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Expressions of Interest: Articles for a JUTLP Special Issue, October 2018

Research Skill Development spanning Higher Education:

Connections, critiques and curricula

Special Issue Editor: John Willison

This special issue considers connections, critiques and curricula in Research Based Learning (RBL) and teaching that gravitate around a shared conceptual model, the Research Skill Development (RSD) framework (Willison & O’Regan, 2007). RBL is used here as an umbrella term to encapsulate a variety of active learning strategies, including Inquiry Based Learning, Problem Based Learning, Project Based Learning, Critical Thinking tasks, Undergraduate Research, Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning and Discovery Learning.

In terms of connections, the focus of the special Issue is the RSD as a model that guides diverse approaches to RBL. Authors of a recent meta-analysis of RBL approaches were frustrated that:

Which types of guidance are appropriate cannot be determined on the basis of the existing reviews and meta-analyses. This seems at least in part due to the fact that guidance is often classified ad hoc on the basis of the included studies. Using an a priori classification based on a theoretical framework might be more fruitful and ease interpretation of the findings (Lazonder & Harmsen, 2016 p. 684, italics added).

Using the RSD as an a priori framework to create connections, not only between different RBL modes of guidance, but also between year levels, throughout degree programs, between disciplines, universities and cultural perspectives, is of major interest in this issue.


In terms of critiques, broad claims have been made about the effectiveness of RBL, however, the evidence base is nascent and under challenge. For example, Kuh’s (2008) labelling of Undergraduate Research as a ‘high impact practice’ has been cited frequently, but at the same time as Kuh’s article, Hunter, Laursen, & Seymour (2007) stated the research evidence was meagre. Moreover, the literature on effectiveness of the RSD to guide learning and teaching is restrained to Australian research with small scale studies elsewhere, and with a limited amount of critique on the RSD itself. This special issue provides a targeted call for critiques that may lead to a richer understanding of the effectiveness RBL and of the RSD framework’s strengths, weaknesses, scope and limitations, as well as suggest potential improvements.


In terms of Curricula, a pedagogical framework is needed to guide RBL curriculum and assessment design. Shifts to student-centred curriculum implicitly or explicitly suggest that students’ own sense of ownership and direction in teaching and learning are pivotal (Levy, Little, & Whelan, 2010). Other literature suggests the importance of guidance for students in RBL (Kirschner, Sweller & Clark, 2006). Still other literature searches for the ‘goldilocks zone’, the ideal level of autonomy in inquiry (eg Wielenga-Meijer,Taris, Wigboldus, & Kompier, 2011). However, an ideal level belies the teaching and learning reality, as well as the research reality, that level of student autonomy depends on the content, context and students, not an a theorised optimum or as an attribute to be attained in an absolute way. This special issue, through the lens of the RSD and its articulation of student autonomy, can make a contribution to curriculum design practicalities and controversies. RSD-informed curriculum implementations that have been rigorously researched and that include disconfirming evidence are especially welcome.


We therefore welcome diverse, creative and rigorous Expressions of Interest for articles on the use of the RSD to forge connections and lay the groundwork for improved curriculum, as well as those that challenge the framework, so that contributions together lead to improvements and consolidations in student RBL in Higher Education.


EoI Submission

Due by 24 August 2017


Word documents only

1500-2000 words

Note the JUTLP Aims and Scope http://ro.uow.edu.au/jutlp/aimsandscope.html

JUTLP Referencing system http://public01.library.uow.edu.au/refcite/style-guides/html/

Invitations to submit a full paper for the Special Issue will be sent by 25 September. Unsuccessful EoIs will be informed by the same date.


Review criteria for EoI

  • provides insight into RSD use in RBL for connections, critiques and/or curriculum
  • in combination with other EoIs accepted, provides a broad range of perspectives
  • uses, adapts, connects together or critiques the RSD or a framework that has emerged from it
  • states gap being addressed
  • synthesises an appropriate literature base that includes but is broader than RSD literature
  • well-reasoned methods/methodology
  • EoIs for empirical articles provide an understanding of the rigour of the data, applying standards appropriate for qualitative, quantitative or mixed-methods data
  • communicative and succinct
  • consistently uses JUTLP referencing system


Amplified Information and references

Rationale for the Special Issue

·      How does the focus of the special issue advance theory and/or practice in university teaching and learning?

