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Learning Research Methods: How Personalised Should we be?

Rich, M.G. (2014). Learning Research Methods: How Personalised Should we be?. Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods, 12(2), pp. 131-138.


Much recent discussion in higher education has focused on the scope that exists to provide personalisation to students. This influences a range of factors, spanning the expectations that students have of the learning environment, the styles and methods used by lecturers, the need to deliver very specialist material to students, and the type of technological infrastructure that is adopted to support learning. For example, some viewpoints suggest that electronic resources to support learning should be delivered through a ‘personal learning environment’, as distinct from the currently familiar ‘virtual learning environment’, the implication being that personalisation is built into the learning environment as a core component. For teaching research methods, a personalised approach is attractive because students can be expected to vary in what approaches to research they are likely to use in other areas of their studies. Typically students want to make clear choices about exactly what research methods they learn. Furthermore there are particular variations in the extent to which students already have some experience of conducting their own research, and in the ease with which student are likely to adapt to a research mindset where they can deal with the demands of independent inquiry. For many students research is an individual pursuit, and indeed for students on undergraduate or taught postgraduate courses which include a major project, a piece of independent research is the most significant item of individual work within their course. Therefore this paper raises the question of whether research training needs to be as personalised as research itself. If it appropriate to prepare students for a major piece of research, where they will be choosing their own research methods, through a didactic course which covers a standard range of methods? Is it - in fact - essential that students are exposed to a wide range of research methods including those that they have no intention of ever using? The need to provide a range of skills and knowledge, and the possibilities to adapt this to students’ requirements, constitute only one facet of personalisation. Another is the ability to adjust material to differing prior levels of expertise, and to help students in finding the most effective path to achieve the necessary learning. While students are unlikely to enter higher education with any significant exposure to academic research methods, some of them will have carried out activities that have resonances with the research process. So there is considerable scope for inviting students to identify the most appropriate level at which to start learning research techniques. The intention is to identify some general principles for the personalisation of research methods learning and to discuss in what circumstances these might be relevant.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: personalisation, research methods teaching, student choice
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
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