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  • Linking Teaching and Research

Linking Teaching and Research

Linking teaching and research can benefit both faculty and students. There are several different ways of linking research to teaching, the precise approach being tailored to the disciplinary context. Here are 4 approaches for linking teaching and research across disciplines.


Benefits for faculty include:

  • Time saving as it takes less time to prepare a lecture that is directly linked to one's research area
  • Discovery of previously overlooked connections through interaction with students
  • Opportunity to select potential PhD students

Benefits for students include:

  • Better engagement and satisfaction with the course
  • Increased confidence as learners and independent thinkers
  • Developed capacity to conduct research and inquiry
  • Opportunity to work with PhD students and faculty on an area of interest and make informed decisions about graduate studies

There are several different ways of linking research to teaching, the precise approach being tailored to the disciplinary context (Griffith 2004, Healey 2005). The table below offers a way of visualizing these four different approaches. While often the most effective learning experiences involve a combination of all four approaches, Healey stresses the importance of developing student-centered approaches.

Student Involvement Emphasis on
Research Content
Emphasis on
Research Processes and Problems
Students as Participants

Research-tutored: Course content emphasizes students learning in small group discussions with a teacher about research findings.

Research-based: Course content emphasizes students learning through inquiry-based, problem-based, and project-based activities.

Students as Audience

Research-led: Course content is based on disseminating factual and conceptual knowledge about the research interest(s) of the faculty member.

Research-oriented: Course content emphasizes procedural knowledge about the research interest(s) of the faculty member or learning about the process by which knowledge is produced.

The course content is based on factual and conceptual knowledge about the research interest(s) of the faculty member; teaching is based on a traditional "information transmission" model in which the faculty member simply shares the research outcome; the emphasis is on understanding research findings rather than research processes; students are not directly involved in research.

Some tips

  • Explain the relevance of the course material to research you or others are conducting.
  • Present research findings on a topic discussed in the course.
  • Invite a guest researcher to present relevant research on a topic discussed in the course.
  • Brings research artifacts into the course.
  • Ask students to independently read specific research articles that you have selected.

The course content emphasizes as much the processes by which knowledge is produced as the learning knowledge that has been achieved; the faculty member introduces students to research processes.

Some tips

  • Invite students to spend time in a research lab or site and observe real-world research.
  • Make a presentation of research methods and approaches
  • Demonstrate experimental techniques and real hands-on computational aspects in science disciplines.
  • Ask students to not only read and understand a research article, but also to search through the bibliography of that article. In addition, ask them to study not only the text but also the figures, diagrams, tables, and simulations presented in this article.
  • Introduce students to peer review which is often used in the research process (i.e. in grant applications and journal article submissions) by having them make small presentations in class that are evaluated by the other students in the course.

The course content is largely designed around inquiry-based, problem-based, and project-based activities; students learn as researchers; division of roles between teacher and student is minimized. 

Some tips

  • Introduce students to inquiry-based learning through the use of a Socratic, "questioning style" of lecturing and lab assignments that require students to formulate and answer their own research questions. 
  • Ask students to make observations, formulate 10 questions, and share one of these questions with a group of other students. The next step is to ask students to develop hypotheses as a group based on the question, think of ways of testing the hypotheses, and writing up individually their 10 questions and one hypothesis as a 750 word mini-proposal for a research project.
  • Each year share with students a body of work produced by a previous group of students and ask them to make improvements and additions to it. Repeat this process until publishable materials are produced. 
  • Require of students to undertake an independent or team research project.
  • Require of students to publish an article or produce a research outcome.
  • Engage students directly as consultants with organizations. A small group of students clarify the issue with the internal personnel on organizational premises, collect information using a variety of research methods, and analyze this information from the perspective of both academic theory and the specific organizational context. They make recommendations for action both orally and in writing. As well as getting a real-world experience in solving a problem, students also experience working with a team of diverse peers to produce credible outcomes

The course content is designed around students learning in small group discussions with a teacher about research findings and writing papers or essays.

Some tips

  • Divide students into groups that are facilitated by a tutor. The tutor acts as a task giver, as an information resource responding to student requests and as a facilitator moving from sub-group to sub-group helping discussions to develop. 
  • Run interactive seminars in which students are forbidden to take notes except for a class TA who posts minutes on a website within 24 hours. Most of the class time is spent discussing key concepts projected on a screen. Most of student’s learning time is spent reading the text out of class in conjunction with the lecturer’s running commentary. Students prepare short answers to questions, some of which will form the basis of the following seminar; and write essays. Researching and writing essays is central to the module. This model can be used especially in the social sciences. 
  • Assign undergraduate TAs to a research methodology course. The undergraduate TAs assist the rest of the students in the class with assignments, go over class notes and reading materials, and provide help with mastering APA writing style. They are also available for one-on-one writing help. Course-related responsibilities of TAs include accompanying the class to the library to aid with instruction in library research skills, assisting with in-class activities (e.g. helping with data collection), locating library materials for class (e.g. interesting recent journal articles that can replace older articles used in class as examples of different research paradigms), examining existing instructor-generated assignments and worksheets to suggest modifications, and consulting with other instructors for the course (McKeegan, 1998). 
  • Assign graduate students as mentors to undergraduate students working on a research project.
  • Encourage research postgraduates to allow undergraduate students to shadow them for a short period.
  • Have undergraduate students do an assignment in their first semester in which they interview, as a group, faculty about their research. Each group is allocated a different faculty member.

The faculty member provides three representative pieces of writing (e.g. journal articles) along with a copy of their CV and arranges a date for the interview. Students read these materials and develop an interview agenda. On the basis of their reading and the interview, each student individually writes a 1,500 word report on:

  1. Objectives of the interviewee’s research
  2. How that research relates to their earlier studies
  3. How the interviewee’s research relates to his or her teaching, and other interests and the area of study as a whole 

Source: Jenkins, Healey, Zetter 2007

Additional Resources

Research Informed Teaching. Presentation of a matrix that relates the research-teaching nexus to conceptions and modes of student inquiry.

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