Putting Your Research to Practical Use in the Classroom
Summer is over – alas! – and you are back to teaching long before you managed to achieve everything you had planned for the break. You did conduct a fair amount of research, however, and you also attended a couple of conferences where excellent papers on recent progress in your field were presented, so you may feel eager to spend some time analysing your findings and even beginning to write that next article or book. Unfortunately, there is little time for that now with new classes and administrative duties on your agenda, but there is a perfect opportunity to put your latest discoveries to good use in the classroom or laboratory. Doing so can mean significant benefits not only for your students, who will be offered a glimpse of advanced research in action, but also for you, who will reap the rewards of their interest, their ideas and their critical thoughts.

If you are teaching a postgraduate or advanced undergraduate course, integrating your new research into the syllabus may prove relatively easy – indeed, you may be able to write your syllabus around your research. The process can be far more challenging when it comes to the general survey or introductory courses that tend to be the bread and butter of many university instructors’ workload. Yet there are practical strategies for slipping tidbits of your research even into courses with set texts and rather rigid schedules. Not all of the following suggestions will apply to every course, but hopefully one or more will be helpful in the courses you are teaching.

• If you have developed a new methodology or theory that is related to course content, tell your students about it. Half of them could use your methods while conducting an assigned trial, and the other half could use the more traditional methods. Discussion and debate will bring the differences to life.
• Use descriptions of your methods, data from the findings of your research or even snippets from your most recent article in the classroom as examples of the principles outlined in the textbooks and course objectives. Invite responses and assign tasks associated with analysing and forming critical arguments on the material.
• Assign one or part of one of your articles as extra reading and have the students do a review of it. This will work equally well with a piece of writing published by a colleague or predecessor in your field. Half the class could read one document and half could read the other with the goal being discussion of the differences. Alternatively, all students could read both and write a short comparative essay on them.
• If you introduce your work in short snippets at relevant places in the larger course content, perhaps to adjust or enhance the information in older texts, you will gradually tell a story about your research project and its importance. Almost everyone enjoys stories, and students particularly enjoy hearing about the personal experiences of their instructors. Ask the students if they could imagine a different storyline for exploring your research topic, and you can even spice things up a little at times by playing the devil’s advocate to your own research processes and conclusions.