Bourdieu and Education: Acts of Practical Theory

By Michael David James Grenfell | Go to book overview

Chapter 7

Higher Education Field-work: The Interdependence of Teaching, Research and Student Experience1

David James


Introduction

Teaching and research are increasingly regarded as separate entities in higher education, to the extent that there is now a literature which explores the nature of the separation and the prospects for various forms of reintegration. However, as Rowland put it in a recent article, ‘…the category distinction between teaching and research may owe more to the demands for accountability than to logical or pedagogical differences between academic roles’ (Rowland, 1996, p. 13).

The topics of research study can be seen to be similarly constructed; that is, more by the demands of a political field than the conceptual apparatus of practitioners. Indeed, such practitioners might have good grounds for regarding themselves as better informed observers of practice than those politically placed to research it. We might draw a parallel with student experience and views about teaching in higher education, which for all its potential richness and diversity is increasingly conceived in terms of the narrow measurement of various forms of customer satisfaction.

As Rowland also notes, Bourdieu sees notions like teaching and research as impediments to understanding because they obscure practices and underlying principles. This chapter attempts to show how a Bourdieuian approach to the study of practices in higher education can open up new ways of understanding research, teaching and student experience—not as separate entities, but as dimensions of a particular field. It begins with a brief indication of the nature of Bourdieu’s work on higher education. It then turns to look at some contemporary treatments of the relationship of teaching and research and the way student experience is conventionally discussed. This is followed by some case study data from a UK university faculty: one major theme of this data is discussed within an approach in keeping with Bourdieu’s methods and analysis. The result is an interpretation which highlights possible degrees and types of relatedness and interdependence of teaching, research and student experience.

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