Research and teaching in a community of inquiry.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The interweaving of two strands of inquiry forms the backbone of this thesis. In the first strand (the 'what' of the thesis) I explore the qualitatively different ways in which academic staff at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand experience the relation between research and teaching and investigate the pedagogical implications of this variation. In the second strand (the 'how' of the thesis) I focus on the process of coming to know and to talk within the field of higher education. Here I chart my journey as a learner through the writing of the thesis. The two strands are linked through their mutual focus on learning, inquiry and the social construction of knowledge in which both academics and students in higher education engage. Theoretically I position myself variously within a hermeneutic and postmodern framework, using the tension between these perspectives to both advance and interrogate my work. I argue that this methodological tension mirrors the dilemma of the contemporary university, caught as it is between traditional unities and postmodern fragmentation. Ultimately I argue a case for a productive space at the intersection of the hermeneutic and the postmodern - a space where the university and educational research might flourish. I locate my empirical study within a historical and contemporary, international and local higher education context. In doing so I highlight the contemporary tension between a traditional, scholarly, higher education culture and a market driven, performative culture. This tension is evident both in the paradoxical nature of recent research and in the results of my empirical study. In terms of empirical work, previous quantitative research in the area of the research/teaching 'nexus' has focused primarily on the co-relation between research productivity and student evaluations of teaching and indicates little or no relation between the two. In contrast qualitative studies, which have focused on academics' experiences of the relation, suggest a close connection between research and teaching with discipline and level of teaching being the principal determinants of variation. I argue that the complexity of research, teaching and the research/teaching relation has been ignored in institutional discourses and in the co-relational research and under-appreciated in qualitative studies. In order to reveal this complexity I explore the individual's experience as a coherent whole or multi-phenomenal field, which embraces knowledge, research, teaching and learning and their inter-relation. My analysis reveals significant variation in experience of the research/teaching relation at undergraduate level from a weak relation to a total integration of the two phenomena. I open up the discourse of the relation at a detailed level through an exploration of the metaphors academics use to describe their experiences of research, teaching, learning and knowledge and of the research/teaching relation. Those academics experiencing a weak relation use orientational metaphors which emphasise its hierarchical nature (research is divorced from or at best informs teaching). Those experiencing an integrated relation use metaphors emphasising the shared (teacher and student) construction of knowledge. These outcomes raise important questions about structures of knowledge and the nature of disciplinary inquiry, about networks of power and about the nature of the pedagogical relationship which determines students' participation in a community of inquiry. There is a direct relation between academics' experiences of knowledge (which are embedded in a disciplinary context) and their approaches to research, teaching and learning. These experiences may also be instrumental in shaping pedagogical relations of power. In conclusion I advocate a higher education community based on the notion of shared (academic/student) inquiry within disciplines and increasingly, at disciplinary intersections. My study suggests that, to survive in the twenty-first century, the university needs to harness its fragmentation productively by seeking not agreement but robust interdisciplinary dialogue that might enable us to live beside and understand one other while benefiting from our heterogeneity. I argue that such dialogue must enable us to use the perspective of the other to reflect critically on our own positions and practices.