This special issue considers research-based learning and teaching connections that are made using the Research Skill Development (RSD) framework (Willison & O’Regan, 2007), to inform diverse curricula and to engage critiques. A special issue that uses the RSD as a conceptual centrepiece for articles would contribute to advancing theory and practice in the JUTLP in three main ways:

1.   Connections: An agreed on a priori classification of guidance for diverse approaches to, and contexts for, Research Based Learning is needed


There is a need for a framework that provides coherent ways of understanding highly engaged teaching and learning approaches that require similar modes of student activity, such as Research Based Learning, Inquiry Based Learning, Problem Based Learning, Project Based Learning, Undergraduate Research, Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning and Discovery learning. Due to the overlap of the ways of student engagement in these approaches, the term Research Based Learning (RBL) will be used as an umbrella term to represent them all.

RBL strategies frequently have unspecified and differing levels of guidance within each strategy as well as between them. A recent meta-analysis of RBL approaches found:

Which types of guidance are appropriate cannot be determined on the basis of the existing reviews and meta-analyses. This seems at least in part due to the fact that guidance is often classified ad hoc on the basis of the included studies. Using an a priori classification based on a theoretical framework might be more fruitful and ease interpretation of the findings (Lazonder & Harmsen, 2016 p. 684, italics added).

The studies that Lazonder & Harmsen included in their meta-review, sourced from a variety of journals chose to articulate the critical aspect of extent of guidance for students in RBL in relatively idiosyncratic or ad hoc ways.

Lazonder and Harmsden’s call for a framework that provides studies with an a priori classification of guidance fits one of the major rationales for the articulation of degrees of autonomy in the RSD framework (Willison & O’Regan, 2007).  A special issue of JUTLP that focused on the RSD as its primary conceptual framework would enable common ground for classifying guidance and enable connections between different disciplinary and interdisciplinary contexts and the various RBL approaches above. For many teachers, students and researchers, the big issue is what type and how much guidance? What is the differential guidance needed within a cohort? Between different levels of study?  Use of the RSD would enable the presentation of diverse approaches in a way that has comparability for readers in the way that Lazonder and Holland suggested was vital.

Coherent findings from numerous individual contexts that share the same conceptual framework, while maintaining diversity, could providing a united way to represent and  advance theory and practice of RBL. The RSD could help authors to articulate their differences without labelling them as fundamentally at odds, because the framework may be used to place studies of different approaches to RBL on the same continuum of student autonomy. This will promote reasonable conversations and arguments about what is appropriate and realistic for RBL.


2.            Critiques of RBL and the RSD: The evidence base for RBL is at best nascent and at worst confused


Critiques of RBL

Influential educators such as Dewey (1908) and The Boyer commission (Boyer, 1998), argued for RBL, however since their calls neither a strong or coherent evidence base around RBL has emerged. The current worldwide (re)turn to RBL has been based on rational arguments but not a substantial evidence basis. For example, Kuh’s (2008) labelling of Undergraduate Research as a ‘high impact practice’ has been cited frequently, but the evidence base Kuh draws on is slim: in the same timeframe as Kuh’s article, Hunter, Laursen, & Seymour (2007) stated the research evidence was meagre, as did the original article on the RSD (Willison & O’Regan, 2007). In the past decade, subsequent research has been largely restricted to small scale studies. At the same time, RBL without sufficient guidance, is perceived by some to be highly unsatisfactory leading to poor educational outcomes (Kirsher, Sweller & Clark 2006). This need for scaffolding has been hotly debated (Hmelo-Silver, Duncan & Chinn, 2007) and this debate has stayed current (eg Ergulec, Brush, Glazewski, Shin, Shin, Hogaboam, & Guo, 2016).

