The RSD Framework, Research Capabilities and Research Competencies

November 9, 2015 3 comments

Post by Dr Keith Morrison, The University of the South Pacific

I am interested in critically exploring the potential linkages that can be developed between the highest levels of the RSD framework developed by Willison & O’Regan (2008) and the distinction between research competences and capabilities developed by Scott, Coates & Anderson (2008).

I wish to suggest that the Willison & O’Regan RSD framework deals predominantly with what Scott, Coates & Anderson terms research competencies. I wish to suggest also that the RSD framework does nevertheless lend itself to being extended to also cover research capabilities, but that this occurs when the application of research is also focused upon, rather than only the teaching and learning of it. Because of this I also wish to suggest that a focus on research capabilities is what is most appropriate when graduate attributes are considered. Finally therefore I suggest that the RSD framework as it stands at the moment is weak in being able to enable the developing of a full range graduate attributes.

In particular I wish to suggest that interdependence is as necessary a feature of developing research skill as independence. In particular, the notion of emotional intelligence needed in the workplace for any purpose is an essential graduate attribute. Even though the affective domain is referred to in the RSD framework, the need to see this as interpersonal and involving recognition of interdependence in research is not developed. This therefore also has quite a strong bearing on the validity of the RSD framework to refer to the role of culture and community support. Also it raises questions as to its efficacy in facilitating self-regulated learning.

I would like to suggest however that the inter-personal capabilities and meta-cognitive capabilities of mindfulness or spirituality facilitated by cultural traditions are not contradicted by the RSD framework, but are in need of being explicitly articulated. To do so however probably requires moving beyond the current matrix structure of representation of the RSD framework.


Pictorial representation of the Research Capabilities and Competencies framework by Scott, Coates & Anderson (2008) is given on page 18 of the article at the link



Scott, G., Coates, H. & Anderson, M. (2008) Learning leaders in time of Change: Academic Leadership Capabilities for Australian Higher Education. Sydney: University of Western Sydney and Australian Council for Educational. Accessed from

Willison, J. & O’Regan, K. (2008). The Researcher Skill Development Framework. Accessed from

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RSD, Infectious Disease, and Biomimicry

November 5, 2015 2 comments

Hi Everyone!

The RSD Framework ( is an easy sell to people who already embrace research and who are interested in “best” pedagogical practices. I see a lot of publications regarding how the RSD was implemented in across disciplines and in a variety of settings.  However, I am interested in the process as well as the products.  How does one move beyond “early adopters” with new ideas and technologies?  I am beginning to reach out to K-12 institutions and try to convince them to try working with the RSD.  I wrestled with the “best” way to do this.  There is anecdotal evidence about what is working.  Here goes:

Strategy 1:  Start with someone you know.  I know a person at the university whose partner works in a K-12 setting.  I have had these folks to my house for dinner so there is a relationship that has been established.  This gets a foot in the door.  As a first step then, start with people with whom you have a relationship.  As a result of this first attempt I found myself talking to the curriculum director.  It turns out that there is a major overhaul in the curriculum planned and thus my request for collaborating on RSD-related initiatives was timely.  The resulting insights:  a) start with people you know and b) find the person in charge of curriculum.

Strategy 2:  Start with those people who have a need.  Again, I knew a teacher who is starting a new project at her/his school.  This involves curriculum reform.  The person came to me for help regarding new curriculum and the RSD was a good fit.  There is potential here but this time I started at the teacher level and will have to see about working up to the administrative level of the school hierarchy.  The resulting insights:  a) work with people you know and b) find where the need is and tap into the need.

Strategy 3:  I have heard of a number of schools who are implementing new teaching strategies.  This comes from word of mouth, the Internet and newspapers.  Some people I may have met in passing but there is no relationship established.  I collected information, created a database and just sent out an email invitation asking for potential collaborators.  We will see where this leads.

