Imperial's new education research team sit down with Murray MacKay to talk learning, teaching, and what inspires them.
The Centre for Higher Education Research & Scholarship (CHERS) joins the pre-existing Educational Development Unit (EDU) as a joint group of education specialists. Made up of a number of different levels of practitioner, the new team work closely with the EDU to support innovative learning and teaching and conducting education research.
Professor Martyn Kingsbury, Professor of Education
Now that CHERS has been established, what's your vision for education research at the College over the coming years?
"The exciting challenge for CHERS/EDU is to continue to deliver a spectrum of support for colleagues involved in learning and teaching. We’re ensuring we embed evaluation into our practice and provide a hub for education research relevant to our context as a research-intensive university.
"We want to encourage and support our growing community of experts and explore a cross-College approach to research opportunities. It is also a priority that we collaboratively develop a credible institutional identity that is internationally recognised as offering expertise on STEMMB education."
Dr Tiffany Chiu, Senior Teaching Fellow in the EDU
EDU and CHERS are now part of a growing group of education practitioners and researchers at Imperial. What advantages do you think this brings?
"It's actually very exciting to see this growing group look into learning and teaching practice, assessment, identities in education, transition and progression, amongst many other aspects of higher education.
"This reflects our Learning and Teaching Strategy. One of the advantages of this trend is that we are able to foster support across the College to work together to explore a range of educational issues and initiatives."
Eliel Cohen, CHERS Researcher
What is it about education research that enthuses you day-to-day?
"I’ve been working on education research for over a decade now, going back to my undergraduate dissertation on how students with ‘Widening Participation’ characteristics experienced higher education. I continued studying education to learn more about how universities could be progressive institutions for a better and fairer society. I am privileged to work on these issues directly at Imperial with a view to collaborating with and learning from colleagues, as well as other universities in the UK and abroad.
"One thing that has particularly enthused me since arriving at Imperial is just how much great and innovative teaching and educational opportunities there are for students here. But I am also encouraged by the willingness to acknowledge and confront ongoing challenges such as how to support wellbeing and inclusivity in a competitive environment."
Could you give some examples of the Departments, colleagues and projects you’ve been collaborating with thus far?
"My main collaborator is Dr Julianne Viola (second right, main article image). Beyond CHERS, I have been getting to know others passionate about education through events like Talking Teaching, CHERSNet, and Education Day.
"Together we are working on a toolkit to help departments evaluate their teaching materials. We have already been able to lend our expertise to a StudentShapers project. We’re excited about the 2019/20 academic year, as that’s when we can really start collecting data about how staff and students are experiencing and benefiting from the new curricula."
Dr Camille Kandiko Howson, Associate Professor of Education
Do you see the establishment of CHERS as part of wider trend of education research being increasing valued and respected by universities?
"I think education research is being increasingly valued across the sector, and new policies in the Research Excellence Framework will help evidence its wider impact.
"Imperial’s approach connects research being done across the institution to bring together work across multiple disciplines. And it is important to note education research is different than disciplinary research, in that it can directly impact a university. CHERS is very well placed to take advantage of this by connecting with external experts. For example, Executive Doctoral students from the University of Pennsylvania visited us recently to learn about CHERS. We will also be hosting conferences showcasing, promoting and celebrating education research. It is important for universities to lead in this area, as this is not something the Office for Students supports, yet students in universities that are investing in it will reap the benefits."
Vasiliki Papageorgiou, CHERS PhD student
What is the power of education research? E.g. what insights can it uncover, how can it affect change?
"Educational research questions, challenges and evaluates existing practice and policy by generating new knowledge. It produces novel educational theories, models and approaches that can be shared and used by a wide range of individuals or groups such as policy makers, educators and students to improve their practice and experience and reach their full potential.
"Educational research in conjunction with other disciplines, such as psychology and neuroscience, can inform current knowledge on how people learn and develop pedagogical approaches to improve teaching quality. Evidence-informed practices can inspire educators’ decision-making and ultimately create meaningful learning opportunities for learners.
"Research in education can help to make education accessible to people or groups that would be impossible otherwise. Online learning is one example of this."
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