Higher Education

, Volume 72, Issue 2, pp 191–207 | Cite as

How science really works: the student experience of research-led education

  • Lillian Smyth
  • Federico Davila
  • Thomas Sloan
  • Ellen Rykers
  • Sam Backwell
  • Stephen B. Jones


There has been a shift in modern tertiary education theory that has moved away from a traditional, didactic model of education, towards a more student-led, constructivist approach. Nowhere is this more the case than in science and mathematical education, where the concept of research-led education is gaining more and more traction. The focus of this approach is on training students to join a community of scholars, rather than on encouraging the accrual of factual knowledge. What has scope to be addressed further in this area is what students might gain from research experience and the impact this kind of education has on career intentions. The current study, using a combination of quantitative and qualitative survey data, explores this experience. We aim to answer questions surrounding skill gains, student perceptions and the impact on career choices. Findings indicate that students value research experience and gain much from it. Further, we find evidence that engaging in, and benefiting from, research experience is related to career intentions. These results have implications for the ways we scaffold research experience for students, as well as reinforcing the value of this approach to education.


Research-led education Science Higher education 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lillian Smyth
    • 1
  • Federico Davila
    • 2
  • Thomas Sloan
    • 2
  • Ellen Rykers
    • 3
  • Sam Backwell
    • 3
  • Stephen B. Jones
    • 3
  1. 1.Medical Education UnitANU Medical School, The Australian National UniversityActonAustralia
  2. 2.Fenner School of Environment and SocietyThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  3. 3.Science Teaching and Learning CentreThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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