Posted by: Gillian | February 20, 2012

Research – work or qualification

Does one need to go to university in order to be able to do useful research?  The recent furore in the UK about the appointment of Les Ebdon as a university access ‘tsar’ has highlighted the perception that in order to get a good job, one needs a university education.  Much of Friday’s discussion at the BILD was on two key themes:

  1. The need for rapid and reliable research in modern educational methods
  2. The leadership and entrepreneurial ability of the Young Pioneers who, for one reason or another, came out of traditional K-12 education and have survived, even to a very humbling extent thrived,  adversity and gone on into productive lives that include education.

Much of education is geared to getting things right first time and passing tests, as Jack Hassard recently described in Education Week.  If Luke had followed that, he would never be a successful CEO of a £1m+ charity at the age of 16. Bloom’s taxonomy, is a very useful learning design tool but as  Scott Mcleod pointed out in his blog , it is explicitly not intended as an obligatory sequential process starting with knowing facts and ending with creating.

For many, schools and universities do an admirable, developmental job and if that were not the case, it is unlikely that there would be such competition to gain admittance to the best research universities around the globe.  There remains, however, the question: is the traditional university research model the best for all circumstances? In fast-moving fields it makes more sense for the research to be carried out in companies where the results can be exploited before technology is out of date or while papers languish in peer review. Yet the greatest experience of developing hypotheses, actively looking for the flaws and conducting adequately controlled tests lies within higher-level formal education. Applied doctorates (e..g. Ed.D, Sc.D) and part-time research-Masters degrees would seem to be the obvious answer to providing access to academic rigour while simultaneously allowing commercial exploitation and academic accreditation of the individual doing the work. Yet, how many of these programmes are there that allow people to arrive at the university door on a Monday with a research requirement in hand and start by Friday? I have searched and have not found one – but do let me know if you know of a properly (nationally/regionally) accredited institution that  does have that flexibility and commitment to applied research.

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