The Society for Research into Higher Education

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Learning, teaching and the curriculum

By Marcia Devlin

This abstract covers three aspects of research in learning, teaching and curriculum over the past 50 years: research issues and their drivers; the impact of this research on policy and practice; and future priorities. What follows are my observations and thoughts on these aspects, which are shaped by my experience, beliefs, values and preferences.

My observations relate to: changes in higher education per se; learning theory; the role of discipline-based research; the nature of research collaborations; dissemination and impact; and possible future priorities.

Changes in higher education per se

One important defining feature of the past 50 years of research in learning, teaching and curriculum has been that the context of this research has changed so fundamentally. In 2015, we find ourselves on the trajectory predicted by Trow (1972) of higher education expansion and transformation from elite, through mass, to universal access.

A massified system has meant that not only are there more students but also, alongside the internationalisation of higher education, that students are from a far wider range of social and cultural backgrounds than the cohort who attended Western universities 50 years ago. This has changed research into learning, teaching and curriculum in these universities significantly and irreversibly. Naturally, this research has increasingly focused on how to best teach and assess students from a range of diverse backgrounds. Continue reading