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The Society for Research into Higher Education


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Are academic papers written with students cited as often as academic papers written with colleagues?

By James Hartley

This note compares the citation rates for publications written by the author alone with (i) those written by the author and fellow colleagues and (ii) those written together with undergraduates. Although the citation rates for publications written by the author alone, or with colleagues, are higher than those obtained for papers written with undergraduates, the data suggest that some teacher-student papers can make a substantial contribution to the research literature.                                                                                                       

Introduction

As an academic author I often wonder whether or not my papers with undergraduates are cited as often as my papers with colleagues.  On the one hand, colleagues are often more experienced and generally more familiar with academic writing and publishing than undergraduates.  On the other, undergraduates in the UK sometimes author papers arising from the research that they carried out in their final year supervised by academic staff.  To answer this query I used the website Google Scholar to examine a sample of how often my single-authored publications were cited with respect to (i) those written with colleagues and (ii) those written with undergraduate students.

Some data

Table 1 shows the results.

Table 1.  Median citation rates for 11 papers written (i) by the author alone, (ii) with colleagues, and (iii) with undergraduates.  (Data from Google Scholar 22/10/2017)

Author alone     Author with colleagues  Author with undergraduates

Median                87                                           83                                           22

Range                   61-140                                   63-393                                   7-124

N                             11                                           11                                           11

(A list of all 33 publications and their citation data is available from the author on request.)

Conclusions

As Table 1 shows these results are clear (for this particular author).  There is little overall difference between the median citation rates for papers written alone, or with colleagues.  However, the papers written with undergraduates are cited significantly less.

What does this imply?  Is it a waste of time to publish with one’s undergraduate students?  I think not for at least three overlapping reasons.

  1. The issues studied by students indicate what they think is interesting and important. Most of them focus on their experiences as learners – attending lectures, taking notes, and writing essays (e.g., see Hartley & Cameron, 1966; Hartley & Marshall, 1974).
  2. Preliminary studies conducted with students can form the basis for subsequent more substantive work on the same concerns – either by the author alone, or with other colleagues and students (see, for example, Hartley & Davies, 1976, Trueman & Hartley, 1996).
  3. The fact that some of these jointly-authored publications are still being cited today by other authors (see, e.g., Miyatsu, Nguyen & McDaniel, 2018) suggests that some preliminary work with students can make a seminal contribution to a particular field.

References

Hartley, J. & Cameron, A. (1966).  Some observations on the efficiency of lecturing.  Educational Review, 20, 30-37.

Hartley, J. & Davies, I. K. (1976).  Note-taking: A critical review.  Programmed Learning & Educational Technology, 15, 3, 207-224.

Hartley, J. & Marshall, S. (1974). One notes and notetaking.  Universities Quarterly, 28, 225-235.

Miyatsu, T., Nguyen, K. & McDaniel, M. A. (2018).  Five popular study strategies: Their pitfalls and optimal implementations. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13, 3, 390-407.

Trueman, M. & Hartley, J. (1996).  A comparison between the time-management strategies and academic performance of mature and traditional-entry students in higher education.  Higher Education, 32, 2, 199-215.

SRHE member James Hartley is emeritus professor in the School of Psychology at Keele University.  He may be contacted at j.hartley@keele.ac.uk


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It’s all about performance

by Marcia Devlin

The Australian federal government has indicated its intention to introduce partial funding based on yet to be defined performance measures.

The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) by the Australian government updates the economic and fiscal outlook from the previous budget and the budgetary position and revises the budget aggregates taking account of all decisions made since the budget was released. The 2017-2018 MYEFO papers state that the Government intends to “proceed with reforms to the higher education [HE] sector to improve transparency, accountability, affordability and responsiveness to the aspirations of students and future workforce needs” (see links below). Among these reforms are performance targets for universities to determine the growth in their Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding for bachelor degrees from 2020, to be capped at the growth rate in the 18-64 year old population, and from 1 January 2019, “a new allocation mechanism based on institutional outcomes and industry needs for sub-bachelor and postgraduate Commonwealth Supported Places”.

The MYEFO papers contain no information about these performance targets or institutional outcomes. Department of Education and Training (DET) webpages provide some additional detail, including that “From 2020, access to growth in CGS funding for bachelor degree courses will be performance based” and that “… performance indicators and performance targets will be agreed in 2018”. The website further indicates that data gathered in 2019 on 2018 performance will be used to determine the funding available in 2020. The information goes on to indicate that performance outcomes will only affect CGS funding for bachelor degree courses at public universities that previously had access to demand-driven funding. Access to growth will be based on each university’s achievement of performance objectives “such as attrition, low SES participation and workforce preparedness of graduates” (DET, 2018). Finally, the website states that indicators will be subjected to consultation with the sector.

I’m reminded of a scheme which many HERDSA Connect readers will remember – the Learning and Teaching Performance Fund (LTPF). The LTPF was set up to reward institutions that best demonstrate excellence in learning and teaching. The LTPF specified that funding allocations would be determined once institutions met specific teaching-related requirements, including probation and promotion practices and policies that include effectiveness as a teacher as a criterion for academics who teach, and systematic student evaluation of teaching and subjects – the results of which must inform probation and promotion decisions for these academics.

Once the hurdle requirements outlined above were met, funding allocations were then made on the basis of a set of performance indicators using a complex adjustment methodology. The performance indicators were derived from: the Graduate Destination Survey (GDS) which considered employment status, the type of work graduates are undertaking and any further study undertaken; the Course Experience Questionnaire (CEQ) which recorded graduate level of satisfaction with their generic skills and with teaching as well as overall graduate satisfaction; and DEST’s annual collection of university statistics on student progress rates.

My view around that time when I was an academic developer and a PhD student was that overall, the LTPF was a good thing because it focused attention on learning and teaching at a sectoral and institutional level in a way not previously seen in Australia. My keynote paper at a Vice-Chancellor’s Learning and Teaching Colloquium 2007 explained that view. My view now is less naïve, having had the opportunity to better understand the complexity and particular challenges of the higher education landscape in Australia. These include the degree of difficulty in offering quality higher education in a highly competitive mass education context with ever increasing student diversity, and the pace and scale of change in a digital context. Add to that some of the unintended consequences of federal higher education policies  –  policies that have cost reduction intentions and a primary focus on the economic contributions of graduates.  Performance measures now make me very nervous.

Marcia Devlin is Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Senior Vice President and Professor of Learning Enhancement at Victoria University, Australia. This article was commissioned by and was published in HERDSA CONNECT 40/3 Spring, 2018: http://www.herdsa.org.au 

Links

Morrison, S. and Corman, M. (2017). Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2017-18. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

Devlin, M. (2007). The scholarship of teaching in Australian higher education: A national imperative. Keynote Paper, Vice-Chancellor’s Learning and Teaching Colloquium 2007, University of the Sunshine Coast.

Department of Education and Training.