No lectures for reclassified 'researchers'

January 10, 2008

Undergraduates have been redefined as "researchers" and will be given fewer formal lectures under a new teaching strategy at the University of Gloucestershire.

Academic staff at Gloucestershire will be encouraged to think of their students as fellow academic researchers to help ensure that they become "active learners" rather than "passive consumers" of lecturers' knowledge.

Over the next three years, academics will be expected to involve undergraduates in their own research, and their success could affect promotion prospects. The university's estate will be adapted to reflect a reduced need for lecture theatres.

Mick Healey, director of the university's Centre for Active Learning, said: "We want students to be involved in real projects so they become producers of knowledge rather than passive consumers."

At the start of this academic year, students spent four days working in groups and researching subjects including the effect of summer flooding on Gloucester residents and the behaviour of primates at Bristol Zoo.

"The projects are meant to be fun, but they have a serious dimension in that they introduce students to the idea of active research," Professor Healey said.

He noted that not all students are comfortable with group work. "The high-flyers are worried that they'll be brought down by the others. In some exercises, we give the group a mark that is redistributed among the individual students based on peer and self-assessment," he said.

This is not the first time that the university has pushed for radical reform of how it interacts with students. Last year, it consulted on proposals that would have significantly reduced the number of formal undergraduate exams.

But students rejected the idea, arguing that they did not do their best work until exam time.

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