Students-as-producers: Developing valuable student-centered research and learning opportunities

Mike Hynes

Abstract


The desire to connect teaching and research to create a productive and progressive framework for student learning has become one of the most significant spaces for academic development in Higher Education over the recent past. The positive effects on student learning through the inclusion of real-life, complex and unstructured research-like activities needs to be at the core of undergraduate education, and following this paradigm the student acts as producer of knowledge instead of simply knowledge consumer. The concept underpinning 'student-as-producer' is that learning is grounded in research and research-like activities so much of what the student learns will be through their own discoveries, working in collaboration with academic advisers and other students in a supportive research-rich environment. This paper focuses on the research practices and activities during a study carried out by undergraduate students from the School of Political Science and Sociology at the National University of Ireland Galway, primarily designed as a student-as-producer project, under the guidance of an academic supervisor/facilitator. Students were placed at the center of deliberations, design, development and implementation of the research and subsequently have become the focus of this particular reflective paper. What were their experiences at various stages of the process, what do they think were worthwhile and valueless in the practice, and what learning principles, if any, were paramount? A series of semi-structured open questions were posed to uncover pressures and barriers to their overall learning experiences resulting in some thoughtful and helpful lessons to enhance such student-centered learning in the future.

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