By tradition, it was the prolonged institutional (as well as individual academic) prioritization on the teaching mission over the research mission in all universities of Bangladesh, which becomes crucial and consequently results in a long term knowledge production-based isolation from the international research community. Therefore, there is an urgent need to improve the overall research practice and for this purpose universities can play a crucial role. With a view to exploring the research experience of master student of one public university of Bangladesh, a quantitative approach has been followed in this study. The model of research experience of postgraduate students proposed by Keith Trigwell and Harriet Dunbar- in 2005, has been adopted and slightly modified as a theoretical framework for this study. The main objective is to investigate the extent to which the graduates perceive that Dhaka University provides a supportive research environment in which they can gain a positive research experience. Data has been collected through Qualtrics online platform by employing a 5 point Likert scale survey questionnaire which has two different sections. After filtering 96 completed responses have been recorded. Reliability and validity test of the instrument has been performed and the value of Cronbach Alpha for those scales are: Research experience scale (0.908) and self-assessment of the research skills (0.899 for the achieved level scale and 0.837 for the desired level scale). Findings of the research reveal that graduates possess positive perception of their research experience however, the extent varies for different aspects of research experience. For instance, graduates are most satisfied with the quality of supervision they received during their thesis. On the other hand they showed low level of agreement for the availability of general and departmental infrastructure. The result of their self-assessment of research skills also demonstrated a high achieved level for most of the skills with one exception of the independent management of study skill. Finally, this study provides some recommendation regarding faculty wise investigation, and more explicit integration of research skill development through academic research activities.
In Bangladesh, by tradition, it was the prolonged institutional (as well as individual academic) prioritization on the teaching mission over the research mission in all universities, which becomes crucial and consequently results in a long term knowledge production-based isolation from the international research community (Kabir, 2011). Concern has been raised identifying the little to no visibility of research works from Bangladesh in the bigger world of research all over the world (Ahmmed, 2013). Therefore, there is an urgent need to improve the overall research practice and for this purpose universities can play a crucial role. Primarily, it is the responsibilities of higher education institutions to prepare graduates with research training along with knowledge production. It is a matter of hope that, with response to this situation, an increase attention has been observed to enhance the quality of higher education institutions of this country since the year of 2000 (HEQEP, 2010). In line with this, the national education policy has stated one of the major aims as below:
To ensure quality of the higher education in all disciplines and motivate students in research and to create a congenial and necessary environment of research within the country through the cultivation of knowledge and sciences (National Education Policy, 2010, pp. 8).
No such research has been done to evaluate or explore the research practice of universities of Bangladesh. In order to improve the present practice of research it is crucial to identify and investigate the ongoing status. In developed countries e.g. United Kingdom and Australia, there is a long practice of exploring students' perspective for the development of the services given by higher education institutions. However, in public universities of Bangladesh no such practice is prevailed presently. Therefore the objective of this study is to explore the research experience of the students of one public university during their master thesis from the perspective of the graduates who carried out thesis while pursuing master degree in this university. This study aims at filling the gap in the literature by answering the following research question: To what extent graduates perceive that Dhaka University provide a supportive research environment in which students can gain a positive research experience?
With a view to answering the above central research question, this report is structured as follows: section one introduces the study and provide background information on the rationales of the study. Section two describes the research design and methodology followed for this research. In section three, the findings of the study are discussed regarding graduates' perception of their research experience and self-assessment of the research skill due to pursuing research work for thesis. Finally, section four provides discussion on major findings derived from this study with reference to the relevant literatures along with limitation and recommendations.
With regard to the central research question stated above following sub questions have been devised for this study:
The council for undergraduate research (CUR) which was established in 1978 has provided the Definition of Undergraduate Research as "an investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline"(CRU website, 2016). They described undergraduate research is a collaborative enterprise between student and faculty member or group of faculty members which triggers following four step learning process:
This steps shows that essentially the concept of undergraduate research covers the same steps as research done by professionals. In this study this overarching concept of research experience has been considered to define authentic and original research activities conducted by the master level students. In terms of conceptualizing the term research experience, there is no such exact universal definition of Research experience however various studies have identified different aspects and the presence of those aspects make the experience an ideal one. The definitions of authentic research experience differ among faculty members and tend to emphasize either the scientific process or the discovery of previously unknown data (Spell, Guinan, Miller and Beck, 2007). Expanding support for the Development of research experience was one of the recommendations of this study in order to overcome the barriers of attracting more students to research track. In line with this, Hakim (1998) has characterized undergraduate research experience by following four features: Mentorship, Originality, Acceptability and Dissemination. Referring to those four features, the author also discussed four assumptions which enlightened the fact of prioritizing students' learning as the main purpose of such an experience, producing an original outcome through the study following a well excepted research methodology and finally it is expected that the research findings will be shared and discussed by others members of the disciplines. According to another study through the process of enculturation Research experience is such a process that provides students the opportunity to observe and replicate research skills, to modify skills on the basis of feedback from the supervisors and peers, to receive support for successful acquisition of skills and to learn to perform in accord with the norms that govern the practice of scientific research (Brown et al., 1989 as cited in Kardash, 2000).
