Research squads

I completed undergraduate and graduate degrees in applied physics at WAIT. My master's degree was conferred in 1975 and I joined the faculty of WAIT in 1984. The Science and Mathematics Education Centre at WAIT was closely affiliated with the School of Applied Sciences, which had been established under the leadership of John deLaeter. One of his master strokes he pioneered/led, among many, was the creation of research groups to which graduate students and faculty were assigned so that they could specialize in one of the fields of applied physics. For example, John was the intellectual leader of the mass spectrometry group. Other groups involved electron microscopy, x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, and neutron activation analysis. Increasingly it became possible for students to earn course credit and undertake thesis orientated research as partial fulfillment of graduate degrees – and, undertake research oriented studies in undergraduate degrees.

The organization of faculty and students in research groups became the norm as far as I was concerned. When I joined the faculty of SMEC it was a no-brainer; that the people I worked with as graduate students would undertake research on teaching and learning and learning to teach. After all, this was my area of interest and expertise. Similarly, students who worked with Barry Fraser would undertake research in the area of learning environments and those who worked with David Treagust would undertake conceptual change research. The foundations for this "common sense" is situated in the traditions of science and a history of graduate work comprising research.

Wherever I have been involved in higher education I have enacted a similar approach – creating research squads comprised of researchers with an interest in teaching, learning, and learning to teach. The genesis of this approach is in the innovative leadership of John deLaeter. This model would be highly appropriate in my present university where we have three specializations into which faculty and students are organized (loosely). Taking a leaf from the sciences it would be highly beneficial (potentially) to increase the amount of research by orienting all courses beyond the four core courses toward research undertaken in research squads.

Kenneth Tobin 2015