#8: How Academic Faculty Can Use Their Teaching Role To Establish A Research Track-Record

To an outsider it might seem crazy, but it is common for university academic faculty to keep their research separate from their teaching activities.

This separation is becoming increasingly reinforced by universities, who are responding to external pressures such as national league tables, to manage staff performance closely.

Faculty teaching performance can be measured by reported student satisfaction, student attainment and progression for instance.

Research performance might be measured by the amount of external income generated and the volume and quality of research outputs published.

The problem here is that these measurements create discrete objectives, which then become targets for academic faculty.

If faculty want to progress their careers, they are often tempted to pursue one set of objectives to the detriment of the other.

As such, research-oriented faulty and teaching-oriented faculty emerge, further reinforcing the cultural separation of teaching from research.

However, it is possible to develop research and teaching alongside each other.

It is just unfortunate that the know-how and experience to achieve this is not more widely understood by academic faulty.

The trick is to think about how teaching responsibilities can be transformed in a way that enables research to be developed and sustained in the long term.

This article describes six principles that academic faculty can adopt as part of a strategy to use their teaching as a vehicle for establishing a track-record of credible research activity.

Principle 1: Incorporate Research-Based Pedagogy (Research-Informed Teaching) Into Teaching

Many academic faculty rail against any mention of pedagogy; it can be perceived (unfairly) as being lacking in science or rigour.

However, such a perspective can severely limit an academic’s ability to really transform their teaching to support their research.

Enquiry-based Learning (EBL/IBL) is an example of a pedagogical approach that actively utilises the processes of research as a means for learning.

Students who experience EBL tend to form cohorts who foster a culture of curiosity and critical thinking.

This intellectual maturity is markedly different from that which can emerge from more didactic approaches to teaching and learning.

It also permits academic faculty to pose research-based questions that the students can relate to and subsequently engage with.

Students can support faculty by engaging in primary research, experimentation, data analysis and rigorous evaluation.

This enables academic faculty to provide a much richer learning experience for students while also increasing research capacity.

Principle 2: Involve Students In Funded Research

Beyond teaching, research active faculty can actively involve students in externally-funded research projects, thereby transforming the learning experience into a dynamic research environment.

Through mentorship and guidance, academic faculty can empower students to undertake independent research projects within larger projects, contributing not only to the students’ academic development but also offering valuable contributions for the academics’ research agenda.

Academic staff can establish undergraduate research programmes or internship opportunities that provide students with hands-on research experience.

Collaborative endeavours with students lead to joint publications, poster presentations, or even participation in research conferences, significantly bolstering the faculty’s research track record.

Principle 3: Integrate Research into Course Curricula (Research-Led Teaching)

A proactive approach to bridging the gap between teaching and research involves infusing course content with the latest research findings.

Academic faculty can stay current with literature in their field and while integrating relevant studies into lectures and discussions.

This not only enhances the credibility of the course but also fosters a research-oriented mindset among students.

Expanding on this strategy, faculty can utilise case studies, guest lectures by researchers, or incorporate discussions on recent publications to create a dynamic and research-focused learning environment. 

Additionally, encouraging students to critically evaluate and discuss current research articles within the context of the course content can further instil the importance of research in their academic journey.

Faculty who use this approach need to be careful not to assume that students will learn the processes of research through osmosis – academic faculty talking about research cannot properly convey the learning that comes from experiencing the processes of research.

Students become more capable when they experience and practice the processes of research, so Principle 1 is a faster route to faculty realising the benefits of students as researchers.

Principle 4: Use Teaching As A Platform For Research Dissemination

Faculty members possess a captive audience in their students, offering a unique opportunity to disseminate research findings effectively.

Integrating their own research into lectures, seminars, or class discussions allows faculty to share their expertise with a wider audience.

This not only enhances the visibility of their work within the academic community but also opens avenues for collaboration and networking.

To enhance this approach, academic faculty can organise research-focused workshops, seminars, or conferences, inviting experts in the field to contribute to the academic discourse.

Such events not only provide a platform for faculty to showcase their research but also foster a culture of research dissemination within the academic community.

This is an effective way of providing an inspiring learning experience as it is straightforward to include students within research dissemination activities.

However, the real transformation occurs when students become actively engaged in the production of research outputs alongside academic faculty.

Principle 5: Using Action Research In Teaching

One of the symptoms of academic faculty keeping their teaching and research separate is that the processes of research are not replicated in the design or delivery of teaching.

It is not unusual for academic faculty to maintain a didactic, prescriptive approach to teaching and learning, while engaging in cutting-edge methods and processes for their research.

Action research is commonly used in the business community as a reflective and systematic approach to reviewing, evaluating and enhancing practice.

But if the domain of business is replaced with teaching, faculty can increase their teaching effectiveness while simultaneously contributing to research outputs.

By initiating action research projects within their own classrooms, faculty academics can gather valuable data and insights, which can inform their broader research endeavours.

For instance, faculty can collaborate with colleagues to conduct action research across disciplines.

This interdisciplinary approach not only enriches the research process but also allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the educational impact of various teaching strategies.

Principle 6: Establish Collaborative Research Networks Amongst Students

One important principle that informs all of the principles above is that of collaboration.

Universities talk endlessly about how collaboration is an important aim that delivers the necessary enhancements for teaching and research.

Unfortunately, much of the collaboration is aspirational and not realised.

Fostering closer working with students, viewing them more as research assistants, does establish a culture of collaboration.

Students have no need to become embroiled in historical political agendas and thus they are free to collaborate with other cohorts to further their research objectives.

In turn, collaboration can bridge disciplines and empower research progress to accelerate.

The resulting student research networks can create a platform for the exchange of ideas, resources, and collaborative projects, thereby enhancing the impact and reach of academic faculty’s research contributions.


Using teaching activities to develop a credible research track record requires academic faculty to adopt a multifaceted and intentional approach.

By adopting research-based pedagogies, involving students in research activities, integrating research into course content, disseminating findings through teaching, engaging in action research, and fostering collaborations, academic faculty can integrate their teaching and research.

This holistic approach not only elevates the quality of education but also contributes significantly to the advancement of knowledge, positioning academic faculty as accomplished and recognised scholars in their respective fields.

Ultimately, the synergy between teaching and research creates a fulfilling and impactful academic journey for both academic faculty and students, enriching the university community as a whole.