Lessons from teaching health research to undergraduates: An Australian experience
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-28, 00:57 authored by Dell HoreyDell Horey, Fernanda Nava BuenfilFernanda Nava Buenfil, Joanne MarcucciJoanne Marcucci, Scott RuddockScott Ruddock
Teaching research methods to tertiary students is fraught with challenges including the absence of an established pedagogy in teaching research, the complexity of research concepts and activities, and mixed levels of student engagement. This study provides a five-year review of an undergraduate health research subject to examine teaching strategies used to remediate the overall subject quality, and to develop a conceptual model to guide approaches to teaching undergraduate students from the lessons learnt. A mixed-methods approach was used to retrospectively analyse a range of student and staff indices including feedback from an undergraduate applied health research subject. The review examined data from 2016–2021 to identify effective strategies used across this period. Student performance and feedback were examined using simple descriptive statistics and content analysis of qualitative data. Four effective teaching strategies were identified: promoting reflection to reduce anxiety and identify learning needs; embedding opportunities for feedback and support; creating purpose-designed tools to address problem learning areas; and designing student-focused culture building activities directly addressing learning needs. The impact across the subject was seen in improved student performance and feedback. Three key goals form the backbone of the approach: to build a respectful culture; to ensure purposeful assessment design; and to focus on feedback. Building a respectful culture, ensuring purposeful assessment design and focussing on feedback were supported through the effective use of reflection and teamwork. This model can be used to inform evaluation processes and to design research and other skill-based subjects. Evaluation of this subject was a developmental and gradual process that changed the environment of the subject over time. Effective strategies included the use of authentic assessments that incorporated reflection, the alignment of workshops to assessment requirements and the inclusion of an ongoing cycle of formal and informal feedback. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model provided a useful way to reflect on the subject’s development over time. These lessons may offer useful guidance to others.