International Research Conference, Lancaster UK, 21-23 July 2014
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Research into higher education in the contemporary context: a case for widening the approaches we use to develop our knowledge resources and critical insights

Richard Bailey, University of Bolton,r.bailey@bolton.ac.uk


The purpose of this piece is to make a case for more ethnographic case study research in our higher education institutions. It considers how such research can support change efforts. The argument here is that for initiatives to be successful, knowledge and sensitivity of both the institutional culture and the cultures of the sub-groups involved is required. Contexts and the people in them – their values, attitudes and practices - are critical factors. Therefore, appropriate research methods should be applied to explore these phenomena in order to provide an evidence base with which to inform those active in leading enhancement initiatives of their possible outcomes.
My interest in this area stems from my experience of doing qualitative research along the lines outlined above, the revealing journey that became and my interest in linking that work with new perspectives on research and their conceptual underpinnings in the emerging literature on research into higher education in the contemporary context. My project explored a phenomenon widely considered to be central to discussions around academic practices associated with curricula, assessment, teaching and learning interactions and communications – the way in which student academic literacy is understood, responded to, represented and supported in a university. The project was an institutional case study realised through an ethnographic style enquiry and comprised interviews with teaching staff from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, students from diverse areas of study, and discourse based analyses of textual materials at both the institutional and departmental levels.
I take as my starting point in this paper the insights from, and significant issues raised by, recent published work on practical enhancement projects. It is both a literature review in which I attempt to outline and crystallise those insights and findings and a consideration of how I relate them to my own study and analysis. In conclusion, I make a case for the institution as the object of scrutiny in empirical research and multiple institutional case studies as important knowledge resources.

Link to Full Paper (If submitted)

Conference Organisers

Paul Trowler
Lancaster University, UK

Alice Jesmont
Lancaster University, UK

Malcolm Tight
Lancaster University, UK

Paul Ashwin
Lancaster University, UK

Murray Saunders
Lancaster University, UK

Chrissie Boughey
Rhodes University, South Africa

Suellen Shay
University of Cape Town, SA

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