Inspiring learning by linking research with teaching

By Rob Higgins, Lecturer at the University of Salford.

rob 3
Rob Higgins, Lecturer

I have been involved with the development and running of the Research-informed Teaching experience (RiTe) at the University of Salford for the past 4 years.  RiTe is a unique learning activity that combines research and teaching to facilitate the understanding of key concepts of radiographic theory used in practice and is highly regarded both in the UK and Europe. Within this blog I will talk about my involvement with RiTe, the impact it is had on student learning and the thoughts and the team involved with running RiTe. 

What and why?

When I was first approached to help set up a new learning activity I was very excited about being given this opportunity as I have always had an interest in teaching and learning. Initially, it was thought that this activity would help ease the burden in student capacity on clinical placement by allocating students in small groups, time in the clinical skills lab away from placement. However, after some discussions, it began to dawn on me that there was a real opportunity to do something more than just have students practising clinical skills.

“I think that RiTe is good educationally. All of the things we get told about in lectures… We don’t actually get to spend time looking at images and trying to see what that is in practical terms”

Second year student

Both the academic team and I wanted to be more creative in how students learnt about the effects of manipulating exposure factors and their effect on image quality and patient dose, especially as this is something they cannot explore in practice. It was then a lightbulb moment hit and we thought about linking research with teaching to aid student learning and research. We became very excited by this prospect – even more so when it became apparent that nothing similar had been done before within a diagnostic radiography programme in the UK.

labWithin RiTe, students undertake discovery led learning to investigate the relationship between the x-ray exposure factors and the effect these have on image quality and patient radiation dose. This I feel not only supports learning of these concepts, but also provides students with vital transferable skills such as an understanding of research methods and the importance of team working.

So what do students think?

Student feedback of RiTe has been very positive (for those interested a selection of related published work is included at the end of this blog).  Students agree that RiTe has helped their research skills and understanding of key concepts and enjoyed working in small collaborative learning groups.

“It was nice working together as a group and sharing knowledge, everyone was happy to help and support each other”

Second year student

I also hope that RiTe will encourage their involvement with research as practitioners within the health service to encourage the use of evidence-based practice (EBP) to improve patient care and service quality. We have also had a number of students presenting posters and delivering oral presentations at major Radiological conferences in the UK and Europe.

“The biggest highlight for me has been seeing my first paper published in a peer reviewed journal. I have since gone on to publish further work and present some of it at National and European Congress.

My favourite projects have been the RiTe 1 and 2 specifically designed by our faculty to engage students in research. I have learned the skills necessary for research and the element of team work involved greatly changed my perspective to include the benefits of working with others to achieve a common goal.”

Charlie Everton, BSc Diagnostic Radiography, 2015 graduate:

The RiTe team

A large amount of time has gone into developing and delivering RiTe.  My role with RiTe lies with the organisation and facilitation for each student group to advice and support if needed. I am also currently undertaking research exploring the student and staff (academic and clinical tutor) experience of this as part of a PhD by published works.

I feel that the evaluation of teaching activities is important to ensure that students are able to demonstrate what we expect to them to learn and seen as relevant for their practice both now and as a qualified radiographers.

“I generally attend the feedback sessions and I am always impressed with the feedback provided by first year and second year students. During this academic year I have been extremely impressed by the quality of work which has been produced. In many instances the expectations set within the RiTe have been exceeded. In doing so the students have started to ask fundamental questions about the research process and challenge the radiographic knowledge base in terms of its quality and validity. I am very encouraged by this as it demonstrates the capability in our undergraduates”

Professor Peter Hogg, Associate Dean Research

There are several key members of staff involved with RiTe who provide continued support and expertise.

  • Chris Beaumount (Technician)
  • Samantha Bird (PhD Student)
  • Emma Dodd (Lecturer Practitioner)
  • Dr Andrew England (Senior Lecturer)
  • Prof Peter Hogg (Associate Dean Research)
  • Andrew Tootell (Lecturer)

“My role within RiTe sits mid-way through the groups experiment and specifically looks at the methodologies that the students have devised.

Due to my role as a clinical tutor, I always encourage the students to consider their hypotheses and/or their methodological choices by relating these to clinical practice and evidence based practice in order to highlight the links between research and their working practices as radiographers.”

Emma Dodd, Lecturer Practitioner

And finally…

I firmly believe that introducing and supporting a sense of inquiry and self-discovery from the moment the undergraduate student begins their learning journey is important.  By combining teaching with research we can achieve this aim.  I also feel that it is important to promote the development of a research based culture post qualification to help ensure the use of a research-based and evidence-based culture for our patients.

Graduation 2Emma Dodd, lecturer practitioner at the University of Salford, is undertaking work in this area with her MSc to explore our graduates’ experiences with research in practice following qualification.  This work will look at how our graduates draw upon the skills they learnt in RiTe and their final year research project and apply these in practice. I also plan to explore further how our research knowledge can be utilised in practice as well as within our teaching and learning.

“I think that the standard of RiTe (particularly in year 2) is incredibly high and has evolved. Many of the presentations given are of a conference standard, both the students and the teaching team should be proud of the achievements.”

Dr Andrew England, Senior Lecturer

Although we may be currently teaching our students to meet the clinical and service expectations of their profession, can we really prepare them to develop a research culture within radiography? I would be interested in people’s thoughts or opinions on this.

Related reading 

Higgins, R., Hogg, P. & Robinson, L. 2015. Guest editorial: Unlocking student research potential: towards a research culture in radiography undergraduate learning curricular. Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences, Vol. 46, Issue 3, S6–S9.

Higgins, R., Robinson, L. and Hogg P. 2014. Integrating research-informed teaching within an undergraduate diagnostic radiography curriculum: Results from a level 4 (year 1) student cohort. Radiography, 20 (2) 100-106.

Higgins, R., Hogg, P. & Robinson, L. 2013. Integrating Research-informed Teaching within an Undergraduate Level 4 (year 1) Diagnostic Radiography Curriculum: A Pilot Study. Journal of Vocational Education, 65 (3) 351-368.

Higgins, R., Hogg, P. & Robinson, L. 2013. Towards a research informed teaching experience within a diagnostic radiography curriculum: The level 4 (year 1) student holistic experience. Radiography, 19 (1) 62-66.

Higgins, R., Robinson, L. & Hogg, P. 2013. Developing undergraduate diagnostic student radiographers’ research skills using research-informed-teaching. Imaging and Therapy Practice, May 27-29

Norton S., Hogg .P, Higgins R., Robinson L., Mackay S., Norton E., Newton-Hughes A., Szczepura K., Tootell A., Farnell A., Al Qaroot B. and Manning D. 2012. “Further developments in a research-led diagnostic radiography curriculum”. Imaging Therapy and Practice (Synergy). September: 20-23.

Higgins, R., Hogg, P. & Robinson, L. 2011. The RiTe Project: Towards a research led informed teaching diagnostic radiography curriculum. Imaging Therapy and Practice (Synergy), July 26-28




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