Last Wednesday I headed to London to attend the Getting Started in Pedagogic Research event at Burlington House (home of the Royal Society of Chemistry). I previously attended this event in 2012, missed last year for some reason and also have missed a few other related events for one reason or another. That is very much my loss.
The day started with Michael Grove and Tina Overton asking very important questions, and encouraging us to ask ourselves questions like ‘why are we interested in pedagogic research?’. It was widely agreed that those attending the meeting were fairly innovative in their teaching and wished to move from basic evaluation of teaching innovation (and associated dissemination) to more in depth evaluation, formulating research questions and devising studies to obtain new knowledge.
The answers to the question ‘why do we do pedagogic research?’ were quite interesting and some were tweeted. Some people felt it necessary for career progression, others because they wished to understand the impact of their teaching innovations more deeply, and evaluate how they impacted on the learning experience of the students.
We were pointed towards some new, and some older resources that might be of interest to us. These included:
Getting started in Pedagogic Research within the STEM Disciplines
Getting Started in Pedagogical Research in the Physical Sciences
Evaluating your HE STEM Project or Activity
They are all sitting on my desk waiting for Monday.
Mario Moustras of the RSC discussed the new initiative to evaluate the impact of chemistry outreach, funded by the RSC. It is a long study, 5 years in duration and will probably result in more questions than answers about the impact of outreach on the choices made by school children. Still, it is good to see that this type of evaluation is being planned and I’m really looking forward to seeing the results.
Where and how to publish was discussed by Tina Overton and three types of publication were noted. The first was magazines, things like Education in Chemistry. They were identified as very important routes to disseminate innovative teaching. They were generally noted to be edited but not necessarily peer reviewed. Following a question from Simon Lancaster, it was noted that blogs likely fell below magazines in this area. A step up from that were grey publications, defined as being somewhere between magazines and research journals. Examples given include New Directions from the HEA. These are peer reviewed publications and generally regarded as a useful way to disseminate work. Finally there was some discussion of research journals and it was noted that we shouldn’t anticipate impact factors in the same league as research chemistry journals. The impact factors of, for example, Chemistry Education Research and Practice are generally in line with humanities journals. These journals were described as being for larger studies with greater evaluation, particularly ones that contributed new knowledge and understanding to issues in HE.
The final session of the day was three presentations by people engaged in various projects. Simon Lancaster updated us on MOOCs, Samantha Pugh on the huge variety of projects she has been involved in and Karen Moss on the work being undertaken to study the use of tablets in the laboratory. It was lovely to see these talks, given from the perspective of work in progress. All too often at conferences we see the carefully polished end product – it is far more interesting to see the intermediate stage and hear of the decisions made and the approach taken. You miss that in the final product but it is far more useful to those contemplating similar work.
As per usual, such meetings inspire a headache full of new ideas. This is made all the more frustrating by my self-imposed idea embargo. I have to finish writing some stuff up before I can do new things. Hopefully the next few weeks of Easter vacation will help me in that respect.