Improvement of Learning Performances With Increased Guidance in Research-Based Learning

Improvement of Learning Performances With Increased Guidance in Research-Based Learning

Murat Akpinar
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9564-0.ch015
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This chapter examines whether increased guidance during the bachelor's thesis, a research-based learning activity, improves the learning performances of undergraduate students. The quantitative study tests hypotheses on changes in the learning performances at a bachelor's degree program in Finland following intervention in 2015 of the thesis supervision process. The results suggest that increased guidance scheme had a statistically significant positive effect and recommend its adoption in undergraduate programs.
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Research-based learning (RBL), also known as inquiry-based or discovery-based learning, is a student-centric pedagogy in which students raise and frame questions, review the literature, collect and analyze data, communicate their results, and discuss them (Maass & Artigue, 2013; Willison & O’Regan, 2007). In doing these tasks, they base their explanations on evidence and connect them to scientific knowledge (National Research Council, 2000). Justice et al. (2009, p. 843) define RBL as “the set of practices designed to promote the development of higher-order intellectual and academic skills through student-driven and instructor-guided investigations of student-generated research questions.” The tasks of RBL enable students to understand the research process and develop their skills in critical thinking and academic writing (Walkington et al., 2011).

RBL implies a significant change from the historical approach to teaching in that it students are not only consumers but also producers of ideas and knowledge, and teachers become co-learners (Lambert, 2009). RBL emphasizes research processes and problems rather than content, treats students as participants rather than the audience, and teaching becomes more student-focused (Healey, 2005). This results in the creation of an inclusive research-based academic community, which benefits all stakeholders (Smith & Rust, 2011). Active engagement of students in projects improves their learning performances (Del Campo et al., 2020). In RBL, This is especially true for low-achieving students (Kogan & Laursen, 2014). Furthermore, it develops science literacy and research skills, increases the number of publications, and establishes long-lasting relationships between teachers and students (Brew & Jewell, 2012; Gormally et al., 2009; Justice et al., 2009). It also makes a more balanced and coherent workload between teaching and research activities, encouraging teaching faculty to become research-active and research faculty to become teaching-active (Smith & Rust, 2011). Overlap between students’ research projects and teachers’ research interests will create synergies and the motivation of teachers for RBL initiatives (Selje-Assmann et al., 2019). Consequently, both students and teachers will be more engaged in a process of active learning, leading to the establishment of a genuine learning community (Walkington et al., 2011). Finally, a shift from traditional teaching with ready-made answers to pre-determined questions towards RBL will teach better how to manage ambiguity and complexity and prepare undergraduate students better for uncertain work environments of the future (Brew & Jewell, 2012).

Despite these advantages, there can also be resistance from some teachers due to their limited understanding of RBL and accompanying fear to succeed with a different approach (Justice et al., 2009). There can also be resistance from some students RBL demands from them more cognitive efforts as well as more patience and tolerance towards frustration (Gormally et al., 2009). Since the development of research skills is slow, it is important to have continuous practice starting from the first year of the degree program (Knight & Yorke, 2004). These issues challenge the successful implementation of RBL initiatives.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Learning Performance: Performance of students in the intended learning outcomes of the program. The thesis grade and the grade point average from course grades are used in the study for measuring learning performances in the bachelor’s thesis and courses respectively.

Higher Education: University-level tertiary education.

University of Applied Sciences: The Finnish higher education system has a dual structure, comprising universities and universities of applied sciences. Universities of applied sciences offer only bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees, not doctoral degrees. Whereas universities specialize in basic research, universities of applied sciences focus on applied research that aims to contribute to local industries and regional development.

Applied Track Project: A 5-ECTS research project that students conduct in their academic tracks in the autumn semester of the second year in the bachelor’s degree program in international business at JAMK University of Applied Sciences.

Academic Track: A 5-ECTS course in the bachelor’s degree program in international business at JAMK University of Applied Sciences. It takes place in the autumn semester of the second year. Following this course, students continue with their bachelor’s thesis under the supervision of their academic track teachers.

Research-Based Learning: Learning through conducting a research project. Also known as inquiry-based learning.

Bachelor’s Thesis: A 15-ECTS research project that students conduct usually during the final year of their bachelor’s degree, guided by their bachelor’s thesis supervisors.

Guidance: Support and direction provided by teachers or thesis supervisors to students to improve their learning. In the context of this chapter, it aims to help students in overcoming challenges related to the research in their thesis.

Undergraduate Program: A bachelor’s degree program.

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