Enhancing teaching and research-based learning

Research-based learning has always been at the core of our programmes. This page defines what research-based learning is and highlights the benefits of this approach.

Research-based learning


  1. All programmes will actively develop students’ independent research skills and provide students with opportunities to put these skills into practice such that at the culmination of the programme, students are able to undertake, with supervision, a final year project;
  2. the characteristics of our research strengths will underpin all our programmes;
  3. the latest research, including that produced by our own staff, will contribute to the curriculum; and
  4. our students can articulate the benefits of their research-based experience, and describe the skills they’ve acquired and demonstrated.

Benefits of research-based learning

Our approach to RBL has many benefits for our students, which include:

  1. The latest research, including that developed by our own staff, contributes to the curriculum of all our programmes – emphasising the ‘why’ and ‘how’ not just the facts.
  2. Students are taught in the context of leading-edge research being undertaken on campus, without the inevitable time delay or potential misinterpretation that might arise from basing teaching on external research papers or text-books.
  3. Students have access to resources on campus that are essential for high quality research-based learning.
  4. Active engagement with research provides a more enjoyable and stimulating university experience.
  5. Our academic community and our programmes produces graduates with the desire and skills to pursue new knowledge and a commitment to lifelong learning.
  6. Graduates are able to articulate their desire to acquire new knowledge, the value of that process and the skills they have that enable them to do it.
  7. Graduates perceive themselves to be able to generate knowledge for the future.
  8. Graduates are well equipped to be attractive and successful in the employment market.


  1. Research-based learning (RBL) is the fundamental basis of all our programmes and should be evident in all modules.  Even those that might be described as ‘basic’ in that the origins of basic knowledge once too must have derived from original research or thought.
  2. It will be expected that even the most intensive research-active staff will engage with this agenda.
  3. Within the context of the discipline, all undergraduate programmes will demonstrate explicitly the integration of research with learning and teaching, incorporating the development, practise and assessment of appropriate academic skills and competencies (‘academic literacy’).
  4. RBL can be characterised as a journey, taking students from their school-based experience through research-led teaching to research-based learning – a journey from being taught to being autonomous, self-reliant, supported and supervised.  The Healey matrix provides a simple and widely applicable model to characterise that journey. The descriptors derived by staff at the University of Adelaide in their Research Skills Development Framework provide a more detailed depiction of the level of autonomy and research focus. It is unrealistic to imagine that any programme would lead to a simple linear journey from research-led (ie largely taught) to research-based (ie able to undertake research activity  autonomously), however, programmes should be able to describe a process by which students encounter predominantly teaching about research (content, methods, ethics, outcomes, critique, etc) in their early levels of study and engage in more self-directed, supervised research activity in later years, apply skills acquired earlier in their programmes of study.
  5. The programme as a whole should frame the RBL journey and within this all modules should be able to be located within the Healey matrix.  Schools should be able to demonstrate how any programme will take all students through the RBL journey from research-led teaching to research-based learning, irrespective of the options a student might choose.


All/the majority of modules will have some aspect of the RBL journey in them.  Schools should be able to identify where, within the Healey matrix, each module sits and therefore be able to demonstrate progression.  

Some modules might be specifically targeted at preparing a student for the journey (eg research skills), others might provide an opportunity to develop and practise the skills and attributes needed to enable them (eg in their final year) to complete a major piece of research-based learning (research project, dissertation).  

To assist programme teams with this task, the Group recommends that both the Healey matrix and the Adelaide Descriptors be used in conjunction to identify where modules within programmes align with the developmental process from research-led to research-based.

Mapping research-based learning in the curriculum

Active consideration of module mapping against the Healey Matrix/Adelaide descriptors would help to demonstrate the distinctive nature of our programmes, and it would be appropriate to ask DSEs, with the respective programme managers, to review the current status and to recommend changes through the S/FSECs. In the great majority of cases this exercise would involve highlighting where RBL already exists, rather than major modification.   Ongoing auditing of the RBL structure would need to be embedded in course approval, Annual Health Checks and, most importantly, the IPE.

A simple module audit, undertaken initially by module leaders/teams, to identify where within the matrix/descriptors a module predominantly aligns would be a useful starting point. SSECs (or subgroups thereof) may then provide an overview such as to assure the School that students do transit from largely research-led early in their studies to more research-based in final years. SSEC may also provide a checking service to ensure that a sample of modules across the programme have been appropriately labelled within the Matrix. The Matrix/Descriptors are self-explanatory; module leaders need simply consider the content, delivery and assessment of a module, and see how that best fits with the descriptions of student activity/focus.  An audit and mapping toolkit has been agreed to help Faculties and Schools evidence the presence of RBL.