More importantly though is the question about how to engage more people in the RSD and move beyond the early adopters and advocates.  I got thinking about infectious diseases and the press’ (at least in the U. S.) attention to infection rates, danger to the public, and the like.  We want the RSD to be “infectious” (in a non-threatening way),  to catch on, so that a broad spectrum of people will use it.  Taking this one step further I think about engineering and problem-solving processes.  One of the strategies that is used to inspire innovation is the idea of biomimicry (

So here is my challenge to all of you readers:  How can we use biomimicry to develop strategies to move the RSD framework from the early adopters and advocates to the “infectious” (in a good way) stage?  What are the “best practices” we should use to do this?

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The University of the South Pacific’s focus on Program Level RSD Implementation and Link to Pacific Consciousness

October 27, 2015 7 comments

The University of the South Pacific’s focus on Program Level RSD Implementation and Link to Pacific Consciousness

The next Research Skills Development (RSD) workshop at The University of the South Pacific in Fiji will focus on using the RSD Framework for promoting Pacific Consciousness and greater program level coherence of research skills across courses. The RSD workshop will be conducted by John Willison (University of Adelaide) on 26th and 27th of November 2015 in Suva, Fiji. The workshop participants will comprise of academic staff that have been implementing RSD in their courses, mainly members of the ‘USP RSD Community of Practice’ that was launched on 9th of September this year.

The RSD Framework is implemented in Foundation, Undergraduate and Postgraduate level courses at The University of the South Pacific. Implementation of RSD was initiated in 2012 with the first year Undergraduate generic courses ‘UU100 Communication and Information Literacy’ and ‘UU114 English for Academic Purposes’. Following this, RSD was implemented in the second year Undergraduate generic courses ‘UU200 Ethics and Governance’ and ‘UU204 Pacific Worlds’, and in the first year discipline based courses during 2013. Second year discipline based Undergraduate courses commenced implementation of RSD in 2014 and some third year Undergraduate courses have begun implementation in 2015.

Simultaneous to implementation at Undergraduate level, RSD has been implemented in the core postgraduate level courses from year 2013, starting from a core Science postgraduate course and expanding to include more disciplines over the last 3 years.

Program level conversations on RSD implementation were initiated at the workshops in December 2014 and April 2015, with progress noted during the workshops in September 2015. The next workshop is expected to delve further into program level implementation for coherence in research skill development across courses in the degree. Furthermore, it is critical to link the use of the RSD Framework to development of Pacific Consciousness at The University of the South Pacific which serves students in 14 campuses located across 12 member countries in the region.

For further information on RSD implementation at The University of the South Pacific, refer to

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Willison and Missingham to lead RSD Symposium in U. S. – December 3 &4 – Please join us!

October 22, 2015 6 comments

Dr. John Willison and his colleague Dorothy Missingham are coming from Adelaide, Australia to lead UW-Stout’s Research Skills Symposium on December 3 & 4, 2015.  Interactive sessions will be led by Willison, Missingham and UW-Stout faculty who have experience integrating the RSD framework into their courses.  We are expecting to have a lot of fun in interactive sessions, discussions, student presentations, and poster sessions.  Don’t miss this rare opportunity to work with the pros who developed the RSD framework ( and work to apply the RSD Framework to your courses as part of sound pedagogical practices.

Please help spread the word by downloading, printing and posting the flyer RSD Symposium Flyer

For registration and details please go to:

We are looking forward to seeing you there!


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The Education and Health Gap 1861: When Europeans died and Aboriginal People Thrived

October 16, 2015 2 comments

A resource we use to introduce research skills to undergraduate and masters students.

A resource we use to introduce clinical reasoning skills and to characterise active cognitive engagement to undergraduate and masters students. Click to enlarge (& ‘cntrl +’)

For the past few years, Clinton Kempster (Oral health, University of Adelaide) and I (John Willison, School of Education, UoA) have been introducing the different sides, or facets, of cognitive engagement to First Year Oral Health students, and this year to undergraduate Education students. Clinton’s focus is on student clinical reasoning, and my focus is on active cognitive engagement, but we use the same conceptual framework on Research Skill Development.

