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Module Enhancement
Research-Teaching Linkages & the Undergraduate Experience
Theatre L
Project: To explore UCD undergraduate students' perceptions of the benefits and value of incorporating research outputs and experiences in their modules and programmes
Project Team: Dr Maria Meehan, Dr Mike Casey, Dr Katherine Howell
Collaborator(s): There are no collaborators at present


UCD Teaching and Learning and Deputy Registrar Teaching and Learning


September 2014 - December 2015
Theatre L

The Boyer Commission Report (1998) was a catalyst for debate in the United States, about the nature of an undergraduate student’s experience at a research university. Today, the question of how a research-intensive university with a large undergraduate population can embed research in the curriculum, and develop in its undergraduates a “research-mindedness” is still a topic of strategic importance. For example, in Scotland, “Research-teaching linkages: enhancing graduate attributes” was recently an enhancement theme of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. And the “Research-Teaching Nexus” is also a strategic priority of the Educational Innovation Cluster of the Universitas 21 group of which UCD is a member.


The literature on research-teaching linkages examines the issue from a number of perspectives. There have been attempts to quantify whether such a link exists (e.g. Hattie and Marsh, 1996), and studies that present theoretical frameworks and case studies on how these linkages appear in the curriculum (e.g. Healey and Jenkins, 2009).  There are some small-scale studies on staff perceptions of research-teaching linkages (e.g. Robertson, 2007), and recent studies from the UK, Canada and New Zealand have examined these linkages from students’ perspectives, based around a survey developed by Healey, Jordan, Pell and Short (2010). Our aim to conduct a study that will examine students’ awareness, experiences and perception of research-teaching linkages, and examine the variations in these perceptions across stage and discipline. We will also attempt to identify, from a student perspective, examples of good practice in integrating research in undergraduate teaching.

Theatre L

The objectives of this study are as follows:

  • To explore the extent to which undergraduate students are aware of the research conducted by staff in their chosen discipline/programme, and in their discipline/programme more generally, and to explore how this awareness (if any) has developed.
  • To examine the ways (if any) in which undergraduate students in UCD perceive that research has been linked to their learning and/or teaching experiences, in the curriculum or the wider university.
  • To explore students’ perceptions of specific research-teaching linkage(s), as identified by a member of staff or as described in a module descriptor.
  • To examine the ways (if any) in which students perceive that their skills and attitudes have been impacted by learning and teaching at a research-intensive university.
  • To examine if/how students’ awareness and experiences of research, and their perceptions of the impact of learning and teaching at a research-intensive university has had on their learning, vary according to their stage of study and discipline/programme.
  • To identify examples of good practice, from the student perspective, in terms of research-teaching linkages.
Theatre L

To obtain a university-wide representative perspective we adopted a focus group strategy.  Following a successful pilot, focus groups were conducted with final year students in large programmes from each of the seven UCD colleges and with three groups of first year students representing Arts, Engineering and Science.  A short survey was administered to large groups of students at the end of a class, and volunteers (8-12 per group) immediately participated in the 1-hour focus groups, led by an experienced facilitator.  The short survey contained questions on research awareness and experiences, and collected demographic data about the students; the results have been collated but have not yet been analysed.

Thematic analysis of the transcripts from all ten focus groups has been carried out (with the aid of NVivo), but detailed analysis of the results has not yet been completed.