Linking teaching and research

By Colleen M. Potter

According to a UK geography professor, there are numerous studies showing strong research does not lead to excellence in teaching, despite the assumption that research and teaching are linked. However, students can still benefit from research at their university if the link between the two is explored and promoted. At an Aug. 11 Learning Commons seminar, Dr. Mick Healey spoke on the links between research and teaching.

Using a number of case studies, Healey demonstrated how universities that are attempting to incorporate research into undergraduate teaching are experiencing positive results. One example presented was the programs at the University of British Columbia and McMaster University. They have recently shifted to emphasize critical thinking and problem solving as a part of undergraduate learning. It is believed this will help students once they reach the graduate level.

At McMaster, all undergraduates are given the chance to take an inquiry-based course in each year of their program and those who register in an Honours program have the option of working on a research project supervised by a McMaster professor.

University College London has tried to create a more direct link between professors’ research and their teaching. First-year geography students are required to interview and profile professors and their research, then write how that research pertains to the professor’s teaching.

Programs such as this are in response to studies showing students are generally dissatisfied and unaware of what their professors are doing in research-oriented faculties.

During discussions, many felt these projects may not be feasible at an institution like U of C. Class sizes, funding, technology, subject matter and undergraduate or graduate studies all contribute to the feasibility of the aforementioned programs. Many of the case studies Dr. Healey presented were at research-based universities in science-related subjects.

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