As a stimulating way to do this in both disciplines we have used the death of the famous European Explorers, Burke and Wills, for their Health Gap (ie death) and their Education Gap (ie ignorance of how to survive) in the apparently inhospitable Cooper Creek region of Southern Queensland. Especially we consider the hard-won knowledge of the Yandrawandha People who thrived at Cooper Creek, and their care for the surviving member of the exploration team, John King. The poster above is a recent articulation of the resource, presented at the Indigenous Content Symposium, University of South Australia, September 21, 2015.

The way we use this is two-fold: firstly, students need to list the similarities and difference between Yandrawandha living skills and contemporary research skills.  Students call out items on their list, and once these similarities and differences are entered into powerpoint, challenges are made about on which list an item may better belong. A significant shift then occurs, when we ask students to stop and consider themselves: what did you just do, what skills did you use? When they call out the skills they were using to complete the activity, we arrange these according to the six facets of the RSD. To see this process in action with a different example, go to .

Student-revelation of the skills is pivotal to them seeing that this set of skills is pertinent to their own lives as well as to their university studies. In this way the facets of the RSD begin to come to life, rather than say being ‘presented’ to students, or even merely used to frame assessment marking matrices, where they risk being dormant, irrelevant and opaque. When students make their own thinking visible, this meta-cognition enables them to be more aware of the educational enterprise, more able to articulate their cognitive processes and more likely be be able to improve their learning approaches.

In another example of introducing the facets of research, we provide Electrical Engineering students with a real scenario of a tree, a magpie and a man called Dom involved in a lighting strike. In terms of the adage ‘lightning never strikes twice in the same place’ we ask students to list why that adage may be right, and why it may be wrong. In the differentiation process of constructing two lists, it turns out that all six facets of the RSD are always employed, and students are able to articulate this in their own words. We use the lighting strike stimulus with Nursing audiences as well, but ask them to list reasons why the Dom should have gone to emergency and reasons why this was not necessary.

What stimulus have you used, or could you use, to introduce the facets of the RSD? How have you, or how could you, facilitate student generation of two lists? Use the ‘Leave a comment’ function to provide us with your ideas, so that we are able to see the variety of ways that the RSD may be introduced in discipline-and-context-appropriate ways.

Call for abstracts including ‘Integration of research into the curriculum’: Council on Undergraduate Research conference in Florida, 26- 28 June 2016

October 2, 2015 Leave a comment

The Call for Submissions is open now and can be found at
The deadline to submit for oral sessions is Nov. 13, 2015.

Of five themes, one is of particular interest to me: ‘integration of research into the curriculum’.

This theme was not evident in 2008 and 2010 conference, as CUR has traditionally had a focus on mentored summer scholarships as the main mechanism for undergraduate research in the past. ‘In the curriculum’ started emerging in 2012.

There has therefore been emerging interest in North America generally and in CUR members particularly on the use of the Research Skill Development framework (RSD: to scaffold the development of undergraduate student discipline-specific research skills.

If you have been using the RSD to guide your students’ learning and/ or assessment, and been evaluating this use, you may consider submitting an abstract for the conference.

Maybe I’ll see you in Florida in 2016! I’ve never been to Florida, but interested to see what natural wonders await- see my find when visiting outback New Jersey for the 2012 CUR conference:


Masterly RSD Symposium- photo and event highlights

September 30, 2015 12 comments

The Masterly RSD Symposium was attended Wednesday 23 September 2015 by an enthusiastic 100 participants and presenters.

The day was kicked off by Trevor-Tirritpa Ritchie, a Kaurna man from the University of South Australia, who gave us a rousing welcome to Country in three languages; Kaurna, English and digeridoo.

Trevor-Tirritpa Ritchie welcoming us to Kaurna Country

Trevor-Tirritpa Ritchie welcoming us to Kaurna Country

Sabine Schurer and Nayana Parange; Colin Sharp and Stephanie Eglington-Warner; and Robyn Davidson; the SA core who organised and ran the symposium, welcoming people and setting up.

