Conseil supérieur de l'éducation
 
INTEGRATING RESEARCH OR CREATIVE ACTIVITY WITH TEACHING AT ALL LEVELS OF UNIVERSITY EDUCATION


Summary

 

This brief from the Conseil supérieur de l’éducation contains proposals addressed to the Minister and the university community aimed at promoting or reinforcing the integration of research or creative activity with teaching. These proposals concern:

  •  the continuity and consistency of research aims throughout the higher education curriculum (college and university levels), as reflected in the general objectives of each level of university education and of the programs of study;
  • the promotion of teaching as a valued activity, in order to reestablish or maintain the desired balance between teaching and research in professors’ careers and in the mission of the university;
  • the consequent reaffirmation of the importance of research or creative activity as essential components of the mission of education;
  • the conducting of studies on approaches that favour the integration of research with education and on training for research at the postgraduate level;
  • the diversification of ways of initiating or furthering the integration of research or creative activity with education and the implementation of an institutional evaluation process.

 

Integration According to the Level of University Education

The integration of research with education varies with the level of university. At the bachelor’s level, research is integrated with teaching through the presentation of research results within academic courses and through "research training," that is, the development of skills relating to research (methodological approaches, ethics, rigour, critical thinking and the spirit of discovery). At this level, the integration of research contributes to the basic education of students and to their professional education, by preparing them to solve new problems. It also contributes to their ongoing education by developing their ability to analyze research results critically and, where applicable, to incorporate them into their professional activity. Lastly, it furthers the academic and career guidance process by allowing students to explore the possibility of research as a career. All of this continues at the master’s level, where students also begin to receive professional research training, in the case of research programs, or to learn methods of scientific production that are transferable to an area of professional application, in the case of professional programs. At the doctoral level, the main objective of integrating research is to qualify students for careers in research: the students learn by producing new knowledge. Creative activity, for its part, has a symbiotic relationship with education right from the start of the bachelor’s level, for creative activity is the purpose of this education.

 

The Outcome of a Careful Reexamination of Four Assertions

The link between research and education at the bachelor’s level was not immediately apparent, for the corpus of work that we consulted presented a different vision. The reexamination of four assertions related to the integration of research or creative activity with education, stemming from conclusions or diagnoses based on studies, government reports and position statements, led the Conseil to distance itself from certain generally accepted ideas on this subject.

  • First assertion: Teaching and research activities are independent at the bachelor’s level.

A number of studies find no link between teaching and research activities at the bachelor’s level. The Conseil, for its part, considers that the professor’s task does not constitute the only possible point of integration. Indeed, the correlation between teaching competence and research competence observed in professors may be influenced by various factors (e.g., the organization of teaching, career advancement combined with the stages of professional life, the clarity of the university’s mission and the consistency with which it is conveyed by each of the authorities at the university, and the culture particular to each discipline). In other words, the concomitance of the activities of teaching and research in the professor’s task does not necessarily result in the integration of these two activities in education at the bachelor’s level.

  • Second assertion: There has been a major shift from teaching to research at the bachelor’s level.

The perception of a major shift from teaching to research is fed by instances of eminent professors focusing heavily on their research activities and of departments making excessive use of teaching exemptions for which they compensate by hiring lecturers. Analysis of the changes in resources at universities (e.g., changes in research funding, in the creation of research groups, and in student enrolment at the postgraduate levels) and in the measurement of the professor’s task qualify this very widely held view. In Québec, the strong participation of institutions of higher learning in research and technological development was encouraged by government research incentives, thus universities quickly developed research training at the postgraduate level. The Conseil had already urged that student access to the master’s and doctoral levels be increased by setting enrolment objectives and a timetable for meeting them. The Conseil has observed that the allocation of resources among the three levels of university education has not led to an abandonment of teaching at the bachelor’s level. In fact, according to available data, the vast majority of professors are involved to varying degrees in teaching at the bachelor’s level.

  • Third assertion: Too much value is placed on university research.

The excessive value placed on university research is a corollary to the preceding assertion. The history of the development of research within universities shows that, by and large, the involvement of French-language universities in research is relatively recent. At this point in the development of university research, analysis reveals that external forces largely determine the rules and conditions under which university research is carried out:

  • in many respects, university research makes up for the small amount of R & D in Québec;
  • the criteria for awarding university research grants and contracts are set by government bodies and private enterprise;
  • the internationalization of research, in a context of market globalization, is coupled with the struggle led by each country for national prosperity, to which university research contributes.

While contributing to the expansion of university research, these forces also produce negative effects, such as an overemphasis on the production of knowledge to the detriment of research training, the excessive weighting in favour of research activities in criteria for selecting and promoting professors and, in some instances, the assigning of graduate students employed as research assistants to inappropriately simple tasks that are unrelated to their educational objectives.

  • Fourth assertion: There is doubt as to the relevance of training students for research starting at the bachelor’s level.

With respect to the uncertainty about the relevance of training students for research at the bachelor’s level, analysis of the aims of some college preuniversity programs and of the aims of programs at the master’s and doctoral levels at some universities has made it possible to determine the contribution of research at the bachelor’s level in the higher education curriculum. In college preuniversity programs, students develop notions of science with respect to methodology, history, ethics, epistemology and philosophy. At both university postgraduate levels, the existence of both professional and research-oriented programs creates certain ambiguities relating to the goals of research. Falling in between, education at the bachelor’s level includes the development of skills essential to carrying out research and of scientific and ethical competence as well as the acquisition of methodological tools. The consultation process brought to light the varying degrees to which research has been integrated into programs at the bachelor’s level, depending on the characteristics of each discipline. There is no clear consensus on the contribution of research at this level.

 

A New Perspective on the Integration of Research or Creative Activity with Education

After due consideration, the Conseil has selected a number of factors that come into play in the integration of research or creative activity with teaching at each university level:

  • the harmonization of college and university education and of the three university levels with respect to research training, in order to establish a more effective progression of learning about research;
  • the recognition of the fact that the various disciplines will have their own ways of integrating research with education and of organizing research environments, all with a certain degree of openness to training for research at the bachelor’s level;
  • the synergy of teaching and nonteaching personnel in a department and the contribution of students to the implementation of practices that integrate research or creative activity with education;
  • the clarity and consistency with which the aims of research at each level are stated and conveyed to the teaching staff;
  • the inclusion of research in the program objectives (through the incorporation of research results, learning how to do research or training to become a researcher);
  • the organization of research or creative activity environments in universities;
  • support for students at each university level who are learning to carry out research or engage in creative activity.

Document complet - in French (PDF)

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