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Through the work of the TELRI Project, we have been exploring the relationship between research and learning. We believe that good researchers possess capabilities that undergraduates also need if they are to fulfil their learning potential. In these guidelines, we suggest how courses and assignments may be designed to develop higher order learning processes, which we have termed "research capabilities". The approaches described arise from an educational framework that is of value to learning, research and professional development.

There is wide agreement in higher education that gaining a degree means more than mastering subject content. Cognitive skills and subject-specific skills are increasingly emphasised, in the belief that they are transferable to other situations, and course and module descriptions are starting to reflect this. However, it is not easy to produce courses that, through their processes and methods of assessment, truly develop some of the most valuable skills. Whilst recognising the highly politicised debate about supposed links between research and teaching (Elton, 1986; Reich, Rosch & Catania, 1988; Ramsden & Moses, 1992; Hattie & Marsh, 1996; Roach, Blackmore & Dempster, 2000b), it is widely accepted that the construction of new knowledge and understanding is inherently a part of research. We therefore believe that a fruitful area to explore is that of the processes which research and student learning may have in common (Larsson, 1987; Feldman, 1987; Brew & Boud, 1995). We suggest that many research processes are good learning processes that have a more general application (Roach, Blackmore & Dempster, 2000a). If that is so, then the more institutions can encourage their undergraduates to think and work like researchers the better. At present the potential benefit of lecturers’ research or professional expertise for teaching and learning approaches is not always exploited fully, and this will only change if a conscious effort is made that it should do so.

These guidelines aim to assist academic staff and course developers in the design or review of courses or modules. The educational framework outlined provides a means of:

  • making powerful and robust decisions and justification for teaching, learning and assessment methods and use of resources;
  • enabling more explicit statements to be made concerning student learning outcomes;
  • establishing coherence in content, structure, methods of delivery, assessment, student progression, support and guidance;
  • suggesting ways of revising course processes and assignments to enhance learning and course quality.

The team believes that designing and assessing courses in ways that emphasise adaptive learning enhances the quality of courses. These course design approaches are easily extended to the learning processes and assignment practices across a broad range of educational settings, particularly in professional development training, but also in schools and further education.