Need of Enhancing Teaching – Research Nexus in Higher Education
Dr. Jackson Achankunju, MRSB College of Applied and Health Sciences, A’Sharqiyah University
The proverb “If you build it, they will come” sometimes true to the conventional notion of education, even at the tertiary level that if the teachers teach students will learn. But today’s learning should go far beyond the cognitive domain, to include the affective, the personal, and issues of identity and the skills to solve the real-life problems. Institutions of Higher Education therefore should be a system that ensures personal development, scientific, technological and social advancement. It should equip the students with the skills, passion and spirit of innovation which are required to meet the global needs of tomorrow. Enhancing teaching - research nexus in the higher education is one of the strategies that should be adopted in this regard.
The Teaching – research nexus refers to the interconnection between research and teaching, where research informs teaching and teaching informs research. It could be perceived as the functional interdependence between two academic roles. It is essential to engage students in authentic learning towards developing a broader range of knowledge and skills within, and across, disciplines.
One common element that would facilitate a solid foundation for the relationship between teaching-learning and research is curricular design based on research.
Research can inform teaching by providing up-to-date information, new ideas, and evidence-based practices whereas teaching can inform research by identifying gaps in knowledge, generating research questions, and testing hypotheses. One of the common scenarios is that the research of the individual academic teaching in the classroom, could inform/fortify the content of the courses being taught. Another is that students can be taught research methods.
Students can be engaged in active, research-based learning, which could be embedded in the degree programs that are predominantly structured around problem-based or inquiry-based learning. This could be implemented at the level of the individual course where students undertake a research project.
Students work individually or being as part of research team with academics to undertake discovery research. This would also include students completing dissertations as part of degree programs. The teaching-research nexus can be conceptualized as academics engaging in pedagogical research, or the scholarship of teaching and learning. This would enhance student learning by providing opportunities for active learning, critical thinking and real-world problem-solving. This would result in increased faculty engagement and satisfaction besides furnishing opportunities for professional growth, collaboration, and interdisciplinary work.
Improvement in faculty research better research outcomes. Research becomes more relevant, meaningful and impactful. For instance, Dr. Randy Bass, the Director and Principal Investigator of the Visible Knowledge Project, a five-year scholarship of teaching and learning project involving 70 faculty on 21 university and college campuses published his findings as an article with the title, “The Difference that Inquiry Makes,” (co-edited with Bret Eynon) in the digital journal Academic Commons (January 2009: http://academiccommons.org%29./
The purpose was to capture the visible evidence of the relatively invisible learning as it emerged as a result of collaborative classroom inquiry. The invisible learning refers to “the intermediate processes,” the steps in the learning process that are often invisible but critical to development. (Sam Winesburg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts). Therefore, the aspects of learning should go far beyond the cognitive domain and include the affective, the personal, and issues of identity. Education at all levels has largely taken on faith that if teachers teach, students will learn--what could be seen as a remarkable, real-life version of “If you build it, they will come.”
When projects based on strong scientific foundation are developed and students are encouraged and engaged, there would be plenty of opportunities for collaborative research and writing, laying the groundwork for multimedia-enhanced performances of their learning.
“In the long run, university teaching is not about only conveying information – it is primarily about teaching students HOW to learn, ask questions and find out answers for themselves – in short, ‘research’ in some form.”
The students graduated from institutions of higher education should reflect that they are from the institutions of teaching and research.