PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century
F21 Class of 2005 Statement
What are the practices that make an effective collaboration, partnership, network?
As an archaeologist and archaeozoologist with passions both for teaching and research, I have a vision of a robust, research-rich learning environment, as well as ideas on the means, barriers, and resources needed to achieve it. The following statement reflects some initial thoughts on the subject.
My vision for success in providing students with a robust, research-rich learning environment involves providing opportunities for students to become involved in research at a variety of levels. This multi-level involvement serves the students as well as the faculty’s desire to contribute in both research and teaching, to the benefit of both. At the most basic level, coursework must include an introduction to research methods with a hands-on component that provides some exposure to the research process. The most natural coursework for this is one’s own research specialty, where one’s enthusiasm for the topic can both lead and inspire students. Another opportunity is work as a laboratory assistant for academic credit. Lab assistants gain familiarity with the basics of laboratory operations as well as requisite knowledge for research in the discipline. Some of the students with experience in research methods courses and/or as laboratory assistants will develop their own research interests, which can be explored through independent studies under faculty supervision. Alternately, some of these students will become receptive to ideas for true collaborative research with faculty, which can be undertaken for independent studies or research laboratory credits and culminate in presentations on campus, at professional conferences, and/or in collaborative research reports and articles. Personally, I find collaborative research immensely satisfying in part because it allows for student research (and perhaps professional) development while at the same time furthering my own research ends. Such student participation in research is most successful in socializing them into the community of science when combined with activities like “brownbag” speaker series, discipline-specific student organizations, campus research conferences, and professional conferences.
My vision for success is based in large part on what works for me in the context of a regional comprehensive university. Naturally, the vision itself as well as challenges for reaching that vision are strongly influenced by the nature of the academic institution and program or department. Fortunately, my department places importance on relatively small class sizes, working closely with students, and an active student organization, and this atmosphere yields research collaboration with students. The university also helps foster such work, for example with its Office of Undergraduate Research student research and travel grants, and annual Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression. These forms of institutional support are important for nurturing a research-rich learning environment, but these are of course additional challenges. One common challenge is to create an environment wherein faculty are rewarded for creating and maintaining student-centered research at teaching-intensive institutions like ours. Obviously, this time issue is a problem with no simple solution, but some creative means of counting collaborative research towards teaching load seems unavoidable if this approach to creating a research-rich learning environment is to be achieved more widely. Another challenge is facilities and resources. In my own work, the critical need is space for student analysis, sample storage, and voucher collection access. For other situations, laboratory materials and equipment might be critical.