Academics' conceptions of and approaches to research-teaching linkages: Challenges for realising the curriculum as praxis

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Michael Rayner Keith Smyth Heather Fotheringham


In this paper, we seek to provide a rich exploration of the conceptions of and approaches to research-teaching linkages (RTL) that are held and undertaken by scholars, researchers and academics within Higher Education (HE). The work we report has been undertaken as part of a longitudinal institutional project to broaden and deepen engagement with RTL in a geographically distributed university that sits within a particular social and economic context. The project has a primary focus on exploring creative new ways to embed RTL principles and practices across a broad range of subject areas, within formal learning and teaching, and curricula, in such a way that the intellectual work our students undertake and produce has a direct value to the needs of the wider communities the university serves.

Within this paper, we present key aspects of our work and findings to date in three distinct parts. Part 1 summarises the main findings from an extensive review of the literature related to RTL that we undertook, and in which we synthesise the literature on RTL into four distinct areas comprising: perceptions of RTL; principles of RTL; productivity in RTL, and practice in RTL. In the latter area we consider the concept of the ‘curriculum as praxis’. Part 2 of the paper describes and reports on the emerging findings of our own research, which took the form of a phenomenographic study investigating the conceptions of and approaches to RTL within the range of staff who are participating in the aforementioned institutional project. The phenomenography represents a contribution to a relatively small research base of phenomenographic research concerning RTL. In Part 3 of the paper we consider and look towards how we reconcile the promise and possibilities of RTL, particularly in relation to the ‘curriculum as praxis’, with the perceptions and practices emerging from our phenomenographic study. In doing so we offer a consideration of practical next steps that we are now taking, including recommendations we hope others may find useful.

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Michael Rayner, University of the Highlands and Islands











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