By Angela Brew
What is needed now in higher education is that teachers turn their attention to preparing students for the professional life of the future. This means engaging students in research-based learning projects where they generate and critically evaluate new knowledge. Universities must stop teaching students outdated knowledge in nineteenth century ways. A particular challenge is that many academics have no or little experience of teaching undergraduates how to actively generate knowledge. They had no experience of this when they were students and, with the demise of university learning and teaching centres and the lack of national leadership, the expertise needed to up-skill academic staff in ways of teaching that are appropriate for new ways of working is sorely lacking.
During my 2009 Senior National Teaching Fellowship, delegates at the National Summit on the Integration of Research Teaching and Learning prepared a communique addressed to national leaders which emphasised the vital importance of research experiences for undergraduates, stating that it goes to the heart of our future competitiveness as an innovative country. Since that time, in most Australian universities, undergraduate research engagement has grown markedly, encouraged in part by the establishment of the Australasian Council for Undergraduate Research – an independent, membership organisation aimed at promoting and advancing undergraduate research. Eight annual conferences have now been held, which provide opportunities for student researchers to present their research in a public forum, meet undergraduate researchers from other universities and create networks. New this year is the ACUR UGR-Xchange Colloquium which begins to address the need to support academics and university leaders in implementing research-based experiences for students.
Angela Brew, SFSEDA, is an emeritus professor at Macquarie University and chair of the Australasian Council for Undergraduate Research (ACUR) She was 2008 ALTC National Teaching Fellow. ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here