RESEARCH BASED LEARNING IN HIGHER EDUCATION: A REVIEW OF LITERATURE
1 Ghent University (BELGIUM) / Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral, ESPOL (ECUADOR)
2 Ghent University (BELGIUM)
3 Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral, ESPOL (ECUADOR)
About this paper:
Conference name: 11th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 6-8 March, 2017
Location: Valencia, Spain
Teaching and learning in a university setting are distinctive from other types of Higher Education, due to its direct relationship with research. The increasing need to integrate teaching and research in Higher Education has led academics to incorporate authentic research experiences in their classes. This specific teaching-research nexus, labeled as Research-based learning (RBL) is designed around inquiry activities stimulating students to engage in real-life research by conducting their own experiments.
Building on the work carried out in Engineering and Science contexts, we aim to provide insights into the nature and impact of RBL practices.
There is a gap in the literature when it comes to reviews that focus on RBL in Higher Education, particularly with a focus on the Engineering and Science domain. This brings us to the specific focus of our review study.
In our review analysis, we focus on:
(1) students’ research skills as developed by the RBL context,
(2) the nature of Engineering and Science programs/courses that have adopted RBL approaches,
(3) the impact of the RBL approach on students,
(4) the key research variables included and the research methods used,
(5) and the amount of time spent in RBL experiences.
A systematic review of the literature was carried out, based on screening articles in the Web of Science and adopting the following inclusion criteria:
(1) peer-reviewed journal or proceeding articles from 2000 to 2016 written in the English language,
(2) related to RBL empirical work,
(3) focused on students as participants,
(4) carried out in Engineering and Science class settings,
(5) set up in Higher Education contexts.
Using the key search descriptors “research based learning”, “research based”, and “teaching research nexus”, initially 2492 articles were identified but only 33 fully met the criteria. To broaden the available dataset, we identified further other 17 additional articles building on the reference lists of the selected studies. This increased the number of articles to be analyzed to 50. Next, the articles were analyzed and synthesized following the above analysis categories.
The study presented a first overview of the available literature in terms of RBL within Engineering and Science fields in Higher Education. The 50 selected studies helped developing an in-depth picture of the latest RBL developments. The results show Chemistry and Biology were the dominant courses implementing RBL; usually in lab settings. The most emphasized research skills were “analyzing data”, “conducting research” and “communicating results”. “Interest in research or the subject” and “scientific/critical thinking and attitudes towards research” were the key dependent variables. Most RBL interventions reported positive results, building on quantitative methods and lasting 1 to 2 semesters as the typical time frame. The review results put forward a sound base to develop decisions about the implementation of RBL in future higher education settings.
At the same time, they reflect gaps to be addressed:
(1) empirical studies that comprise a more comprehensive study of the research cycle,
(2) research designs to study the impact of RBL that include mediating or moderating variables such as motivation, self-efficacy or engagement,
(3) the use of reliable and validated research instruments.
Keywords: Engineering, research-based learning, higher education, systematic review.