1 Research into student learning and university teaching
This chapter provides an overview of research into student learning and university teaching as a framework through which to introduce earlier work carried out by the authors represented in this monograph. Teaching and learning in higher education can be seen as an interactive system that depends on the characteristics of the student, the specific nature of the subject matter, and the whole teaching-learning environment. Given the complexity of the whole system, the research described here inevitably concentrates on just parts of that whole, but together it provides a convincing portrayal of teaching and learning in higher education, with important implications for practice. The distinctive contribution of this chapter is to show how this research area reached its current stage of development and to present a heuristic model to summarize some of the most important influences on learning in higher education mentioned in the other chapters. It also indicates the need, in this area of research, to distinguish between explanatory theories (which increase our understanding of the interactions) and action theories (which guide practice and are couched in accessible language). It also suggests the importance of theories having not just relevance to practice but pedagogical fertility that will stimulate university teachers to think imaginatively about their own teaching. This leads to the idea of there being an inner logic of the subject and its pedagogy, implying that generic ideas about approaches to teaching have always to be reinterpreted within a specific disciplinary context, if they are to be recognized as valid by university teachers.
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