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Research Skill Development in Curriculum Design

The Research Skill Development (RSD) framework is a conceptual model for academics and tutors to create or modify curriculum and associated assessments in order to facilitate the explicit, incremental development of student research skills.

  • Curriculum Design

    Existing curricula may be slightly tweaked or radically altered by the application of the RSD as a conceptual framework. The RSD can also help to conceptualise some of the major purposes of new curricula.

    Frequently, a starting point for design or redesign is specific assessment tasks. This is in part because assessments indicate what lecturers value, and because they are locations where students focus their efforts. A significant part of the RSD mentality is incremental skill development, and so curricula design may consider the following:

    • developing student autonomy, through guided and well-modelled tasks progressively giving way to decreasing prescription and greater levels of flexibility
    • running a diagnostic of student research skills (frequently to Level II) early in the course. This provides you with a sense of the stengths and weaknessess of the cohort, the range of abilities and provides information about who may profit for referal to the Writing Centre.
    • providing timely feedback on this diagnostic assessment, and indicating its articulation with other course assessments that may require students to operate at higher levels of autonomy.
    • planning for lectures, tutorials, workshop activities, laboratories, clinics, discussions, etc that will help students operate at the higher levels required in subsequent assessments.
    • planning for the majority course time that students need to be allocating when not face-to-face or in formal online sessions. For example, many University of Adelaide courses have 40 hours of class time and exams, with 100 hours needing to be dedicated to other classwork. In the sciences and engineering, there is often a 50% each way split.
    • Readings in particular may assist in out-of-class components as they are integral to research processes, with the need for students to evaluate, analyse and make sense of these.
  • RSD Assesment

    The RSD frequently informs the redevelopment of assessments. This is commonly achieved through the following:

    • identify existing course assessments that already develop some facets of research
    • determine the degree of autonomy that students would ideally have in these tasks eg Level II or Level IV
    • find the closest analogous marking criteria from other existing examples (lots in RSD Assessments)
    • modify analogous criteria according to the demands of your assessment and the context
    • consider if any of the 6 Facets of research is not represented or is under-developed, and modify the assessment task accordingly
  • Academics Coaching Other Academics on RSD in Curriculum Design

    Academics in discussionOne significant advantage of utilising the same RSD framework across diverse disciplines is that academics who have utilised it in their own courses are able to explain the process to academics in related or unrelated disciplines. Each RSD-based assessment needs to be modified to fit the new context, but often this may be achieved quite efficiently.

    Pictured are two academics from Oral Health, Cathy Snelling (standing) and Sophie Karanicolas (mouse), discussing details of an RSD-based approach with two academics from Dentistry, Len Croecomb and Vicki Skinner. They are working through the details of assessing Collaborative Wikis as the process and Posters as the product of research using RSD-based marking criteria.

    Download a copy of the Oral Health RSD Wiki assessment.

  • RSD Framework in MS Word

    An editable version of the RSD framework in MS Word, useful for curriculum design and marking matrix construction.

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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