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ACE March Newsletter - Faculty and Student Engagement Through Applied Research

Mar 1, 2021 | Academic Centre of Excellence

hand touching the word research

Academic Centre of Excellence - March Newsletter

Feature Highlight

Faculty and Student Engagement Through Applied Research

Lindsay Hayhurst Photo
Lindsay Hayhurst
Nicole Edworthy Photo
Nicole Edworthy

Applied research is an important part of engaging students in their own education and involves active reflection, an important skill for most professions. Integrating applied research in a course can look any number of ways; from integrating the steps of an applied research project, to considerations of ethics in working with vulnerable and human populations, to creating or engaging a community-based applied research project. Using an applied research focus has many privileges such as enforcing an active reflective component, making presentation and course concepts more meaningful to students, adapting an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning, teaching more investigative concepts, and much more. 

I had the privilege of assisting several faculty in their course development, application and integration, and applied research focus. Two of these Professors, Lindsay Hayhurst and Nicole Edworthy, answered a few key questions about their endeavours to engage students using an applied research focus.
What course are you currently teaching where applied research is engaged or taught? 

Lindsay: HSP170 Evaluating Information. This course is aimed at developing overall student understanding and appreciation for social science research techniques and findings in their work with clients in the human services fields. Students learn not only how to conduct and evaluate research, but also how an understanding of research techniques and their application is integral to research-based practice, as well as to the development and assessment of social service interventions. 

Nicole: DHP246 Foundations of Community Practice. This course considers the role of the dental hygienist in community and public health. The concepts of health promotion, wellness, prevention, and health related education and messaging for groups are established. Strategies for health promotion, including social marketing, collaboration, and community programming are used as students apply a process of care model to planning oral health programs and to service learning.

Can you explain how you are engaging students with applied research projects or applied research thinking? 

Lindsay: I begin the course by having students consider the importance of incorporating research into human service practice, and specifically what is meant by evidence-based practice and its implications for ongoing professional development and learning related to helping techniques and interventions. We consider how effective and ethical practice necessitates a career-long commitment to staying abreast of research related to their work with clients, and regular assessment of the programs, practices and interventions used within their current or future field of work.   In addition to having students consider how their work might require them to conduct research, whether it be to assess client or community need or evaluate programming, I include a project whereby students design an applied research proposal aimed to address a community problem or need. The project includes consideration of the standard components of a research proposal: title of the research project; location where the research will be conducted; rationale; method of data collection; participants and/or data sources; recruitment of participants; possible risks and benefits of the research; the consent process; participant withdrawal and debriefing; and proposed use/application of findings. 

Nicole: The 2nd year dental hygiene students are learning how to analyze raw data collected from a senior’s health project, the Collective Impact Project, that took place earlier in the year by another student group. In doing so, I have worked with Christina to outline step-by-step how the students will create a project, gather literature, and then analyze journal entries from the students in the Collective Impact project. The students will also implement their own evaluation tools and plans in the class based on the data they analyze and their findings. In this respect, they would have gone through the entire research process using a real life example and data. 

What has your experience been thus far? What benefits do you see for students overall? 

Lindsay: The start of each term typically begins with the challenge of inspiring student enthusiasm and excitement about research methods and techniques. Admittedly, the course title is not especially captivating. Beginning the course with a strong focus on research-based practice and on applied research, its relevance to their future practice, and the opportunity it offers to make meaningful and positive change has helped to spark student interest and motivation. The benefits to students include not only a greater level of confidence in reading and evaluating research, and (hopefully) an ongoing commitment to do so, but also their skill development in the use of research within their work, whether to remain current in their practice, or to conduct research to address community needs and/or enhance their service delivery. Moving forward, I hope to be able to incorporate greater connection between the College’s community-based research initiatives and course learning activities. 

Nicole: The experience of pulling out common themes from qualitative data and comparing it to other existing research has been well received by the students and makes the theoretical community research process more realistic. It is always beneficial when you can connect theory to practice.  My own experience has been challenging as I needed to rethink how the course objectives would be delivered and organized for the students and myself. But having Christina help me brainstorm and work through this challenge has been a great support. And knowing I can reach out to her and Micheline whenever it is needed is also comforting. 

What suggestions/ learnings would you like to share with the rest of your colleagues contemplating applied research within their own courses? 

Lindsay: With growing interest and appreciation for the value of experiential learning, the inclusion of course-based applied research can be an effective strategy for providing students with opportunities to practice and enhance the knowledge and skills they are learning about within their course work and studies.

Nicole:The experience has been very positive so far. The support provided by Christina and Micheline to plan, discuss and implement each step has been amazing. 

If you are interested in using applied research in your next course, reach out to the Research Office for support as well as consider attending the Research Office Professional Development Workshop entitled Engaging Students and Faculty Through Applied Research on Friday, March 5th at 12:30 p.m. 

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