Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Research Led Education at ANU

Day two of the ANU Educational Research Conference at the Australian National University is concentrating on research and postgraduate education. The Australian National University released its ANU by 2020 Strategic Plan in late September 2011.

The education part of the plan plan includes "research-led education, giving real meaning to the creation of an active community of scholars". The plan also refers to "highly research-active staff, meaning that students will be exposed to the latest scholarly developments in their respective fields".

There is no detailed definition of research-led education in the plan and no source cited. This is not unusual, as the University of Auckland Strategic Plan 2015-2012 also mentions "research-led education" once, but does not define it. It is curious that universities would consider a concept important enough to include in their strategic plans, but not define what it precisely is. This will make it difficult to assess if the university achieves what is planned and risk legal action from students who claim not to have received the education offered. In the absence of a widely accepted definition in the discipline, the course will use a dictionary definition. A web search for papers found only 101 with the phrase "research-led education", out of more than 3.6 million which use the words "research" and "education", indicating it not a widely used term.

To find a definition "research-led education" I searched for papers with the word "definition" and the phrase "research-led education", resulting in seventeen hits. The second was a technical report by Peter Strazdins "Research-Based Education in Computer Science at the ANU: Challenges and Opportunities" (August 2007):
The position became more clear in the following year, with the statement that “the quality of education at ANU is measured by analysing indicators including . . . research-led education”, as well as “flexibility, combination and progression” [19, p8]. Subsequently, the former is termed as “research-led, discovery-based education” with a recommendation that innovation be used to “foster this discovery-based learning, maximally engaging students and challenging them to question the fundamentals of their discipline” [19, p70]. This seems to encompass the broad definition of research-based education used in this paper, and indeed the term itself is used: “survey findings [were] that students prize the research-based education they received” [19, p70]. ...
From reading the plan it appears this is distinguishing between the use of educational research for leading education and research-active where students are exposed to research results. It is useful to distinguish between these two important aspects to applying research to education.

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