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Origins of the Centre

The Reinvention Centre for Undergraduate Research puts research at the centre of undergraduate education. This focus on research is not simply a matter of the way in which a lecturer’s research informs his or her teaching; but, rather, a much broader appreciation of the relationship between teaching and research (Brew, 2001). At the core of this broader approach to the relationship between undergraduate teaching and research is the understanding that undergraduates' learning is enhanced through active engagement with their own research projects, in collaboration with other students and their teachers. It is expected that these research projects will take place at times other than at the end of the degree programme. The purpose is to enable undergraduate students to experience ‘the process of artistic and scientific productivity’ (Hattie and Marsh, 1996: 544) at regular and appropriate moments throughout their undergraduate studentships.

In this way the Centre intends to counteract the tendency to regard teaching and research as discrete activities, exemplified by the UK Government’s White Paper, 'The Future of Higher Education' (2003), and, of course, the RAE. At the same time as developing the synergies between teaching and research, the Reinvention Centre aims to broaden the definition of what is meant by research to include the use of non-traditional genres, e.g. academic journalism or documentary film, as well as extending the use of ‘creative writing’ within the social sciences.

The purposes of the Reinvention Centre are based on studies that suggest that undergraduate research opportunities have a significant impact on the quality of student learning, as well as giving students a sense of the potential of their subjects (Jenkins, 2005; Blackmore and Cousin, 2003). Research has identified that encouraging undergraduates to be engaged in research projects contributes to the overall research capacity of a department in a way that is attractive to funders and external assessors of departments’ research culture (National Science Foundation, 2003; Jenkins, 2005).

The pedagogic inspiration for this Centre comes from Ernest Boyer’s work (1990), as well as more critical pedagogies, including Paulo Friere (1970) Michael Apple (1995), Henry Giroux (1983); Bertell Ollman (2001); Paula Allman, Peter McLaren and Glen Rikowski (2000); and Patrick Ainley (2005) .

Boyer’s project has been an attempt to dissolve the sterile debate between teaching and research, and, in so doing, to reinvent the role of the university lecturer by defining in more creative ways what it means to be a scholar. For Boyer and his supporters, teaching and research should be regarded as part of the same scholarly enterprise, and should be extended to include a strategy of involvement with real social problems outside of the academy: what Boyer refers to as a ‘scholarship of engagement’. The consequences of student learning based on this model are profound. Students should learn through research-based learning projects grounded in communities of need and capacity.

These ideas, together with the way in which Boyer’s work has been developed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, alongside an association of university teachers that refers to its approach as The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, have been significant in the development of the Centre. Indeed, the name of the Centre is taken from a US Commission that sought ways to put Boyer’s work into practice: 'Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for US Universities' (1998). Our name, The Reinvention Centre for Undergraduate Research, reflects our solidarity and shared aspirations with the Reinvention Center at Stoney Brook University, New York State. This Center at Stoney Brook is a national centre focusing on undergraduate education at research universities whose mission is to sustain the emphasis on undergraduate education inspired by the Boyer report.

The more critical pedagogies make clear that progressive developments in teaching and learning are possible only as a result of radical transformation at the social level, and are not simply a matter of institutional reform. Nevertheless, while they all agree that the key to these transformations is education, they argue that education needs to be grounded in the real lives of the students who should become active in the production of real knowledge, rather than being passive recipients of what a teacher tells them (Friere, 1970; Apple, 1995; Giroux, 1983; Ollman, 2000; Allman, McLaren and Rikowski, 2000; and Ainley, 2005).

Academic colleagues across the two universities will be encouraged to bid for Reinvention Fellowships (£10,000) to develop their teaching in ways that correspond to the aims and purposes of the Reinvention Centre. Student research will be further enhanced through curriculum redesign, to include an expansion in the number of modules across the faculties within which there are undergraduate research opportunities, particularly in the second year, or part-time equivalent. As well as innovation within modules, the Reinvention Centre hopes to increase extra-curricular research opportunities, research scholarships, accreditation for research skills, student exchanges and joint ventures with outside organisations. Initially focusing on the collaborating departments, the Reinvention Centre’s work will be extended into other departments within the two universities over the lifespan of the CETL. As the Centre is working across departments, a key issue is the way in which undergraduate research differs in different disciplines.

The success of the Reinvention Centre depends on the involvement of all colleagues and students within and throughout the two institutions. Remember the slogan: ‘Philosophers interpret the world; the point is to reinvent it’.

Dr Mike Neary, Founding Director,

The Reinvention Centre for Undergraduate Research

 

Bibliography

Ainley, P. (2005), 'For Free Universities', An Inaugural Lecture delivered at The University of Greenwich, London

Allman, P., McLaren, P. and Rikowski, G. (2000), 'After the Box People', Institute of Education Policy Studies, London

Apple, M. (1995), Official Knowledge: Democratic Education in an Conservative Age, Routledge, New York

Blackmore, P. and Cousin, G. (2003), ‘Linking Teaching and Research Through Research-Based Learning’, Educational Developments 4 (4): 24 - 27

Boyer, E. (1990), Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate, Jossey-Bass, San Franscisco

Boyer Commission (1998), 'Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for US Universities', http://naples.cc.sunysb.edu/Pres/boyer.nsf/

Brew, A. (2001), The Nature of Research: Inquiry in Academic Contexts, Routledge/Falmer, London

DFES (2003), The Future of Higher Education, http://www.dfes.gov.uk/hegateway/strategy/hestrategy/pdfs/DfES-HigherEducation.pdf

Friere, P. (1970), The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Continuum, New York

Giroux, H. (1983), Theory and Resistance in Education, Bergin and Harvey, New York

Jenkins, A. (2005), A Guide to the Research Evidence on Teaching-Research Relations, The Higher Education Academy, York

Hattie, J. and Marsh, H.W. (1996), ‘The Relationship Between Research and Teaching – A Meta-Analysis’, Review of Educational Research 66 (4): 507 – 542

National Science Foundation (2003), 'Merit Review Broader Impacts Criterion', Representative Activities, Washington DC, National Science Foundation

Ollman, B. (2001), How to Take an Exam & Remake the World, Black Rose Books, Montreal and NewYork