knowledge. Share with others. Good enough will do. Scrutiny and comment from others will then help

move your research forward. 8. Draft your structure Do this so the structure as well as content aligns with the objectives and style of your targeted journal and always follow instructions given in the guidance for authors. 9. Allow time Let your (and co-authors’) efforts rest a while. Time to settle equals time to relate, synthesise and improve.

10. Respond to feedback Pass your paper round colleagues or friends before submitting it. Amend in line with what they say. At the next stage revise as requested by referees, timeously because your revisions will be checked against the reviews’ comments and also because you want your publication out — so you can move on to the next one. 1 Dolores Black, Sally Brown, Abby Day and Phil Race (1998) 500 Tips for Getting Published London, Kogan Page

Reports There are two reports in this edition of the tfj Reflections on being a member of the Enhancement Planning Committee for Assessment by Morag Gray, Senior Teaching Fellow and Head of Curriculum Development, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences Towards the new academy? by Fred Percival, Director of Educational Development Reflections on being a member of the Enhancement Planning Committee for Assessment by Morag Gray

comprising both students and academics, which has been instructed by SHEFC and QAA to ‘think out of the box’ and to be as innovative as we want. The underlying message is that the style of engagement and outcomes will be sector-led and owned. We have had two meetings to date and so far we have agreement about looking at efficiency and effectiveness of assessment. This will include types of assessment; feedback (its value to students and staff); honours classification; and diversity and accessibility. We propose to bring in ‘experts’ to act as catalysts for change. There will be two more meetings before the end of June and during this time we will be making decisions about who to invite. So if you know of anyone who would be particularly good, let me know as soon as possible!

Quality Enhancement Engagement is one of five aspects of the new Scottish Quality System. Two themes are identified each year and a steering committee for each theme is tasked to devise a programme of activities designed to support the sector. The current themes are: assessment and responding to student needs. The first two themes are very broad and it is anticipated that subsequent ones will be more focused.

The responding to student needs group is focusing on the first-year experience. I am sure that if you wish more information about this group’s activities Rao would be happy to oblige.

Napier University has a presence on both the assessment and the responding to student needs groups. Rao Bhamidimarri, Dean of Engineering and Computing, is on responding to student needs and I am on assessment. Furthermore, there is a wider consultation group for each theme and Napier’s members on these are Veronique Johnston and Grant Mackerron on student needs and Jim Wise on assessment.

Proposals for a new academy to support quality enhancement in learning and teaching are taking shape and gaining momentum rapidly. This new body (working title: the Academy for the Advancement in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education) was proposed in the January 2003 report of the Teaching Quality Enhancement Committee (TQEC) and announced in the government’s white paper on higher education. It would be formed by a merger of the Institute for Learning and Teaching in HE (ILTHE), the Learning Teaching and Support Network (LTSN) and the Higher Education Staff Development Agency (HESDA).

So what is it like being a member? I am pleased to report that it is an academically stimulating experience and somewhat refreshing to be a member of a group,

tfj June–August 2003

There will be a launch for both themes on 10 September 2003, venue to be confirmed.

Towards the new academy? by Fred Percival


• the academy would have new functions in foresight, policy development and leadership

I attended a one-day conference entitled ‘Imagining a better future: an Academy for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching’ in Manchester on 28 April. The conference included presentations and perspectives on the new academy from the points of view of an institutional manager (Rob Cuthbert, University of the West of England), an HE teacher (Carol McGuiness, Queens University Belfast) and a staff and educational developer (Bob Matthew, University of Glasgow).

• it would have a two-tier governance structure (a small board and a larger council) with representation of stakeholder groups in both tiers

All the papers and presentations from the academy conference are now available at

Current thinking is that the academy will combine two distinct but related roles: a strategic and advisory body and an independent professional association in which individual accredited members will set standards for the profession and advance their professional development. Some of the key points in the proposals are:

• resources (including those currently available to ILTHE members) • it would be accessible to all in the HE sector asp?id=18786 [last accessed June 2003]

• there would be privileged status for current ILTHE members.