The special issue, using the RSD as its conceptual framework, may provide a way to unite different types of evidence, and to make a more comprehensive picture of the realistic potential of RBL. Placing studies of different RBL approaches and contexts on the RSD’s continuum of autonomy will provide readers with a more comparative understanding between studies than is typically possible. The capacity to compare and contrast studies of different RBL approaches in different contexts will enable more informed critiques within approaches and between approaches. For example, it is possible that there is more variation- of implementation and of outcomes- within an approach such as Undergraduate Research, than between RBL approaches, rendering generalised statements about an approach’s efficacy in doubt. Use of the RSD will provide insight to readers because, article by article, it enables a comparative look, while enabling the maintenance of nuance and diversity.


Critiques of the RSD

Currently I am only aware of nine articles that critique aspects of the RSD framework (see the list at http://www.adelaide.edu.au/rsd/evidence/critiques) with one recently published (Böttcher & Thiel, 2017). A targeted call for critiques may lead to a richer understanding of the RSD framework’s strengths, weaknesses, scope, limitations and potential improvements to it.


3.            Curricula: A pedagogical framework is needed to guide curriculum and assessment design

Current movements, such as students as partners (Levy, Little, & Whelan, 2010) and Discovery Learning anticipate student ownership and empowerment will be both powerful drivers and outcomes of learning. However, with a concomitant expectations for students to perform with high levels of autonomy, there is a risk of reinforcing a status quo, where underprepared students fall further behind, whereas better prepared students charge ahead. However:

Learners who are given some kind of guidance act more skillfully during the task, are more successful in obtaining topical information from their investigational practices, and score higher on tests of learning outcomes administered after the inquiry (Lazonder & Harmsen, 2016, p708, italics added).

This suggests that for many students, high levels of autonomy initially are not always helpful. Assumptions of ownership and student capacity for high autonomy need to be tested empirically in many Higher Education contexts. Our recent study using the RSD as an interpretive framework (Willison, Sabir and Thomas, 2016) found students experienced differing levels of autonomy, and that all the levels were necessary and appropriate. The 2012 article on RSD use (Willison, 2012) across multiple courses and universities found the vast majority of students benefited from scaffolded learning of research skills, not research skill usage per se. While much HE literature treats autonomy as the opposite of guidance, the RSD presents autonomy and guidance on the same continuum. The literature frequently searches for the ‘goldilocks zone’ of autonomy i.e. the ideal level of autonomy in inquiry (eg Wielenga-Meijer,Taris, Wigboldus, & Kompier, 2011).This belies the teaching and learning reality, as well as the research reality, that level of student autonomy depends on the context and students, not an a theorised optimum or as an attribute to be attained in an absolute way.

This special issue, through the lens of the RSD, can make a contribution to curriculum design practicalities and controversies. Many claims are made about the effectiveness of different RBL approaches, but without a deep consideration of student autonomy in curriculum design and implementation such approaches may not be as conducive to student learning as would be possible with a thorough examination of how much structure and guidance students need. Various semester-length subjects have been reconceptualised through the use of the RSD’s levels of autonomy (Willison, 2012) as have degree programs (Willison, Buisman Pijlman, 2016; Wilmore & Willison, 2016). As an example of the latter, first year Human Biology topics in two consecutive semesters used the RSD framework from 2006 to reframe learning tasks and assessment for RBL tasks. Beginning, 2012, the School of Medical Science built on that first year curriculum conceptualisation and reformatted learning tasks and assessment in the Honours year using the RSD. From 2013, second and third year courses in the degree used the RSD to inform curriculum and assessment and the program-level evaluation has been reported (Willison, Buisman Pijlman, 2016).




·      What evidence is there that the proposed focus of the special issue is a contemporary or emerging area of interest for university teaching and learning (substantiate with references)?


Controversies around teaching and research connections are still contemporary

Seven years ago, JUTLP ran a special issue ‘Achieving teaching-research connections in undergraduate programs’. Much has happened in HE in that time, but the notion of teaching-research connections remains contested and contemporary. For example in The Australian Higher Education section from time to time runs articles that discuss the ‘myth of Teaching Research Nexus’. Moreover, there is a current move to stratify academic roles into teaching focussed and research focussed. (Boyd & Smith 2016; Pitt & Mewburn, 2016). In the last seven years, none of the other main Higher Education journals have had a special issue around this topic.

