The myth of the research-led teacher

Feb. 15, 2007

Source: Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, Volume 13, Issue 1 February 2007, pages 43 - 61

This paper examines the contention that achievement in research is a prerequisite for effective teaching in higher education. It also explores university level teaching more generally with the purpose of examining the links between teaching and research. Concept mapping, in particular, is described as a means of exploring both the knowledge structures of experts (teachers and researchers) and the cognitive changes that are indicative of meaningful learning among students. We use the approach to suggest that rich and complex networks are indicative of expert status, but that these are seldom made explicit to students in the course of teaching.

Instead, simple, linear structures comprise most lesson plans or teaching sequences. This linearity is often made transparent through the lecturers' use of PowerPoint presentations to structure teaching. Thus the transmission mode of teaching predominates in HE and evidence of authentic research-led teaching remains scant. This is likely to reinforce surface learning outcomes among university students and be an impediment to the emergence of expert status. The linear chains that are commonly espoused in teaching lend themselves to rote learning strategies rather than to individual meaning making.

 The approach we describe here has the potential to reinstate expert status as the prime qualification for teaching in higher education. Where concept mapping is used to share and explore knowledge structures between students and experts, then learning can be shown to occur in ways that are synonymous with research and discovery. Using this approach, the teacher-student distinction becomes legitimately blurred so that the sharing and advancement of knowledge are concomitant. In conclusion, we suggest that this is a basis for a pedagogy that is appropriate to HE and distinct from the compulsory sector.

Updated: Mar. 18, 2008