Review: Developing Pedagogic Research in Higher Education

SEDA Special 37 Cover-page-001

Edited by Lindsey McEwan and Kristine Mason O’Connor
SEDA Special 37
Published 2014

You can order your copy here

Pedagogic research is of growing importance in the current marketised HE sector. As HEIs make their bid to attract the best students they are keen to develop and present a distinct and effective student learning experience. Pedagogic research is the evidence-base on which stimulating and successful pedagogic practices are founded.

‘Developing Pedagogic Research in Higher Education’ looks at developing pedagogic research capability at department, faculty and cross-institutional levels. High profile sector leaders offer case studies that share their experience, insight and expertise in developing successful pedagogic research cultures and practice in their host institutions.

Lindsey McEwen and Kristine Mason O’Connor’s opening chapter gives a firm grounding in how pedagogic research can be used to enhance pedagogic practice. Importantly they make a distinction between pedagogic development (professional development activity, which is most effectively led by the scholarship of teaching and learning (Fanghanel et al 2016)) and pedagogic research, which is essentially scholarship of teaching and learning –based activity.

Pedagogic research is a scholarly approach to pedagogic innovation, evaluation, dissemination and effective pedagogic practice. ‘Pedagogic research is firmly situated in its relevant literature, and high quality pedagogic research makes a substantial contribution to that literature’ (HEFCE, 2006, p.60 cited by McEwen and Mason O’Connor, p. 7), and at the same time the student learning experience.

In the case study ‘Supporting pedagogic research at Plymouth: the birth of an institute’.  Debby Cotton and Pauline Kneale outline ‘top-down’ strategic development of pedagogic research where ‘wanting to use research to improve teaching and the student experience is the key driver which underpins the work we do’ (Cotton and Kneale, p. 16).

Lindsey McEwen’s case study is an account of taking a cross-institutional ‘bottom-up’ approach. ‘The Pedagogic Research and Scholarship Institute (PRSI), University of Gloucester’ outlines a number of activities and initiatives made available to staff across the institution. McEwen reflects ‘PRSI was an important catalyst for cultural change; its legacy the continuing engagement of individuals and clusters of staff committed to the development, purposes and practices of pedagogic research’ (McEwen, p. 22).

The final case study ‘Pedagogic Action Research: research and teaching intertwined’ Lin Norton reflects on 10 years developing pedagogic action research at Liverpool Hope University. She explains this grounded approach gives staff opportunity to enhance pedagogic practice to suite their particular context, whilst at the same time growing their research profiles.

The volume will be of interest to those with strategic roles developing teaching and learning: directors of learning and teaching, subject or department heads, associate deans education, heads of educational or academic development units and pro vice chancellors may all find something to inspire and inform. Contents are relevant to all kinds of HE provision – college HE, pre and post 92, Russell group and independent providers alike. Further, the work provides an accessible resource for the busy educational leader – the case studies are brief yet offer meaningful, practical wisdom. In a time when universities are competing in an over crowded market for a declining student population and staff are under increasing pressure to perform as both excellent researcher and teacher (Morrish, 2019) pedagogic research offers a winning solution: this collection illustrates how pedagogic research can transform institutional practices and cultures to the benefit of student learning, building staff confidence which can, as evidence suggests, serve learning community wellbeing (Lawrence, 2017; Lawrence and Herrick, in press).


Fanghanel, J., Pritchard, J., Potter, J., and Wisker, G. (2016a). Executive Summary. Defining and supporting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL): a sector-wide study. York: Higher Education Academy.

Lawrence, J. (2017) Educator wellbeing and the scholarship of teaching and learning: a virtuous intersection for the learning community. Educational Developments, 18.3. Available from

Lawrence, J. and Herrick, T. (in press) Supporting Wellbeing in Higher Education through Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education.

Morrish,L. (2019) Pressure Vessels:  the epidemic of poor mental health among Higher Education staff. London: Higher Education Policy Institute. Available from

About the blogger

Jenny Lawrence was a scholarship development manager on the HEFCE/Association of Colleges College HE Scholarship Project. She is now Head of the Teaching Excellence Academy at the University of Hull.

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