South Australian Masterly RSD core group

South Australian Masterly RSD core group

We had an interactive session early on to enable the audience, who had diverse experiences of the Research Skill Development (RSD) framework, to engage in an activity normally given to undergraduate and masters students in order for them to derive the facets of the RSD in their own words. This activity required people to consider the similarities and differences between Aboriginal Peoples’ traditional living skills and contemporary research skills.

Symposium participants tossing over similarities and differences,

Symposium participants tossing over similarities and differences

Representatives from NSW/ACT (Assessment and RSD), Vic/TAs (Collaborative Conversations with the RSD), Queensland (Work Skill Development and RSD) and the whole SA core Masterly RSD group each presented 5 minute ‘Pecha Kuchas’ to entice the audience to attend their breakout session. The audience then chose one of these sessions to attend:

Breakout rooms saw lots of discussion...

Breakout rooms saw lots of discussion…

... and hard work.

… and hard work.

Following Lunch,  Professor Derrick Armstrong kicked us off with an overview of his impressions, as a DVC (Research) new to the University of the South Pacific (USP), of the University’s implementation of the RSD over the past 4 years. Then Heena Lal provided us with an institution wide look at this RSD role-out at USP since 2011.

DVC(R) Professor Derrick Armstrong and the Manager of USP's RSD initiative, Heena Lal

DVC(R) Professor Derrick Armstrong and the Manager of USP’s RSD initiative, Heena Lal

Then we had a wonderful tag-team, with Sotiana Mele, a Masters student,  and Rev. Dr. Keith Morrison, a Masters course coordinator, both of the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development, presenting on Culturally appropriate use of the RSD in the USP context.

Rev. Dr. Keith Morrison and Sotiana Mele

Rev. Dr. Keith Morrison and Sotiana Mele

After the fantastic USP presentations, the audience was required to form groups of six, where each person was assigned one of the RSD facets, and had to join up with the five other facets. Groups formed then raced outside into the glorious Spring afternoon sun.

Groups of six formed, with each person representing one of the RSD facets.

Groups of six formed, with each person representing one of the RSD facets.

Each group had to consider which of the six facets was the most important one in Apollo 13’s Carbon dioxide problem and solution. They then were forced back inside the theatre to vote:

flash left

Teams voting on which facet was most important to Apollo 13. A total of 2 Fs, an A and 2 Es.

Each team then presented their case as to why the facet they chose was most important. This team analysis and argument is a great way to ‘re-animate’ facets of the RSD with students who have encountered them in earlier studies, but may have forgotten them.

Pausing only for a quick launch of the RSD Masters website, which houses the emerging work of each state and territory’s clusters…

Masters RSD site

Masters RSD site

… Professor Phil Levy, PCV (Student Learning) made some closing remarks and presented Coconuts, symbolically representing valuable contributions from USP, to all the Presenters resident in Australia.

Prof Derrick Armstrong passes coconuts to Prof Phil Levy

Prof Derrick Armstrong passes coconuts to Prof Phil Levy

Thankyou coconuts to the presenters from Australia. L to R Barbara Yazbeck (Monash), Deborah Murdoch (CSU), Michelle Harrison (USyd), Nayana Parange , Stephanie Eglington-Warner, Sabine Schuhrer , Colin Sharp and Robyn Davidson

Thankyou coconuts to the presenters from Australia. L to R Barbara Yazbeck (Monash), Deborah Murdoch (CSU), Michelle Harrison (USyd), Stephanie Eglington-Warner (Uof Ad), Robyn Davidson (UofAd), Nayana Parange (UniSA), Sabine Schuhrer (UofAd) , Colin Sharp (UniSA), Lyn Torres (Monash) and Sue Bandaranaike (JCU).

If you attended the Symposium- what was the highlight for you? Please leave your thoughts in the ‘Leave a comment’ field at the top of this page.

Thanks to all of you who made the event such an amazing day!



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