Developing a Research-based Connected Curriculum

The Research-Inspired Learning Steering Group and Academic Practice Network were delighted to welcome our first external guest speaker on Friday 23 March 2018: Prof Dilly Fung (Professor of HE Development and Director of Arena Centre for Research-Based Education, UCL).  Dilly is known to many of us as a highly regarded former colleague at the University of Exeter. In 2013, Dilly joined UCL as Professor of Higher Education Development and Academic Director of the Arena Centre for Research-based Education. Dilly is also Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) Assessor.IMG_0043.jpg

In this paper, Dilly explored whether it is possible to bring university research and student education into a more connected, symbiotic relationship.  Dilly drew upon her 2017 open-access monograph, A Connected Curriculum for Higher Education, and explained her own experiences of promoting this agenda during an institutional drive at UCL to close the gap between research and teaching.

Dilly explained that Higher Education has moved past the era where we simply tell student information in a linear manner, and then expect them to repeat it back to us through assessments.  Instead we now have the opportunity for exciting dialogues and outputs with and from students, promoted via linking their education with the institution’s research.  Dilly explained various advantages of connecting research and education.  For example, research (such as the work by Wieman and Gilbert) suggests that students involved in active inquiry outperform others and have a greater depth of understanding.  Likewise, this agenda can help universities feel less “remote” by helping them to convey their values and show a greater number of people what they stand for.

The “Connected Curriculum framework” is designed to help with this agenda.  One of the first steps is to identify what each discipline considers to be “research”, and establish what the academics are trying to achieve by this research.  This is something which academics often do not discuss with each other, but it is a key foundation for the next stage of conversation: thinking on how students can be involved in this.

Dilly then introduced six core dimensions of practice for implementing this framework:

  • Students connect with researchers and with the institution’s research
  • A through line of research activity is built into each programme
  • Students make connection across subjects and out to the world
  • Students connect academic learning with workplace learning
  • Students learn to produce outputs – assessments directed at an audience
  • Students connect with each other, across phases and with alumni

Each is explained in further detail as a chapter in her monograph.  Dilly explained that the framework was aided at UCL by several other agendas and priorities, including: “a students and change agents” scheme, UCL’s Arena Programme and the HEA fellowships ultimately awarded, and motivating educators and educational leaders by genuinely rewarding and promoting them through clear pathways.

People at the University of Exeter can watch a video recording of this session here.



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