Re-inventing Research-Based Teaching and Learning

Paper prepared for presentation at the meeting of the European Forum for Enhanced Collaboration in Teaching of the European University Association in Brussels on 5 December 2016 Henk Dekker and Sylvia Walsarie Wolff. Centre for Education and Learning (CEL).
Summary of the paper
Universities want to enable their students to acquire high-level subject-based, research, leadership and personal competencies in order to prepare them for higher positions in a future society. Research-based teaching seems to be a suitable approach for this purpose. This paper intends to provide universities a couple of informative building blocks for bringing the two core academic activities - education and research - closer together and for integrating research into teaching more than up to now.

What is research-based teaching?
Research-based teaching is teaching through meaningful and real hands-on experiences in research: students are researchers and ask complex questions, search for answers by doing research, and report about their research journey. The teaching-research nexus can be viewed as a continuum with no relationship between teaching and research at one end and a full relationship - teaching = researching - at the other end.

Why is research-based teaching desired?
Universities can improve the relevance of their education and can better prepare the students for follow-up studies and to the new and emerging demands of the labour market in the twenty-first century. Moreover, a close intertwining of teaching and research strengthens their identity. Academics can help students by engaging them in research to better develop highly valued competencies. More research-based teaching can also make teaching more attractive for academics and can make teaching instrumental to the academics' own research.

How is research-based teaching designed and implemented?
The literature gives examples of research within a degree program and research-based teaching within individual courses. We compiled a list of concrete research-based teaching activities for and by teachers and students.

How does research-based teaching work in practice?
We have no recent empirical data found about the levels of integration of research in teaching in courses, curricula, or universities. Many universities in the USA and Europe say that they offer opportunities for undergraduate research but whether research-based teaching occurs in all, many or a few courses and whether all students or only the most talented enjoy this kind of education is not known. An important obstacle is that research plays a more important role than teaching for academics' career development. Research- based teaching also places high discipline-related and pedagogical demands on teachers. Not surprisingly because of the complexity of such a study we have not found much data that answer the question whether a research-based variant of a course works better than a variant of the same course without student-research though several publications document the benefits for students of engaging in undergraduate research.

What to do for more research-based teaching?
We compiled a list of concrete decisions and activities for university executive boards, faculty boards and educational directors to promote and facilitate research-based teaching. The start is setting a general context in which effective teaching- research relations can be developed, including deciding that education and research are equally important. Given the expected added value, regional, national and international cooperation of universities is recommended for research into, development of, and training in research-based teaching, with the ultimate goal to offer all students more opportunities to learn not only from research and about research but also and above all through research.

More information
Re-inventing Research-Based Teaching and Learning, Henk Dekker and Sylvia Walsa…