Students as Research Partners in the Undergraduate English Classroom

Michelle Levy

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant 

Grant recipient: Michelle Levy, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Project teamKate Moffatt, Research Assistant

Timeframe: April 2022 to September 2022

Funding: $5,000

Course addressed: ENGL 320 – Eminent Women of the Long 18th Century

Description: For this project, I am interested in asking questions about student engagement with project-based, research-intensive course work at the undergraduate level, in English. Asking students to conduct their own original research is unusual at the undergrad level in the discipline, especially when it involves primary sources. Usually, students are provided with literary texts to read and analyze; at the upper-division level, they may be asked to research secondary sources, ie. research by other scholars about the literary texts they have read.

Learning from the students is key to this project; I have a strong sense that many of the students felt enthusiasm, excitement, and connection to the course work, but I need to learn more from them to understand why this was the case. I am also considering how the “student as partners” paradigm fits with the student research work that has been done and that is ongoing. Through this course and in ongoing research, I am conceiving of students as researchers, and that shifts what is traditionally done in the undergraduate classroom. I also hope to learn more about this approach to pedagogy, and to understand how it may be connected to other emerging practices, such as decolonial learning strategies and transformative learning theory.  

Questions addressed: 

  • How do we engage undergraduate research students in research? 
  • How does student-led research enhance student engagement withcoursework, measured both in affective and cognitive terms?
  • How did the student project work (ie. the research reported in the OMEKA course project website) impact their understanding of the discipline, both in terms of knowledge acquired and enthusiasm for the subject?
  • How does project-based learning contribute to comradery and community within the classroom setting?
  • What draws students to this work? Why do they want to continue it after the course has ended? 
  • What skills do they acquire?

Knowledge sharing: The culmination of this research will be a co-authored document where we describe the process and the findings of the various information sources. This document will live on the shared website hosting the students’ work. We will also seek out opportunities to publish the results, particularly if I have a group of students interested in co-writing with me. The International Journal for Students as Partners, particularly their “case studies” format of 3,000 words, seems like an ideal fit. We will reach out to the journal with an abstract as they suggest.