However, instead of coming at this controversy directly, this special issue will consider explicit use of the Research Skill Development (RSD) framework to provide a conceptual continuum on which fall a diversity of approaches and perspectives about learning, teaching and researching. The RSD can work as an enabler of learning, assessment and curriculum design, and the special issue would explore the implications of this for teaching and research connections. This would include the connections this may enable through the use of a shared conceptual framework operationalised in contemporary aspects of Higher Education as diverse as WIL, Clinical reasoning, Engineering Problem Solving, performance and creative arts, as well as laboratory, field, literature-based and interdisciplinary research. The advantages and disadvantages across many contexts, critiques of RSD-informed approaches and the conceptual framework itself would also be explored.


Aspects of RBL that may be addressed in the EoI include:

Disciplinary and interdisciplinary connections

Connecting academics, professional staff and students

Scaffolding student autonomy

Work Integrated Learning and Employment outcomes

Formative and diagnostic assessment and feedback

Summative feedback that makes a difference next time

Thinking routines

PhD supervision

ECR development

Building research capacity

Downsides of explicit vs implicit  

Linking Teaching and Research

Segues from school to university


This special issue will influence the way educators see the connections between teaching and research, and the ways that formal education may progressively develop student cognitive and affective engagement over numerous semesters, towards realising program-level thinking. This will help universities to run programs that enable the development of graduates equipped with Twenty-first Century skills. There will be new insights on why, where, how, and how effectively the RSD has been used in a variety of contexts, including the ways that it needs to be modified according to purpose.


Proposed Timeline: Publication in October 2018



July 24, 2017

Submission deadline for EoIs

September 24, 2017

Feedback returned. Invitations to submit full paper.

Feb 28 2018

Full papers due

April 30

Review 1 returned

May 30

Reply to reviewers due

June 30

Reviewer 2 further comments returned

July 23

Final changes complete.

August 30

Proofs to authors

September 20

Final version to JUTLP

October 2018




Böttcher, F., & Thiel, F. (2017). Evaluating research-oriented teaching: a new instrument to assess university students’ research competences. Higher Education, 1-20. DOI: 10.1007/s10734-017-0128-y

Boyd, P., & Smith, C. (2016). The contemporary academic: Orientation towards research work and researcher identity of higher education lecturers in the health professions. Studies in Higher Education, 41(4), 678-695.

Boyer, E. L. (1998). The Boyer commission on educating undergraduates in the research university, reinventing undergraduate education: A blueprint for America’s research universities. Stony Brook, NY, 46.

Dewey, J. (1908). What does pragmatism mean by practical? The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, 5(4), 85–99.

Ergulec, F., Brush, T., Glazewski, K., Shin, S., Shin, S., Hogaboam, P., & Guo, M. (2016, March). Teacher Scaffolding for Inquiry-Based Learning in a Technology-Enhanced Student-Centered High School Biology Classroom-A Case Study. In Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (Vol. 2016, No. 1, pp. 2609-2614).

Hmelo-Silver, C. E., Duncan, R. G., & Chinn, C. A. (2007). Scaffolding and achievement in problem-based and inquiry learning: A response to Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006). Educational psychologist, 42(2), 99-107.


Hunter, A.-B., Laursen, S.L., & Seymour, E. (2007). Becoming a scientist: The role of undergraduate research in students’ cognitive, personal and professional development. Science Education, 91(1), 36–74.

Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. E. (2006). Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational psychologist, 41(2), 75-86.

Kuh, G. D. (2008). Excerpt from high-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Lazonder, A. W., & Harmsen, R. (2016). Meta-Analysis of Inquiry-Based Learning: Effects of Guidance. Review of Educational Research, 86(3), 681-718.

Levy, P., Little, S., & Whelan, N. (2010). Perspectives on staff–student partnership in learning, research and educational enhancement (pp. 1-15). S. Little (Ed.). London: Continuum.

Pitt, R., & Mewburn, I. (2016). Academic superheroes? A critical analysis of academic job descriptions. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 38(1), 88-101.

Wielenga-Meijer, E.G., Taris, T.W., Wigboldus, D.H., & Kompier, M.A. (2011). Costs and benefits of autonomy when learning a task: An experimental approach. The Journal of Social Psychology, 151(3), 292–313.

