Workshop Towards Developing a Research Culture at NISMED

In line with the mission of NISMED to conduct research in science and mathematics education, develop research-based curriculum materials, implement research-informed programs, and provide research-based inputs to policy formulation, a workshop aimed at developing a research culture among the academic staff was conducted at the institute on 6-8 January 2020.

Dr. Bill Atweh facilitates a workshop aimed at strengthening the research culture at NISMED.

Dr. Bill Atweh, an international education consultant, facilitated the three-day workshop. He worked in Australia as a senior lecturer at Queensland University of Technology and an associate professor at Curtin University. Dr. Atweh received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States, working on mathematics education and educational research.

The first day began with Dr. Atweh asking what research needed to be conducted and why. There was a need to negotiate the agenda for the workshop since the participants had diverse expectations. Dr. Atweh agreed particularly with a participant who said that while publication is always a goal, a more important one is knowing who will benefit from the research one is doing.

Dr. Atweh favored an integrated approach to the conduct of research. Institutional research policies and agenda should be established. Budget and infrastructure must be available. Support mechanisms have to be developed and training in areas that staff needed must be implemented. How can resources and know-how be increased to conduct good research?

Further, an enabling environment where people can discuss and collaborate as well as provide and receive critique must be created. How research is disseminated and realized in practice must also be addressed. Perhaps the question of inclusivity in research—who is left behind and who is making the decisions—should also be considered for discussion.

In the course of the workshop, Dr. Atweh offered additional points for deliberation: current knowledge and skills of staff, research support and rewards, amount of workload, presence or absence of critical friends, peer and expert mentoring. He stressed that research takes time and requires a certain degree of flexibility in the workplace.

Dr. Atweh also discussed about socially responsible research, where the focus includes not only the needs in teaching and learning but on all needs of teachers and students as workers and human beings; the development of children not only as subjects for employment but as current and future citizens; not only addressing issues of the abstract typical (average) student but also those of the disadvantaged and excluded.

Also, Dr. Atweh posed questions related to research culture in higher education institutions in the country. Could the research results dominated by concepts and structures of traditional quantitative methods be generalized to a wider population? Is there enough research on particular contexts and populations such as gender and different socio-economic groups?

Among other advice, Dr. Atweh presented some points to consider in choosing an area or topic of research: What are one’s personal interest or motivation? Does the topic reflect one’s values, beliefs or politics? What does the literature say about it? Are the research questions old? Updated? Over-researched? Is it useful or worthwhile doing? Who benefits from it? Is it doable?

On the second day, Dr. Atweh devoted some time for reflection. He asked for issues, agreeable or not, that stuck to the participants’ minds in relation to the previous day’s activities. This led to descriptions of personal experiences of the participants as researchers in diverse situations. There was a spirited discussion regarding the merits and limitations of different research methodologies.

On the last day of the workshop, NISMED Deputy Director for Research and Extension Dr. Erlina Ronda presented for consideration a draft research agenda based on the inputs from the past two days. The NISMED Director, Dr. Aida Yap, discussed the current and incoming projects of the institute to serve as contexts in conceptualizing research proposals. Afterwards, the group broke up into smaller teams to discuss research initiatives. The extensive workshop ended after Dr. Atweh was presented with a certificate of appreciation and a gift, and a picture of the whole group was taken.

NISMED staff pose for posterity with Dr. BIll Atweh at the conclusion of the 3-day research workshop.

E. Obille