Welcome to the October issue of Teaching Matters: Research-led teaching and learning

Photo credit: Pixabay, geralt, CC0

Welcome to the October issue of Teaching Matters: Research-led teaching and learning

To briefly round up last month’s issue, which showcased some of the great work being funded by the Student Partnership Agreement, we want to highlight that the 2019/20 funding is now available of up to £500 (per bid), and students and staff are encouraged to submit bids to undertake work that supports the Student Partnership Agreement’s key themes:

  1. Community: Supporting staff and students to develop, enhance, and support effective communities that promote a sense of wellbeing and belonging.
  2. Student Voice: Continue working to enable student feedback to be shared and addressed.
  3. Social Justice: Exploring issues of diversity, sustainability and justice with the aim of empowering students and staff to engage critically and sensitively with the challenges of our contemporary world.

The projects must involve both students and staff as participants, must be linked to at least one of the partnership agreement key themes and must be completed by 1 July 2020. The deadline for submission of bids is Friday 25 October. For more information, please email Gillian Macintosh at Academic Services.

Research-led teaching and learning

This month, I have found defining research-led teaching and learning quite tricky as there seem to be a few interpretations of what it means in HE. I was reassured in re-reading Professor Sarah Cunningham-Burley’s earlier blog post that, “there are different dimensions to research-led learning and the concept defies neat definition“, and there are “multiple ways in which we are already practicing research-led learning… even if the activity is not labelled as such.” 

So, at an instrumentally beneficial level, “research-led teaching reflects and makes use of the teacher’s disciplinary research to benefit student learning and outcomes” (Trowler & Wareham, 2008). As Professor Elizabeth Bomberg wrote in a previous Teaching Matters post:

Research-active teachers can ensure course content includes the latest developments in field. More importantly researchers can share with students (if not model for them) the enthusiasm, intellectual curiosity and critical thinking skills which characterise top research.

Conversely, integrating research and teaching can be immensely rewarding for academics. We know researchers gain a deeper understanding of a subject by teaching it; students can offer insights and queries that help us clarify and tighten our own thinking.

This month, Steph Smith speaks to the first point made by Elizabeth. She reflects on how her research into genetics has directly informed her veterinary teaching. Dr Geoff Bromiley‘s upcoming post relates to Elizabeth’s second point: he shows how insightful questions asked by students on a field trip to Cyprus helped him conceptualise a new research paper.

And then there’s the research-led teaching espoused by Healey and Jenkins (2009), and others, who argue that, “all undergraduate students in all higher education institutions should experience learning through, and about, research and inquiry.” They state that:

There are four main ways of engaging undergraduates with research and inquiry:

Research-led: Learning about current research in the discipline;
Research-oriented: Developing research skills and techniques;
Research-based: Undertaking research and inquiry;
Research-tutored: Engaging in research discussions.

The research-based approach has been beautifully demonstrated in previous posts by Dr Meryl Kenny: Student-staff co-creation of a course: Understanding gender in the contemporary world, and by student Vanessa Ombura: Co-created learning and teaching through the lens of the development of a university-wide course.

Here, we can see how research-led teaching and learning is also influencing course and curriculum design. This month, Dr Michael Gallagher describes how he has designed a new online course based on current research into online learning that is already underway across the University.

I’d also argue that Scholarship of Learning and Teaching (SoTL), in which teachers research their own teaching, and use their findings to inform their future practice, could fall under research-led teaching and learning. This month, Dr Somia Imran, and Dr Sarah Ivory, both reflect on how their own research into educational theory has been helpful in conceptualising and putting into practice different ways of thinking about their teaching.

Happy reading…!

Related Teaching Matters posts to read:


Trowler, P. & Wareham, T. (2008) Tribes, territories, research and teaching: Enhancing the teaching-research nexus, HEA.

Jenny Scoles

Dr Jenny Scoles is the editor of Teaching Matters. She is an Academic Developer (Learning and Teaching Enhancement) in the Institute for Academic Development, and provides pedagogical support for University course and programme design. Her interests include student engagement, professional learning and sociomaterial methodologies.

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