This year’s research paper winners Thomas Tijssen and James Lemin, receiving their prize from me (sponsored by O’Reilly).
I’ve been investigating the concept of undergraduate research for a few years now. Especially the effectiveness of integrating research opportunities within the 1st year Computing undergraduate cohort, and how the introduction of a research culture enables the teaching team to engage the students and create a foundation of skills that are transferable throughout their course.
The teaching of university students at undergraduate level has conventionally mostly been about providing students with learning skills and about enabling their procurement and understanding of information. Imagine this scenario, so common in higher education: several hundred students assemble together into a big tiered lecture room, to sit an hour, sometimes longer, to listen to a one way lecture. Students are commonly expected to gain an understanding of the subject matter usually by attending these lectures and reading a body of evidence-based literature. At some stage during their academic studies (normally at the end of the academic year) it is necessary to ask them to reiterate the information handed out during those lectures, in order to assess what the student has absorbed. Often, they graduate without experiencing the practices that went into forming the specific readings they study from.
Presently, it is only when a student actually graduates they experience the development of independent inquiry, intellectual independence and knowledge creation. Engaging students in using the skills associated with research can only improve the quality of the university undergraduate experience, and improve their critical thinking.
Students who undertake CO1801 (Practitioner Skills) are required to write a research paper as one of their assignments. This module serves as a tool for students to learn and put into practice skills that will increase their employability; such as team working, adaptability, communication and research proficiency. Students have to propose a piece of experimental research, carry out their experiment, and write it up in a short journal paper format. The best papers are submitted to UClan’s Journal of Undergraduate Research, further encouraging quality of work and engagement.