My academic career began as a Research Assistant in 1987 when I was asked to do some undergraduate first year teaching. This was different to many of my colleagues who moved into research as part of successful lecturing careers. I was always asking what do I bring to the classroom as a researcher and that question has remained with me ever since. I wish to chronologically share a few moments over the decades when the intangible nature of the research/teaching nexus seemed to me to be at its most tangible.
In the late eighties and early nineties we supported and encouraged undergraduates into forming research project groups, they would research a topic that interested them, presenting their findings verbally and through a written report with the assessment counting towards their module mark. I can still remember the energy around those research groups, there was always a mixture of laughter and tears, but invariably the learning appeared to be meaningful for the students. One of the subtexts of what we were doing was to introduce students to our own research processes, so that they would understand the emphasis we placed upon research-based studies in later years.
In the nineties, policy debates focused upon establishing research only universities and teaching only universities. I believe that this would have been a disaster for higher education for many reasons one of the main ones being that teaching informs research, as well as, research informing teaching. As my career progressed I began working with postgraduates and students on professional courses which I found fascinating and at times challenging. In a business school setting the norm is for these students to be working full-time and studying part-time. Fairly recently I was sharing with an MBA group that the research evidence informing how leadership influences organisational change was fairly limited. One of the group playfully asked - is that because academics are lazy? I reassured him that this had not been my experience with academics, however, this light-hearted exchange served as a useful demonstration of the way in which teaching can influence research. We often think in terms of research informing teaching alone, but my scholarship and research has been hugely influenced by my students challenging me and my field and I hope that this continues.