University Teachers as Guides and Master’s Students as Aspirant Researchers: An Exploratory Case Study of Teaching Research Methods

Galagher, James Kevin (2019) University Teachers as Guides and Master’s Students as Aspirant Researchers: An Exploratory Case Study of Teaching Research Methods. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

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Abstract

Many students find the process of doing their dissertations to be highly problematical (Ahern and Manathunga, 2004; Cassell, 2013; Wagener, 2018). They are confronted with learning various overarching research philosophies and a plethora of new techniques and information concerning how they should go about the research process. Crucially, they are expected to be largely autonomous in their choice of research topic and their subsequent work, albeit they will usually have some time allocation with research supervisors. Dissertations thus present a major shift in increased students’ autonomy, signifying them becoming much more pro-active learners crossing new ‘thresholds’ and encountering ‘troublesome knowledge’ (Meyer and Land, 2005). Thus, it is hardly surprising that many students find the whole dissertation process daunting in both cognitive and affective terms. Research supervisors face the realities of individual stressed students in the limited time they spend with them; yet the scale of the problem cries out for a more strategic way of tackling the situation from the beginning within the classroom, with groups of students. Therefore, the aims of this thesis are to address both the cognitive and affective difficulties of students as they become aspirant researchers through their dissertation journeys, and how this may be achieved through supportive teacher - student relationships on a journey of joint becoming, in which they are aspirant researchers and their teacher is their guide. It does this through a research intervention conducted by the researcher/ teacher with a group of his Master’s business students. Taking an exploratory, qualitative research approach it focuses upon two complementary aspects: the first relates to how students might benefit cognitively through teaching activities that bring meaning to research methods through the use of guided activities . These utilise personal experience and biographical data in class. The other, and arguably more important way (given the emotional demands placed upon them) aims to build a supportive teacher-student relationship which pro-actively elicits and explores students’ concerns in the course of their dissertation journeys. Led by the researcher/ teacher, intent upon becoming a better guide himself, the emphasis is upon the broader understanding for students of how to be and become aspirant researchers; this understanding according to Heidegger (1962) is not essentially a cognitive act but something which develops through being with others whilst engaging in the relevant actions and in contemplating possible things that can happen. The results during the intervention show how students’ use of metaphorical imagery and critical incidents elicited and articulated a richness of inner thoughts and feelings; this allowed for deeper understanding of the research methods being taught through the guided activities, and a therapeutic discussion of thoughts and emotions with others (Fook and Gardner, 2007). Further, by engaging in all aspects of the intervention, the author/ researcher re-examined his own teaching practices and values, increasing his awareness of the symbiotic nature between teacher as guide and students as aspirant researchers. Finally, the implications of this research are discussed in the light of the need for further research into how research methods are taught in higher education (Lewthwaite and Nind, 2016), the importance of understanding emotions in higher education (Quinlan, 2016), and the consequences for teacher training at this level.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions: Collections > Theses
Depositing User: Klaire Purvis-Shepherd
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2019 11:20
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2019 11:15
URI: http://sure.sunderland.ac.uk/id/eprint/10876

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