Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

ALURE from the implementer perspective: Academics and support staff navigate uncertainty and complexity as they design and implement authentic large-scale undergraduate research experiences (#36)

Susan L Rowland 1 , Matthew Green 1
  1. The University of Queensland, The University Of Queensland, QLD, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

 It is not only students who need to navigate uncertainy and complexity during a university education – academics and support staff who innovate also need to embrace the unknown and the difficult as they change and enhance their practice.

A part of an OLT Leadership Project we have been developing and resourcing academics as they devise and deliver authentic large-scale undergraduate research experiences (ALUREs). During the project, we have gathered information from 4 separate Australian university sites by speaking with academics and support staff who were implementing an ALURE practical. In total 21 implementers in various roles were interviewed about their experience of introducing undergraduate research to their existing courses. The interviews were semi-structured, and inductive analysis was performed on the interview transcripts to analyse the types of challenges the implementers experienced, and the coping strategies they used.

We show that there is a distinct difference in the factors which support or challenge implementers, depending upon the role that they play within the process of running an ALURE practical. Interestingly, our participants placed a the low level of emphasis on the financial and organisational constraints that the literature in the field suggested would be a major challenge. While this finding warrants further investigation as to the cause, one possible explanation is that the ALURE model effectively provides students with an authentic research experience in a way that is sustainable and cost effective for the institution; this may alter the change enabler’s perception of value in a positive way. We will present all of our findings from our different implementers, with an emphasis on the participants’ methods for dealing with complexity and uncertainty during their journey.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

 This project has given us insight into the university environment that supports risk-taking and innovative behaviour on the part of academics and their support staff – licence to fail is key for all of the interviewees who innovate, as is timely and adequate personal and financial resourcing. The implementers are a diverse group, and it is clear from our results that people in different roles require and use different support strategies in their work. The resilient “can-do” attitude of some of the interviewees contrasts with the more cautious approach of others. The ability to design and provide appropriate reward and scope of these different stakeholders is key to sustainability of an educational innovation. The findings from this project speak to the environment that encourages and supports similar innovative, risk-taking behaviours in students.