Angela Brew is a fascinating thinker about RIT. In her 1999 article on the changing relationship between research and teaching, she loads her Musket, aims and takes a pop at positivism. She sketches ideas briefly about knowledge-in-crisis, and then takes a deep dive into what happens when people do research – taking us outside the sanitised world of outputs to the process of doing research. In her view the doubts and difficulties are erased in the outputs. Hello blemish remover, bye bye spots! In her view research is much more troubling and less neat, captured in my experience as being like a grappling iron in search of a hold amidst the murky waters of doubts, in the swirl of currents. This is because research is an exercise of bringing order out of chaos, and whatever the provenance of the research, it relies on making meaning. It is a messy and risky process. The trouble with measuring the relationship between research and teaching is that the measures are product-oriented, drawing on a view of research as the output, and ignoring the rocky paths and u-turns on the way to the output.
Brew’s central argument is that those who view knowledge as objective and out there, separate from the human beings, subjectivities and processes which constitute the research, are those who find greatest difficulty with the idea of research informed teaching. This is because the space and vocabulary of RIT is firmly located in the idea of knowledge as negotiated. A pluralistic view of knowledge allows for a more symbiotic view of research; indeed it makes reaching and teaching indivisible. What you and I do in teaching students involves research – even if it is not a published output – and the journey that we share with out students in communicating, negotiating and refining our understandings of knowledge are at the heart of RIT. Parallels between objectivist, positivist views of research and hierarchical, traditional models of teaching by transmission, constitute one side of the coin. The flip-side takes the view that people with all their complex decisions and relationships to each other, the world and knowledge, undertake research. In teaching, it invites students into the ‘secret garden’ to enable them to jointly discover and evaluate knowledge in all its rich and messy promise and possibility. Heads or tails anyone? Angela Brew (1999) Research and teaching: Changing relationships in a changing context, Studies in Higher Education, 24:3, 291-301, DOI:10.1080/03075079912331379905