Challenging Assumptions about Content Knowledge

Recently, I started one of my classes  with a simple question, “Should general education courses be required”.  It was a strategy to get my students actively engaged in a discussion about the value and merit of general education courses.  It was my alternative to the traditional introduction to the course which in many general education courses goes something like: 1. Welcome to XXXX  2.  The purpose of the course is XXXX  3.  It is important because XXXX.

The discussion was a success!  Students were actively engaged in the discussion about the merits of general education and were able to argue, at  a very shallow level, about why general education was/was beneficial.  But, I was horrified at one of the very serious justifications from one student.  “No, general education should not be required because everything I need to know I can learn from my cell phone.”

Right then and there I started working to revise many of the assignments in my class.  It wasn’t about revising the course’s content.  It was about revising the course to get my students to actively engage and think about the content.  I was further inspired by the fact that I was in a learning community that was discussing  Brookfield, S. (2012).  Teaching for critical thinking. San Francisco, CA ISBN-13: 978-0470889343/ISBN-10: 0470889349.

Brookfield spends some time talking about assumptions. So, let me challenge three assumptions I see in the idea that content isn’t addressed in the RSD framework:

  1.  There is an implied assumption that the RSD framework is responsible for content acquisition.  I suggest that it is the instructor’s responsibility to provide a minimal amount of content upon which students can then expand upon and integrate. Can learners do research without any content knowledge?
  2. Is the RSD really about content acquisition?  In the U.S. there is a big push for “21st century skills”.  This includes problem solving, team work, analysis, and so forth.  Is the RSD designed for content acquisition or for addressing “21st Century Skills”.
  3. Are we reaching a point in education where we are using tried and true techniques of pedagogical approaches that no longer apply to learning?  The traditional education paradigm is that professors and teachers are “gatekeepers” with access to knowledge that they can disseminate as their expertise warrants.  However, today’s learners are on the Internet learning from videos, articles, wikis, blogs, one another, by-passing us as experts.  Do pedagogical principles still apply to today’s learners or should we start to look at including some andragogical (adult learning) principles to today’s learners?

I look forward to hearing your responses relative to the Research Skill Development framework.


Alloying content acquisition and active learning: the MELT

Model for Engaged Learning and Teaching
Model for Engaged Learning and Teaching (click for full size)


One critique in the literature about the Research Skill Development (RSD) framework is that it does not explicitly include content. Recently, I trialled about 5 versions of the RSD with content-knowledge included. But no-one found it very satisfactory (eg “I had an alergic reaction to this”). So this content connection won’t go into the RSD. But I wondered if those who are more research-learning savvy don’t need the connection with content spelled out, but maybe those new to teaching (in Schools or Universities) do?

So, attached is MELT- a draft of the Model of Engaged Learning and Teaching for your comments. The first column- after the RSD facets of research- is titled ‘Acquiring knowledge’. Is this column  helpful or appropriate on a framework for active learning?

With who/where/when do you think this ‘sister framework’ of the RSD could be useful? Do you have suggestions to improve it? Leave a comment below.


The RSD paradox or RSD groups

Following on from Sylvia’s question about the last ten years we have found that the RSD framework is hard for people- educators or students- to understand the first or second time round. At the same time, the RSD articulates something that some people find illuminating, and helpful for learning, teaching and researching. And it turns out the complexity is helpful for some.

After 10 years of RSD use and evaluation we are starting to find out the difficulties that educators and students face.

What was your first encounter with the RSD like? Instant epiphany? Slow dawning? Disineterest.

What ways did you find helpful to overcome any initial barriers of understanding/applicability/implementation?

As we are starting to use reskidev to encourage sharing of RSD practice, you might not only repond to my questions, but also pose your own questions and problems with RSD use! You may get some insightful answers.

My hope is that as people begin to share their ideas/resources/questions/ problems, we see an organic and growing set of RSD resources, reviewed by colleagues, thet may eventually go oto

A perennial problem is student group work – students dont like being lumped into groups, as some bear the load and some dont contribute. Sometimes one member is too bossy and prevents the others from working or working effectively. Frequently, students are asked to assess others’ contributions, and this results in sometimes higher marks.

In the Austrlian 29/10/15 one author slammed the practice of groupwork, as inneffective.

Yet group assessmnets are often valuable as ways that students learn skills of communication, collaboration, leadership, management and to be accountable to others.

So, why dont we flip group work?: Make it more valuable if students have a dysfunctional group?

Especially early in a degree, we could ask students to focus on team processes,  identify impediments and articulate strategies that they (individually) dealt with them, as well as other processes, drafts and final product.

Why not have interim feedback from other teams that identify strengths and weaknesses according to criteria, but the allocation of marks relate to how they respond to peers, rather than what peers say. Also, the effectiveness of the feedback they give to other groups could be an assessable feature.

Maybe this needs to be more on my problems

eg At symposium, someone said ‘RSD doesn’t show groupwork’

I thought it does- ‘students’ plural. The word ‘team’ is in facets a, d,e & f.

Suggest ways to make the RSD capture a sense of team processes more clearly (without writing off individual work)

Invite people to give ideas on RSD in groupwork

RSDzone is a linkedIn group

#rsdzone for any tweets

University of Wisconsin Stout RSD Symposium

This post is for those of us at UWS Symposium on the Research Skill Development framework, and for anyone interested in what happens.

This is a good place to write down questions that you have that emerge in the different sessions, as well as comments and impressions.

I hope that you enjoy the 2 days!




The RSD Framework, Research Capabilities and Research Competencies

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). Continue reading “The RSD Framework, Research Capabilities and Research Competencies”

RSD, Infectious Disease, and Biomimicry

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: Continue reading “RSD, Infectious Disease, and Biomimicry”

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

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. Continue reading “The University of the South Pacific’s focus on Program Level RSD Implementation and Link to Pacific Consciousness”