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Abstract

This paper discusses a research project carried out with 82 final and third year undergraduate students, learning Research Methods prior to undertaking an undergraduate thesis during the academic years 2010 and 2011. The research had two separate, linked objectives, (a) to develop a Research Methods module that embraces an activity-based approach to learning in a group environment, (b) to improve engagement by all students. The Research Methods module was previously taught through a traditional lecture-based format. Anecdotally, it was felt that student engagement was poor and learning was limited. It was believed that successful completion of the development of this Module would equip students with a deeply-learned battery of research skills to take into their further academic and professional careers. Student learning was achieved through completion of a series of activities based on different research methods. In order to encourage student engagement, a wide variety of activities were used. These activities included workshops, brainstorming, mind-mapping, presentations, written submissions, peer critiquing, lecture/seminar, and ‘speed dating’ with more senior students and self reflection. Student engagement was measured through a survey based on a U.S. National Survey of Student Engagement (2000). A questionnaire was devised to establish whether, and to what degree, students were engaged in the material that they were learning, while they were learning it. The results of the questionnaire were very encouraging with between 63% and 96% of students answering positively to a range of questions concerning engagement. In terms of the two objectives set, these were satisfactorily met. The module was successfully developed and continues to be delivered, based upon this new and significant level of student engagement.

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