Focus on pedagogic research

This issue’s focus on pedagogic research (PedR) takes a look at the recently published article by Anne Tierney exploring the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) within the research excellence framework (REF), within a disciplinary context.

LITE Research Officer, Katie Livesey, examines the salient parts here for SEB.

This study focuses on PedR within life sciences and places the study in the context of REF submissions under unit of assessment (UoA) 25 (Education).

Obstacles to submission

It draws upon some interesting statistics highlighting that in REF 2014 submissions to UoA25 were received from fewer than half of all institutions submitting, and goes on to explore some of the possible reasons for this.

In the context of life sciences, one of the challenges begins at the project delivery stage with the struggle in adapting to the qualitative research approach that PedR is often reliant upon.

However, the paper suggests that beyond the ‘coal face’ of research, institutional culture and attitudes towards SoTL are the main obstacles to active and impactful PedR.

Whether it is the feeling of exclusion from carrying out education-based research, whilst being part of a discipline-specific research community, such as life sciences, or, through workload and constraints on time.

It seems a common dilemma across all universities that teaching-related academics, who have an expectation to carry out scholarly activity, have such high teaching allocations, which leaves little time to carry out scholarly research.

Leading to, as the article suggests, PedR being seen more as a ‘hobby’ being carried out as a voluntary activity in the limited, spare time available.

Cultural change

Organisational structures are discussed as a facilitator to supporting PedR and as a means of growing REF submissions in the UoA25.

Co-ordinating submissions across an institution come with the usual challenges that faces any cross-campus collaboration, including logistics and communications.

Coupled with a general lack of understanding and, or, acknowledgement of the value of discipline-level PedR, many researchers are not provided with the guidance needed to ensure their research achieves comparable ratings to those of discipline-specific papers.

The result is that SoTL researchers are not driven by the promise of recognition and therefore the perception of PedR as a valued area of research in its own right never increases.

The article ultimately highlights that for PedR to earn its place as a worthy contributor to the REF, there has to not only be strategic change in the institutional approach to PeDR within the REF process but also a cultural change in how SoTL activity is perceived and subsequently encouraged.

Pedagogical community

The University of Leeds is committed to supporting its pedagogic research community through the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence (LITE) and through the various discipline-specific groups around the University that work on teaching and learning initiatives.

To find out more about these groups and the opportunities for funding to support your own PedR visit the LITE website.

This article formed the basis of discussion at LITE’s Journal Club meeting in March.

To download the paper and find out what our next paper for discussion will be visit the Journal Club’s Sharepoint page.

Anne Tierney (2019) The scholarship of teaching and learning and pedagogic research within the disciplines: should it be included in the research excellence framework?, Studies in Higher Education