Review corner Complementing this quarter’s eureka discoveries on making your research publishable, Linda Dryden, Teaching Fellow and Senior Lecturer, School of Psychology and Sociology, reviews Rowena Murray (2002) How to write a thesis Buckingham, Open University Press, pp290, ISBN 0-335-20718-9 In her overview of How to write a thesis Rowena Murray states that the volume has ‘evolved over fifteen years’ of thesis writing and research supervision courses’: no better credentials could be cited for a book on this topic, and Murray’s understanding and command of the subject is impressive. Murray’s implied audience is the PhD student, not the supervisor. The style of writing is personal, frequently addressing the student as ‘you’ and providing extremely useful tables and summaries of the salient points as the chapters progress. Right from the outset, How to write a thesis addresses the issues that are central to the experience of the PhD student: how to take ownership of their work; their relationship with their supervisor; the isolation of the PhD student; and most importantly, strategies for how to plan and write the thesis. Murray sets out her primary purpose as being to address the problem of ‘how to write’, a difficulty that is often underestimated by PhD supervisors, but along the way she fills the volume with invaluable advice that spans the whole of the experience of the research


student, from personal problems to the viva and its aftermath. The volume approaches writing a thesis in a systematic and logical manner. The emphasis of the introductory chapter is on writing, introducing an imperative that Murray emphasises throughout; that is, the need for goal-setting. The first chapter is entitled ‘Thinking about Writing a Doctorate’, and here Murray poses the very necessary but difficult questions that need to be faced when commencing a PhD. The big question of why a student has chosen to do a PhD and the fact that few PhD graduates actually get jobs in higher education are issues that can easily be overlooked in the excitement of beginning the research. Addressing these issues is typical of the very practical style of How to Write a Thesis. Chapter two, ‘Starting to Write’, encourages the student to think about audience and language and includes a long and useful exercise on how to prompt ideas through ‘freewriting’. The third and fourth chapters, ‘Seeking Structure’ and ‘The First Milestone’ are for me perhaps the most useful, as they lay down rules for planning the thesis, and overcoming the administrative processes that will be invaluable throughout the entire process of the PhD. These chapters give the reader a thorough understanding of the early processes of thesis writing, while at the same time flagging up the various dangers and pitfalls that face the research

student in the early stages. Chapter five achieves its stated aim to ‘make writing manageable in the middle stage of the thesis’, advocating a structured approach that enables more frequent and more focused writing. Extremely helpful tips are offered here on how to make the thesis flow, through the use of linking sentence and paragraphs, and other techniques. Closure is often one of the most difficult stages of the PhD; that is, knowing when you have done enough research, and when to stop and take stock. Chapter six, ‘Creating Closure’, points the way to closure through the use of a research journal, and chapter seven deals with the final details of revision and editing the thesis. Chapter eight gives a more general overview of the final processes of thesis writing and along the way offers tips for those who have reached the final stages, yet have written very

little. Finally chapters nine and ten deal skilfully with the viva and what happens afterwards. Useful milestones and prompts intersect all the chapters of How to Write a Thesis, and each chapter ends with a checklist that summarises the major points of the chapter. How to write a thesis is an invaluable book for both students and supervisors. It is comprehensive in its range and impressive in its awareness of the demands of different disciplines. At 290 pages it’s a long volume, but there is no doubt that every PhD student will find something of value here, and most will find the entire book an indispensable companion, and the source of much wisdom during their long journey towards their PhD.

Web spotlight The web spotlight falls on Insights Education Issue #1. This first issue of id21’s new free publication is edited by Yusuf Sayed, Senior Education Advisor at the Department for International Development and examines the use of information communication technologies (ICTs) in public and school education in developing countries Yusuf Sayed’s inaugural article for Insights Education is ‘Missing the connection? Using ICTs in education’ and other contributors to the first issue explore similar themes both here and abroad. There is the chance to reply or comment on any of the articles that appear. (Note that clicking on these links will open new browser windows.) To receive a hard copy of this first issue or for a free subscription to future issues of Insights Education, email indicating the number

tfj June–August 2003

of copies required and your full postal address. id21 is a fast-track research reporting service funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). It aims to bring UK-based development research findings and policy recommendations to policymakers and development practitioners worldwide. id21 aims to be part of the process of putting policy into practice and showcases recent research findings and policy lessons on major development issues. To subscribe to id21’s regular education email newsletter, please email putting ‘subscribe id21education’ in the subject line. id21 is enabled by the UK Government Department for International Development and hosted by the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. This is a publication well worth keeping your eye on — bookmark this useful resource for future reference!


June - Aug 2003 Teaching Fellows Journal  
June - Aug 2003 Teaching Fellows Journal  

Restored web version of the Edinburgh Napier University Teaching Fellows Journal