Willison, J. & Buisman Pijlman, F. (2016). Ph.D. prepared: Research skill development across the undergraduate years. International Journal of Researcher Development 7(1), 63-83.

Willison, J., & O’Regan, K. (2007). Commonly known, commonly not known, totally unknown: A framework for students becoming researchers. Higher Education Research and Development, 26(4), 393–409.

Willison, J., Sabir, F. & Thomas, J. (2017). Shifting dimensions of autonomy in students’ research and employment. Higher Education Research & Development 36 (2) 430-443.

Wilmore, M., & Willison, J. (2016). Graduates’ Attitudes to Research Skill Development in Undergraduate Media Education. Asia Pacific Media Educator, 26 (1), 113-128.







JUTLP 2018 CADAD Special Issue - Call for Papers



Topic: Third-party Partnerships in Higher Education: Challenging

Centralised Teaching and Learning Functions in the University


Due:  Monday September 25, 2017



Editors: Associate Professor Gail Wilson and Dr Sally Ashton-Hay



The  Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice is a tri-annual, peer-reviewed journal publishing papers that add significantly to the body of knowledge describing effective and innovative teaching and learning practice in the higher education environment. The Journal provides a forum

for educational practitioners in a wide range of disciplines to communicate their teaching and learning outcomes in a scholarly way. Its purpose is to bridge the gap between journals covering purely academic research and more pragmatic articles and opinions published elsewhere.


This Special Issue is sponsored by the  Council of Australian Directors of Academic Development

(CADAD). The first  CADAD Special Issue was published in 2016.


Across many universities in Australia at present third-party providers are offering teaching and learning services through outsourced arrangements with universities. This issue of JUTLP opens debate to the experiences of universities in Australasia and overseas.


Third-party providers as partners in higher education and the benefits, advantages and challenges they bring to centralised teaching and learning functions in the university, is the focus of this Special Issue. Increasingly, third-party providers are partnering with universities to provide a range of services that areoutsourced’ or ‘unbundled’ from the traditional way the centralised teaching and learning functions in the university are organised. Universities are partnering with these providers for a range of reasons, some of which include the need to increase student revenue, enhance their capacity on a global stage, advance online learning options in a competitive marketplace, or to grow their footprint outside the immediate region of the university.


Strong arguments for these partnerships include their ability to increase the competency or reach of an institution to develop and deliver courses, to partner with overseas institutions or to collaborate with online delivery specialists.


Some questions raised by these third-party partnerships include:

●    How does a university maintain its institutional identity and reputation?



●    What are the managerial challenges within the university associated with multi-agency delivery?


●    What is the impact of these partnerships on teaching and learning staff working in areas affected by these partnerships?


●    What role has the disruptive nature of technology played in the unbundling’ process that

lies at the heart of these partnerships?



●    What does competitive disruption and/or disruptive innovation hold for the future of higher education?


The limited literature relating to this topic is spread across a range of disciplines and fields of interest

higher education policy and teaching and learning; management and organisational change; openness and disaggregation in online learning; and the disruptive force of technologies on universities, students and staff. For this issue we seek papers which:


     Define an important issue, initiative or problem relevant to the topic with clear educational and teaching and learning practice application;

     Apply critical, analytical and useful insights in relation to the topic and learning and teaching practice;

     Contain a clearly stated context of interest to an international readership;

     Include reference to the appropriate literature;

     Include an easy to follow structure;

     Adhere to the JUTLP word limit of between 7000 - 8000 words , including references, or approximately 15 pages with an upper limit of 20 pages.


1 files/image001.gifTimeline:


Date                                            Activity


June 19, 2017                           Call for papers for Special Issue


September 25, 2017              Papers received and distributed for peer review


November 20, 2017               Articles returned from peer review to Editors


February 28, 2018                  Final articles ready


Publication of special issue

May 2018




Submission DeadlineSeptember 25, 2017


Instructions for Authors:  http://ro.uow.edu.au/jutlp/policies.html


Please direct all questions or enquiries to:  JUTLP2018@scu.edu.au