Research methods

 

In 2012-2013, Lisa Wynn travelled around Australia, visiting 14 universities from every state and territory. She interviewed 40 people.  Seventeen were ethics committee chairs or administrators; six were ethics committee members or had previously served on an ethics committee, and 17 had never served on an ethics committee. Interviewees came from a wide range of disciplines: anthropology, applied ethics, bioethics, biology, business and economics, chemistry, creative arts, criminology, cultural studies, education, engineering, forensics, history, human resource management, immunology, industrial relations, law, linguistics, medicine, nursing, political science, pharmacology, philosophy, physiology, psychology, public health, and sociology.

 

Wynn used snowball sampling to identify leaders in research-led teaching at institutions across the country.  Colleagues with an interest in undergraduate research named others who were innovating in their teaching or in the structures that facilitated teaching in a research frame.  

 

Yet this sampling strategy had a flaw.  Leaders in research-led teaching are often those who have built good relations with their ethics review bureaucracies and managed to make the system work for them, but they are not necessarily “typical” of what teaching looks like at their institution.  It was also important to capture the perspectives of departments where:

 

  • teachers were not savvy or energetic enough to navigate those bureaucracies, or

  • teachers were deliberately flying below the institutional radar (i.e. avoiding interacting with ethics review institutions) but possibly still having students do research projects as part of their teaching, or where

  • recent changes in ethics review requirements have led teachers or departments to halt existing research-led teaching curricula because they don't have the resources or motivation to deal with changing requirements.

 

To reach such people, Wynn “cold-contacted” colleagues from a range of disciplines without having any idea whether they made student research part of their teaching curriculum.

 

Using purposive sampling and engaging in long, in-depth conversations with participants means that the sample size was relatively small and non-representative.  For this reason, the results are not reported as numbers and percentages.  Rather, they represent a range of issues, structures, innovations, problems, and success stories that can be found at universities across Australia.

 

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