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Developing Student Researchers - The Faculty Role (6 Unit Workshop)

A series of workshops for faculty on integration of information literacy into their instruction and assignments.

Getting out of the grassroots

First Level of Resistance

A first level of resistance is us - faculty. We have patterns of teaching our courses that we update regularly, but having an outside tell us that we need to do more with developing student research can create resistance along the lines of:

  • I know what I'm doing
  • I have to cover the material
  • I'm not a research instructor
  • I don't want to disrupt what I'm doing now

Troubleshooting this resistance:

  • You do know what you're doing. You also know that your students are not handling information very well at all. Research projects are weak. Students don't seem to grasp the way research is to be done in your discipline.
  • Covering the material does not mean that you are merely an information disseminator. Could some of the knowledge base be assigned to the student, with more in class time devoted to discussion and skill development?
  • You are the person most knowledgeable about how research is done in your discipline. If you are not practiced in teaching research skills, you are certainly practiced in distinguishing good research from inferior. That expertise does indeed give you the ability to guide your students into better practice. Perhaps by "I'm not a research instructor," you mean, "Teaching research ability is not in my job description." I would ask, "Why not, if good student research enables students to work wisely with the knowledge base and actually do your discipline."
  • You might not have to disrupt much. More clarity in research assignments along with a plan to split large assignments into smaller chunks, using formative assessment, may be all you need to do initially. As time goes on, you may teach more about the ways that research is to be done in your discipline (sample close readings and specific instruction).
  • Above all, faculty objections rest in the notion that student research ability is peripheral to instruction. This should not be the case if the very goal of your instruction is to enculturate your students into your discipline as engaged participants rather than spectators. Enhanced research ability allows students to acquire expertise in working with disciplinary knowledge and argument.

Moving to Promotion

My suggested approach is grassroots. Individual faculty begin shaping their courses to teach research processes. In discussion with fellow faculty in their discipline, interest is generated. This moves to the departmental level, where plans are developed to make research processes development part of the departmental plan. As departments make such plans, higher level academic administration becomes involved until the institution as a whole buys into the teaching of reearch processes.

Such a proposed approach is optimistic, to be sure. Yet the task is urgent. The lack of student research process ability development is the biggest blind spot in higher education today.

Some Options

  • Enlist academic librarians as consultants. While faculty know their subject matter and the research practices of their disciplines, academic librarians are masters of process. They meet with students over research projects regularly and understand the nature of the skill deficits students are experiencing. Over time, librarians have developed strong expertise in the development of student research skills. They are thus able to consult with faculty and departments to help translate faculty goals into instructional modules and assignment templates (see Farrell and Badke (2015)).
  • If you have a teaching and learning director and/or a writing studies program, try creating an alliance to promote information literacy as a foundational plank in the curriculum.
  • Nothing promotes the success of a new movement like active practitioners who have shown that the movement is working. In this case, we are promoting something that meets existing faculty goals and overcomes faculty frustrations over student research production. So, if it works with you, talk it up at the departmental level.
  • Assess your efforts by contrasting student work under a TRP model with student work before you began teaching research processes.
  • Above all, get buy-in from the ground up - at your level, then that of your colleagues and only then at a higher instutional level.

Exercises and Readings


1. Read:

  • Teaching Research Processes: Chapter Eight and Nine

2. Assess your own readiness/openess to develop a teaching research processes practice. What are the barriers to overcome? How sold are you on TRP becoming a key element in your courses?

3. Assess the readiness of your colleagues in your discipline. What channels will you need to develop to enable other faculty to become engaged in TRP?

4. Assess the same for your department

5. How would you enlist librarians into your TRP process?

6. How possible would it be for you to advance teaching research processes from your own experience to your departmental colleagues to your department to larger academic administration? What arguments would you raise in support of TRP at each level?


Farrell, Robert and Badke, William. "Situating Information Literacy in the Disciplines: A Practical and Systematic Approach for Librarians." Reference Services Review 43, no.2 (2015): 319-340. [Draft of final submitted manuscript available:]