Following is the list of aspects which are explained in different literature under the concept of research experience. In some literature these are discussed as components to create a positive research experience and in some of the literature these are discussed to explain research experience:
As a theoretical framework this study has adapted the model of research experience proposed by Trigwell and Dunbar-Goddet (2005) which encompasses various dimensions of research experience under one platform.
In the following figure the model of post graduate research experience has been illustrated by Trigwell and Dunbar-Goddet (2005). In this model, the factor are assumed to be interlinked in ways that help to explain the variation in outcome of postgraduate students' research at Oxford University. All these factors are discussed by categorizing under three broad areas and those are corresponding to Presage, Process and Product (3P) elements of the research experience. The three broad categories of factors are explained below with reference to the modification has been done for this study.
Figure 1. Adapted 3P (presage-process-product) model of student learning for postgraduate research programmes. Illustration by Trigwell and Dunbar Harriet (2005). p. 20.
In the presage steps, the model included students characteristics: age, sex, mode of study, origin, funding, previous educational experiences, discipline of studies etc. Students' personal motivation, reason for undertaking a research degree and conception of research were also discussed under this platform. The second dimension is the research context created by the university. In case of Oxford university , the research context is maintained by the Code of Practice for the Assurance of Academic Quality and Standards in Higher Education of UK (The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, 2004). According to this document there is specific definition of all necessary components of an ideal research environment for postgraduate students which includes aspects like effective supervision, equality in terms of admission.
Students' intrinsic aspects that influence them to pursue research degree program has been included in this process dimension. This covers three factors: motivation and conception, research environment and approaches to research. The environment factor entails four sub factors. With respect to this the definition of those sub factors are given below:
This refers to the extent to which students feel that they had access to an environment that would support their learning in terms of physical and financial resources.
This concept refers to the opportunity available for social contact with other students, the extent to which they felt they were integrated into the departmental community, the opportunities to become connected in a broader research network, the extent to which students perceived that there was a stimulating research ambience and their perceptions of the quality of the seminars that was arranged for them (Trigwell & Dunbar-Harriet, 2005). This aspect is more applicable for the post graduate students than master level students.
There is hardly any literature explaining how students comprehend the goals and expectations of their research degrees that influence on their experience.
It refers to the students' perception about the support, guidance and feedback provided by their supervisors, including guidance relating to the literature review.
According to GCCA and ACER (2002), it covers the idea of students’ perceptions of the fairness of, and satisfaction with the examination process as well as whether the examination was completed in reasonable time.
Approaches to research are likely to be focused more on the students' personal search for meaning that on attempts to satisfy the supervisor (Trigwell & Dunbar-Harriet, 2005).
The outcome of the research experiences for the students has been defined as product variables. Three factors have been included under product aspects: completion time, key skills and satisfaction. For this study, key skills and satisfaction has been considered in the framework because the completion time does not vary much for the graduate students as much as it influences postgraduate students work and perception. At master level, majority of the students complete their work within the given period by the program.
This model explained the research experience of postgraduate students who are in general more concern and aware of their choice of study . However, in case of undergraduate or graduate students who are receiving their first research experience some of the personal intrinsic dimensions like perception of research or course goals and expectations, approaches to research or completion time have not been considered as flourished as the postgraduate students. Therefore, for this study some of those aspects were not added in the theoretical framework. The adapted framework has been illustrated below.
Figure 2. Adapted model of student learning for graduate students' research experience. Illustration by Trigwell and Dunbar Harriet (2005). p. 20.
