Ayiro. Africa

How to Improve Teaching of Research Methods

Prof. Ayiro’s Blogging Conversations with Dr. Lydia Radoli

A Professor of Research Methods and Statistics Prof. Laban Ayiro believes in the value of improving the teaching of research methods in institutions of higher learning.

 He argues that the instruction of research methods in universities particularity, in the context of the developing world presents a problem, from the point of view of limited capacities in the number of faculty that can adequately teach research methods.

In his view, lecturers of research methods are often compelled to follow concepts and methods the lecturers are taught in institutions of higher learning. He argues that these methods may be rigid and consist of gaps that are then transferred to the students they are teaching

“So, we engage in the teaching of research methods, where we are short of pedagogy, we are short of content and depth, that area is a problem. When I talk about lack of depth, I mean that teaching of research methods is assigned to young scholars, who themselves have not gone through the rigors of publication in peer review journals. So, they cannot carry those high standards in their classrooms.

Further Prof. Ayiro notes that the pedagogical aspect for post-graduate students should always be constructed on Problem Based Learning (PBL), however, instructors only go to class to lecture and come out.  Stepping in class to churn notes and come out does not offer in-depth engagement in discourse. Therefore, the level of engagement of the learner and lecturer who may be an early career researcher is very limited. These lecturers do not explore, or engage in various debates around concepts of paradigms of research. He explains.

For example, the lectures may not have capacities to establish validity and reliability in quantitative and qualitative studies. According to Prof. Ayiro, depth of mastery of statistics comes with experience and delve in deep research and publication. All these things cumulatively put together, affect the quality and outcomes of not just the product, but the content of what is taught.

At Daystar University, Prof. Ayiro has introduced deliberate strategies to make the teaching of research methods universal. In this case, scholars will not be boxed in compartments of schools and departments, but they can tap from a pool of the talent of experts in research methods within the University.

“If we have research methods being taught across the school of communication, psychology, or business, we have a wider generic pool of resource to tap from”. Prof. Ayiro offers. He says, in PBL, students minds open up, so that they are not just thinking on linear aspects of research such as communication or business or psychology. Through , the PBL approach, students are exposed to essentials of research methods across the University.

In essence, Prof. Ayiro is proposing to have common courses in statistics as a discipline of inquiry. The proposal is set to be tabled to senate to interrogate the values within this approach, and envisioned to prepare students to go into their areas of specialized inquiry.  After this immersion in research methods, students can focus on their subject expertise to develop proposals. Prof. Ayiro adds that the University is looking at infusing external expertise across the globe

Daystar University’s innovative strategies to improve the teaching of research methods include the adaptation of PBL and the Marshall Plan – a process adopted from the US Marshal Plan concept, as an effort to ensure that graduate students go through rigorous training in research methods, are supervised and mentored to graduate on time.

“We cannot continue to do things the way we have been doing before, knowledge is revolving so rapidly that the notes we give to the students become stale in six months. You want the students to engage in PBL, where they take charge of their learning processes”.  Prof. Ayiro poses. This means that if the students are given another problem beyond Daystar, they will be able to think through based on practices and expertise gained while at the University. He explains.

The PBL approach allows for exploration, mining of information, and debate at peer and instructional level. The most important thing is that the student is able to construct aspects of what they are dealing with as aspects of life and the social reality. On the other hand, the Marshall plan is intended to enable efficiency injected in the post-graduate programme. 

It is intended to ventilate the whole area of the University teaching and research, to originate more space to attract students to be enthusiastic about research, as well as complete their studies in record time. For Prof. Ayiro, the most important contribution is to ensure that graduates complete their studies in time. In this way, there is so much momentum created that inspires the students that they can do anything, if they are able to concentrate on it.

Research is very cumbersome; collecting data, conceptualizing the problem, getting into the literature review to anchor your studies into other studies, to get the right methodology and design, to discuss your findings in relation to what has been done in a given area is a huge mental undertaking. He acknowledges.

“I am very deliberate, Prof. Ayiro emphatically states and quotes Martin Luther King Junior that: greatness is measured by service to mankind. “I would like to get my graduate students and early career researchers in my research activities and projects, so that any time I have an opportunity to develop a proposal, work through a paper to get published, I engage with them.

In that sense, I will be mentoring them and infusing certain doses of quality of determination and fortitude. In turn, the mentees become strong diligent researchers.  In so doing, you are creating a forest of researchers not just in Kenya, but Africa and globally. Prof. Ayiro concludes.

The Writer is a Journalist and Lecturer in the School of Communication at Daystar University

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