Since my project involves a variety of courses I didn’t examine the program and specific course goals and focused on the vision and mission articulated by the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CAHSS). The key aspect I believe my project connects to is the idea of providing teaching that “empowers students to become lifelong learners and responsible citizens who value scholarship, diversity and the pursuit of truth.” That, to me, is what engaging in research is all about. While my project focuses on how students feel about their research skills – self-efficacy – in the classroom. I see great value in how they utilize research skills in their daily lives. Most of the time without even realizing that they are doing so. Sometimes we run up against students’ complaints: “Well, I won’t ever use these skills.” And when it comes to research we can say, “You already are!”
In one of my courses, students will see how research is an integral part of what they’d do in a communications profession, even though we don’t call it research. In another course, the research tasks are explicit and specific, yet the concepts are wide reaching. This addresses another aspect of the college vision and mission, instruction that “enhances the skills of communication, problem solving, critical thinking and appropriate use of technology.” Most of these are actually research steps although never articulated as such in the CAHSS statements.
The terms “responsible citizenship” and “lifelong learning” are repeated and they make me realize how much a part of my teaching about research, while focused on reaching career goals, can and should have a much wider impact. Pedagogical innovation (mentioned in the mission) is necessary to make sure that we are giving students the skills they need to not only get a job, but also to live their lives.
I have been physically absent from the meetings (and for that I apologize), but RSD is mentally present many times a week. In this post I’ll talk about incorporating research on a course-specific level.
The first half of my communication course was focused on getting students getting used to the idea of research and also showing them that as journalists/communicators in the classroom, they were already doing lots of research (and would need to continue to do so in their fields). I slowed down the development of the research project they are working on and took a week with each stage instead of a class session with each stage. I’m curious to see how everything turns out a the end of the term. They started with independent exploratory research and moved to collaborative research. They developed research questions and identified secondary and primary sources and parameters for projects. And now the findings — the fun part (at least in my mind ; )
As I go through my lessons and this process, I started thinking about the indecisiveness I have about an aspect of RSD. My courses that have the most research components don’t have research in their course titles or descriptions and this might be a good thing. Students don’t come to the course with preconceived notions about what the course will be like. That said, I talk about research from day one, and I wonder if that is a mistake.
I love research because it’s a process of discovering and finding out things that are totally new (or at least new to me.) Would calling this process something else — like “discovery” or “investigation” — get students more engaged from the get-go? Or does that make it confusing when they start to compare research amongst their courses and the various disciplines on campus? Should prioritize having a common language across campus about what research is, or should we focus on getting students engaged on a course-by-course level?
My RSD project is two-fold, one is course-level and one is program-level. I hope to encourage the professional communication and emerging media (PCEM) program to see how the RSD informs our program courses. Program faculty are interested in learning more about it and have some initial ideas about using it in their courses.
As for my own courses, I want to use the RSD framework to develop structure for how I approach research in my ENGL 218 (Mass Communication) and ENGL 418 (Convergent Communication) courses. I’ve taught these courses with a historical perspective that’s grounded in primary source research. I’ve started introducing some concepts in classes and realized that one of the main lessons I’m taking away from the RSD is that I want my students to see value in the research process not just the product. For the classes, this means I am slowing down how I present the steps of a research project.
So this week I brought up the RSD at our professional communication and emerging media (PCEM) program meeting. I explained that I was involved with this community of practice and planned to apply this to two of my courses. I then posed the idea of the program examining our courses to see where RSD could fit it, perhaps putting structure to what most of us are already doing.
I brought one RSD placemat to the meeting and passed it around. Everyone was engaged and inspired to talk more about it at future meetings. Everyone saw the value and validity of the approach. I could see wheels turning in everyone’s heads : ) Everyone wants a placemat!
Last week I attended a departmental committee meeting that is aimed at providing support (in a broad sense) for our faculty. I recommended we have a presentation/discussion connected to the RSD this fall and everyone was on-board with that idea. This might be something we promote campus-wide.
My plan for the next few weeks is to continue to bring RSD up at my program meetings and also coordinate the larger RSD presentation/discussion. I also will be working on this at a course-level as I integrate the concepts into how I talk about research in the classroom.