Past Event details

What makes for REF-able pedagogical research?

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Seminar abstract: This timely seminar aims to develop a framework for research excellence of pedagogical research, building on the analysis by Cotton et al. (2017) on the low profile of pedagogic research in the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, and possibilities for REF 2021. This seminar will examine new developments in higher education research, notions of impact, and challenges of conducting rigorous and practical pedagogical research. Papers will explore methodological and ethical considerations of pedagogical research, including disciplinary underpinnings, the role of students, and institutional and governmental policies.

This set of linked papers draw on research on higher education quality, student engagement, ethics, learning gain, and high impact pedagogies to examine the differing roles of students and consequences thereof. The seminar is structured with several linked presentations and then working towards developing guidelines for policymakers feeding into REF discussions and practical guidance for researchers. Attendees are encouraged to review the REF consultation in advance, particularly paragraphs 168-183,

Cotton, D., Miller, W. and Kneale, P. (2017) The Cinderella of academia: Is higher education pedagogic research undervalued in UK research assessment? Studies in Higher Education.


11:00 - 11:15       Introduction, Camille Kandiko Howson, Senior Lecturer in Higher Education, King’s College London, Convenor, SRHE Student Experience Network

11:15 – 11:45      High impact pedagogical research: Measuring meaningful gains within assessment, Carol Evans, Professor in Higher Education, University of Southampton

11:45 – 12:15      From classroom exploration to pedagogical research: how can academics develop as HE pedagogical researchers? Corony Edwards, Independent Consultant

12:15 – 12:45      Interactive discussion

12:45 – 13:30      Lunch

13:30 – 14:00      Ethical engagement with students in higher education research, Camille Kandiko Howson, Senior Lecturer in Higher Education, King’s College London

14:00 – 14:45      Panel Discussion: Pedagogic research and the REF, Carol Evans, Alex Forsythe (Senior Lecturer, Chartered Occupational Psychologist, University of Liverpool), and David James, Director ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Partnership. Chair: Camille Kandiko Howson

14:45 – 15:15      Tea break

15:15 – 16:00      Group activity on REF consultation


Carol Evans, University of Southampton

Title: High impact pedagogical research: Measuring meaningful gains within assessment

This paper explores the importance of pedagogical research literacy in the development, implementation, and evaluation of pedagogical interventions within higher education. As part of this, the relevance of the notion of the ‘integrated academic’, as being crucial to the design and evaluation process, will be discussed.   Given the importance of assessment and feedback within higher education, and the relative limitations of student learning outcomes as learning gains, this paper will consider fine-tuned measures of learning gain within assessment. These fine-tuned measures are attuned to understandings of high impact pedagogies and student engagement in, and with assessment, aimed at supporting meaningful approaches to learning that are geared towards enhancing student self-regulation in learning (Evans, Muijs, & Tomlinson, 2015; Kuh, O’Donnell, & Schneider, 2017). Borrowing from Moore et al. (2015), key dimensions of impact such as reach, significance, and dose in relation to  assessment impacts will be considered (Moore, et al., 2015).

Biography: Professor Carol Evans is Professor in Higher Education within Southampton Education School at the University of Southampton. She is co-director of the Centre for Higher Education at Southampton (CHES). She is a Principal Fellow (PFHEA) and National Teaching Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA). Carol is an Associate of the HEA and the International Officer for the Committee of the Association of National Teaching Fellows (CANTF). She is also a visiting Fellow at the UCL, Institute of Education, London. Carol is Editor-in-Chief of the Higher Education Pedagogies Journal (www.tandfonline.con/rhep), and Associate Editor for the British Journal of Educational Psychology Journal. Carol is an editorial board member for the Journal of Educational Psychology and the Thinking Skills and Creativity Journal.


Corony Edwards, Independent Consultant

Title: From classroom exploration to pedagogical research: how can academics develop as HE pedagogical researchers?

This session considers how approaches to individual or small team teaching and learning enhancement such as reflective practice, exploratory practice and action research, relate to the type of pedagogical research that would be considered ‘REFable’. While classroom and other educational explorations can draw on, or develop into, more rigorous studies, they are normally on too small a scale and often lack the methodological rigour to merit the term ‘research’ as understood within the context of the REF. Nevertheless, we argue that small-scale classroom exploration offers a manageable and valid starting point for academic staff to develop the pedagogical research literacy needed for REF-returnable pedagogical research, as well as supporting a critically reflective orientation towards one’s professional practice as a higher education teacher. Opportunities for developing classroom exploration and pedagogical research expertise within and beyond practitioners’ HE institutions are identified and considered, including the potential role of the SRHE community in supporting colleagues as emerging pedagogical researchers.

Biography: Following an early career in further education (where I really learned to teach), I joined the University of Birmingham in 1992 to set up and run a new BA in English Language. I pursued a 13 year career as an academic in the School of Humanities, holding various strategic leadership roles, and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2004. I was appointed as the University’s Director of Educational Development in 2006. In 2012 I moved to the University of Exeter to take up the position of Head of Education Quality and Enhancement. In January 2016 I set up Corony Edwards Consulting so I could offer my services to the sector as an independent, freelance consultant.



Camille Kandiko Howson, King’s College London

Title: Ethical engagement with students in higher education research

This paper explores the role of students in higher education research. Traditionally research has been “about” students, with students positioned at data points or data sources. Drives towards student engagement have expanded this view and have led to research being done “with” students, particularly on topics of assessment, feedback, pedagogical practices and student voice. Policy developments across the UK have added a further dimension of research “for” students, with students (or potential students) as the intended audience. Given this multiplicity of roles, how is quality research signalled and what methodological approaches are rigorous and robust to produce world-leading research? This raises questions about measuring impact of higher education research. Additionally, the advent of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) presents ethical considerations and practical challenges for those conducting higher education research. How are the ethics of students in randomly-controlled trials, What Works agendas and behavioural insights research considered?

Biography: Dr Camille Kandiko Howson is Senior Lecturer in Higher Education and Academic Head of Student Engagement at King's College London. In a cross-institutional capacity she works on student engagement and experience enhancement initiatives at KCL. She works nationally on higher education policy with current projects on quality, prestige, leadership and gender. Her research focuses on international and comparative higher education, with areas of interest in the student experience, student engagement and learning gain.



Dr Alex Forsythe

Biography: Dr Alex Forsythe has been an educator and psychologist since 2003 and among her various accomplishments, she is Senior Lecturer at University of Liverpool, Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and Head of Professional Certification for the Association of Business Psychology.  This combination of expertise and experience is the foundation of the knowledge that Alex applies to identify opportunities and problem solve in innovative and creative ways.  She is committed to see her initiatives through, with an infectious enthusiasm to motivate and encourage others to strive towards excellence.

Network: Student Experience
Date(s): Thursday, 11 October 2018
Times: 11:00 - 16:00
Location: SRHE, 73 Collier St, London N1 9BE
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Ethical engagement with students in higher education research
Dr Camille Kandiko Howson
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Integrated academicCE Oct latest
Pedagogical requirements
Summary of consultation document
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