Research informs practice; but how can our systems improve if we don’t have the literature on which to base our hypotheses?
Every year, scores of final year tertiary students are obliged to conduct research both at the undergraduate and graduate levels, in keeping with the general requirements for completion of their respective programmes. However, the already preconceived thought that research is difficult, seems to have some level of credibility when students start to search for literature to guide their study, but find it extremely challenging to locate even five ‘academic sources’, bearing in mind that a lot of source documents are often newspaper articles or blogs which are often deemed ‘inappropriate’.
This case is true especially for the teaching and maritime industries. Students are pressured to come up with ‘interesting’ topics, but there is a lack of locally published research on most of the topics that interest them. Yet, it is baffling that there have been numerous alumni who would have conducted studies in same or similar domains, but there is no access to the work that they had produced.
Interestingly, also, it is somewhat unfathomable that even for the very lecturers who teach these students, there is little or no trace of their own work. While it is understandable that not everybody’s work will be published, I find it unacceptable that, collectively as an institution, there is no publication forthcoming from some of our institutions. Let’s use the Teachers’ Colleges as an example. Most of these Colleges have been in operation for more than a century. But how much data can be found in areas such as: Teacher Education and Teacher Leadership; Assessing and Supervising pre-service and in-service teachers; or topics relating to Didactics and Pedagogy specific to the Jamaican context? As regards the maritime world, the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) is the sole institution of its type in the English-speaking Caribbean; thus, students are heavily dependent on previous studies done in shipping and logistics and cruise management and tourism in other to have some sort of direction.
WHO REALLY BENEFITS
It would be remised of me, however, to not applaud the various institutions which organise annual or biennial research conferences geared at broadening the scope of both staff and students; however, to what extent are these conferences effective? Who really benefits at the end of the day?
Indubitably, more attention needs to be given to the manner in which research is treated in our education system. Students should not only see the notion of research as just doing another course, but as a means by which they can contribute to further knowledge in a particular field and the overall development of a sector. They should also be given the relevant guidance as their research could be a gradual progression from the bachelor’s up to the doctoral level; of course for those who might continue along that path.
As for those lecturers who teach research, they should always seek to improve their practice and find innovative ways to dissect the seemingly complex notions covered in research classes, while dismantling students’ fear. Additionally, they should collaborate with other colleagues, whether internally or externally, and conduct continuous studies. There is still a plethora of unchartered territories that are yet to be explored in certain areas.
Institutionally, the academic studies department should select a committee to review those research papers that are of high standard and quality and get them published. I strongly believe that students’ work and efforts should be valued. While this would be a form of personal achievement for them, it would also be of benefit to both the institution and Jamaica as well as regional and international countries.
I strongly believe that Jamaica has the capacity to produce its own theories and be a world leader in the field of research.
Université Clermont-Auvergne, France
PhD student, Didactics & Linguistics