Dr Jonathan Morris reflects on the Welsh Baccalaureate Conference and the School’s plans for promoting undergraduates’ research skills and strengthening training for postgraduates.
During the summer I was invited by Dr Charlotte Brookfield and Dr Samuel Parker (School of Social Sciences) to be part of the Welsh Baccalaureate Conference for teachers. The aim of the annual conference is to support teachers who teach the Baccalaureate, and more specifically, the Skills Challenge Certificate. As part of this Certificate, pupils must complete an individual project which develops independent study and research skills. The skills honed at University, therefore, are crucial.
My task was to present a session on structuring interview questions, but other sessions were held on different aspects of carrying out research, such as analysing qualitative data, preparing questionnaires and analysing quantative data by using Excel, and visual, creative ways of gathering data. An article about the day can be accessed here but essentially, the teachers had an opportunity to consider how to choose methods that are suitable for the aims and objectives of the research, and find out more information about these methods. My session was an opportunity to talk about using qualitative methods of data collection (such as interviews) in order to answer research questions which focus on peoples’ experiences. This may be somewhat ironic, since my main research works analysed sounds quantitatively, using statistical tests.
The general benefit of the day was apparent when talking to the teachers, but it’s essential that research skill resources and teaching materials are available in Welsh. I would urge any teacher who teaches research skills through the medium of Welsh to contact us and find out how we can help. As a result of the conference, for example, Dr Siôn Jones (School of Social Sciences) and myself intend to present a session at a Welsh school soon, and we are keen to develop these sessions for schools in future.
As leader of our undergraduate research modules and Director of Postgraduate Studies, I had an opportunity to reflect on how I present research skills myself, so the teachers really inspired me to change my teaching practices!
I’m therefore extremely grateful that we’re developing a series of materials on research skills for undergraduates who are writing extended essays, as well as offering training to postgraduate students on data analysis skills and statistics.
As well as the sessions on research skills, I spent lunchtime with teachers from Welsh and English schools discussing ideas for the individual project. Schools and departments at universities across Wales have created a number of Individual Project Proposals which provide a framework for pupils to be able to carry out independent research. Amongst the proposals offered at the School of Welsh, there are some relating to multiculturalism, the history of the Welsh language, translation and dialectology. Again, we are keen to hear from teachers who would be eager to learn more about these proposals. Contact us for more information.
I am grateful to the organisers and teachers for the opportunity to consider the value of research skills in our curricula, both in schools and at the University. The experience has also emphasised how discussions between lecturers and teachers can lead to changes which influence both sectors.