For the personal motivation and self efficacy factors, a separate subscale has been created. Considering the fact the personal motivation of individual student is crucial to consider while exploring their perception. In this aspect, self efficacy has also been discussed as because it has been argued that Self-efficacy is believed to be a relevant factor in one’s career choice and persistence in a career field (Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994). On the basis of Bandura's definition of self efficacy (1977), the research self efficacy has been conceptualized as " the degree to which an individual believes she/he has the ability to complete various research tasks (e.g., conceptualization, analysis, writing)" (Bishop, Rosean et al., 1993, p.4). Thus by identifying the level of self efficacy, students can be involved more effectively for research activities (Biesche, Bishop, & Garcia, 1993). It is also argued that the more students are involved and aware about their research activities the higher self efficacy they possess and this involvement covers students' personal motivation, awareness, concern of personal challenges (Bard, Biesche, Herbert, & Ebertz, 2000). This outcome of investigating research self efficacy pertains the importance of including the research self efficacy aspect while exploring students' perception of research experience.
The above theoretical framework has been followed while designing the research. With response to all the dimensions of research experience mentioned in the theoretical framework, the survey instrument was created. Within the survey, a self assessment instrument has been added in order to explore the 'product' or outcome phase more effectively. At first, literature review was done to explore the existing studies on research experience of master level students. Under the broad concept of research experience there are several dimensions, therefore, while designing the survey following two major approaches have been implemented to collect data for each of the dimensions: survey method and self assessment method. However, it can be said that self assessment method is part of the survey method and this method was employed only for the skill development dimension of the research experience. Several criticisms prevail for the application of self assessment method. However, this method can explore the outcome aspect of research experience more effectively while exploring students' perspective.
This study is designed to explore the research experience of students who has completed thesis while pursuing their master degree from Dhaka University (DU). Therefore, aim of the survey is to gather information about research experience of master level students at DU and to further inform the decisions made about the research activities/environment in this university. The questionnaire has been designed to collect data from masters level students who have completed thesis work for in 2014 or 2015 regardless of the faculty or particular subjects. There is hardly any study on research experience of university students of Bangladesh, therefore the researcher needs to include a range of questions and that made this questionnaire an extensive one. For the year of 2014 and 2015, 800-900 students are the population for this study and a sample size of around 100-105 with 95% confidence level and 10 point confidence interval has been calculated initially. However, at the end of data collection, 96 completed responses have been received.
On the basis of graduates' perception, it can be inferred that among the various aspects of an effective research experience, some aspects are seemed to be very explicit in this university and some aspects need more concentration. In this section, findings are discussed with reference to the sub research questions mentioned earlier. Based on the major findings, it is evident that the graduates of Dhaka university possess a positive perception about their overall research experience with some reservation of few aspects. Among all the aspects of research experience described in the theoretical framework, graduates have the highest level of agreement upon the prevalence of facilitative supervision. GroupWise comparison also illustrates similar level of agreement for the supervision aspect. Furthermore, when the frequency of meeting with supervisor is highest, graduates describe a more supportive supervisory, intellectual climate and higher level of overall satisfaction. It is worth mentioning here that, this finding replicate the study done in the University of Oxford using the same tool (Triggwell & Goddett, 2005). In addition, the findings also suggests that in Dhaka University, the supervision of the research experience is significantly more favorable than any other aspects of research experience according to the respondents. Supervision is one of the few aspects, for which students with prior research experience have expressed significantly higher level of agreement than their counterparts. Additionally, faculty wise comparison also reveals the prevalence of supervision facilities according to the respondents. As the "frequency of meeting with supervisor" variables have significant association with the overall supervision aspect, it demonstrates the importance of this factor in order to enhance the overall supervision quality.
The findings of association of the perception of research experience with the satisfaction level also reveals the importance of improving the service and facilities of the university. Similar positive association has been identified between their perception and their rating of self assessment of research skills. Both of these findings suggest the inter-linkage between the input and outcome aspect of research experience at graduate level. In order to ensure better outcome e.g. higher satisfaction level of the students or better acquisition of research skills, the importance of an effective research experience has been emphasized by this study.
The objective of this study was to explore to what extent the concept of a solid research experience exists in the context of public universities of Bangladesh. Along with this study also explore the research skill development aspects which illustrates the importance of research experience more firmly. Therefore, The findings of this study can be considered to initiate more rigorous application of student evaluation method for the development of service and facilities by the university.
This study also explores the need of further studies to explore the faculties perspective of research experience, more detailed investigation each of all the dimensions separately and also faculty wise investigation and need assessment of service, facilities and research skills. Though in this study graduates have confidently reported their higher level of skill achievement, the skill development aspect needs more investigation with reference to the employment sector.
The implication of self assessment method may have the criticism of responses with lack of accuracy and reliability. However, further study exploring faculty's' evaluation of students' skill development can compensate the gap.
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