Pedagogic research and project evaluation share several core features. Both are based around the objective of trying to answer a question related to an activity or intervention and share similar methodologies for data collection and analysis. However, while there are common features, there are also fundamental differences, most notably in their purpose.
An evaluation is undertaken to improve an activity or service and/or make a judgement about whether it should continue to be supported, whereas research is undertaken to develop generalisable new knowledge about a particular phenomenon by addressing clearly defined research questions or hypotheses. Evaluation and research also diverge when it comes to dissemination: for evaluation dissemination is typically to key stakeholders associated with the activity or intervention, whereas for research results are publishable to a wider and sometimes more specialised audience.
Through the National HE STEM Programme, which formed the basis for the University’s development of the STEM Education Centre, a Programme-wide approach was taken to supporting project leads in the implementation of appropriate approaches towards the evaluation of their activities. A working group oversaw the development of resources and the organisation and delivery of workshops and events. The events provided support at a variety of levels: a number were focused upon practical approaches to undertaking a project-level evaluation, whereas towards the end of the Programme, the focus became upon supporting those who were wishing to develop a scholarly dimension to their practice through undertaking pedagogic research.
“I’ve learned lots of new techniques and being able to discuss their use in different situations has made me quite look forward to evaluating activities, something I never thought I’d say.” Participant, Outreach Evaluation Workshops
“I found the 2 day workshop incredibly worthwhile and have left not only enthused to carry out pedagogic research but with an increased self confidence that this is something I can achieve.” Participant, Getting Started in Pedagogic Research Workshop
The STEM Education has continued the activities established through the National HE STEM Programme, and in 2012/13 these were undertaken with the support of the Higher Education Academy. With this support five workshops and conferences were held:
|17-18 December 2012
|Undertaking Pedagogic Research in the HE STEM Disciplines
|28 May 2013
|First Steps in Evaluation and Scholarship in Mathematics and Engineering
|12 June 2013
|Capturing Data and Evidence through Qualitative Methodologies for Scholarship and Research within the STEM Disciplines
|13 June 2013
|An Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods
|18 -19 June 2013
|Scholarly Practice and Pedagogic Research Within the STEM Discipline: Data Analysis, Publication and Effective Dissemination
At these events were pleased to welcome 169 colleagues from both the University of Birmingham 25 other institutions from within the UK and Europe. Delegate feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with the networking opportunities these events provided particularly welcome.
“[I] Am supervising a group of students next year undertaking quantitative and qualitative research and am feeling more qualified to advise them.” Participant, An Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods Workshop
“I got some very helpful advice on ethics and on sampling which helps me to solve some of the problems I have had but have also found out that I need to learn much more about methodologies before my research can proceed.” Participant, Undertaking Pedagogic Research in the HE STEM Disciplines
A national network for those who undertaking, or wishing to begin, pedagogic research in the STEM disciplines has been established. You can follow this on Twitter @STEMPedR, or by joining the firstname.lastname@example.org mailing list by visiting www.jiscmail.ac.uk.
We are always willing to offer workshops or seminars on evaluation and pedagogic research as well as supporting others to develop their activities in this area. To find out more, please contact Michael Grove (email@example.com).
We have established a series of webpages on evaluating educational projects and activities as well as getting started in pedagogic research. They contain a range of resources and materials that we have developed along with others. Please follow the links below: