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OTC-Funded Project October 2011- October 2013

Outcomes and uptake of explicit research skill development across degree programs: 'It's got a practical application in my world'

Download the project proposal for the grant. The funding enables the evaluation of explicit research skill development across whole degree programs, and discipline-level dissemination of outcomes.

Research Skill Development Study Across 5 Universities

Completed December 2009.

This page lists the rationale for and contributors to the 'Research Skill Development and Assessment in the Curriculum' project.

Final Report (2M PDF with appendices)

Final Report (small) (750k PDF, no appendices)

  • Project Rationale

    While the importance of giving undergraduate students research experience is frequently asserted, surprisingly little research has been devoted to the explicit development of student research skills, with a scarcity of 'research findings upon which sound evaluation strategies might be grounded' (Seymour, et al, 2004, p493). One reason for this may be the lack of a theoretical framework from which to conceptualise undergraduate research across diverse disciplines. This project was designed to fill that gap, in that it provided both a conceptual framework from which to proceed to investigate one method of developing undergraduate students' research skills, and a means of empirically testing that method.

  • Project Potential

    The potential of the RSD Framework to assist in student research skills development had been demonstrated in preliminary research in two contexts. The first context was First Year Anatomical Science, where it was found that the explicit development of student research skills led to substantial measured increases in students' research ability and and a high degree of student satisfaction with the courses (Willison & O'Regan, 2007).  It also promoted lecturers' satisfaction, demonstrated by an expansion of the use of the RSD approach and indicated in interviews and informal discussions. In the second context, a discipline from a different faculty, Electronic Engineering, adapted and adopted the RSD approach to a Masters by Coursework with a high proportion of international students, with similar outcomes.  Moreover, the Electronic Engineering lecturers reported a decrease in the frequency and especially the intensity of plagiarism, compared with previous years.

  • Project Purpose

    Initially, four other universities joined the University of Adelaide RSD team in a successful bid to gain a Carrick Institute competitive grant for the project, entitled 'Making Research Skill Development explicit in coursework: Four universities’ adaptation of a model to numerous disciplines'.

    The application was successful, with the Carrick Institute (now the Australian Learning and Teaching Council) granting $215,000 over 2 years to enable the RSD approach to be adapted to numerous disciplines in the 5 universities and to evaluate the degree of successful adoption in each context.  View a summary of the application, including outcomes and methods.

    In 2008, the project expanded its research from 4 disciplines at 1 university to 8 disciplines at 5 universities; these figures have increased again in 2009. The funding allows 3 major features that would not otherwise be possible:

    • The generation, processing and analysis of quantitative and qualitative data on the RSD approach from 5 universities; 8 disciplines in 2008 and 16 disciplines in 2009,
    • Rigorous evaluation of the problems and successes of the RSD approach in each discipline and university, and
    • The potential spreading of the RSD approach to other disciplines in the partner universities, and to other universities.
  • Partner Universities Collaborating in this Project
    • Macquarie University (Psychology: Judi Homewood)
    • Monash University (Business Ethics: Jan Schapper; Sue Mayson: Business; Glen Croy: Tourism)
    • University of Melbourne (Business Law: Eu-Jin Teo)
    • University of South Australia (Introduction to Tertiary Learning, 2008: Rowena Harper)

    This cluster represents 3 Group of Eight universities, 1 Innovative Research University and 1 Australian Technology Network University.

  • Courses Involved at the University of Adelaide
    • Human Biology (Eleanor Peirce & Mario Ricci)
    • Electrical Engineering Masters by Coursework (Said Al-Sarawi and Brian Ng)
    • Clinical Nursing (Frank Donnelly)
    • Petroleum Engineering (Steve Begg)
    • Introductory Academic Program (Richard Warner)
    • English (Joy McEntee)
    • Dentistry (Vicki Skinner and Leonard Crocombe)
    • Oral Health (Sophie Karanicolas and Cathy Snelling)
    • Software Engineering (Li Jiang)
    • Veterinary Science (Susan Hazel)

    Since the start of the project, the University of Southern Queensland, the Queensland University of Technology and Victoria University have been active in utilising the RSD in a variety of courses, and organising information seminars and application workshops. Interest in the RSD framework has been expressed by international users from South Africa, Ireland, Canada and the USA.

  • Interim Review of Project
    The interim review of the RSD project, written by the project's External Assessor Peggy Nightingale, is available for download here.


Research Skill Development

Established October 2006

School of Education

6.22, 10 Pulteney Street
The University of Adelaide
SA 5005


Dr John Willison
T: +61 8 8313 3553

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