Together at the chalkface: the importance of publishing pedagogical research

Posted on August 19, 2022   by Dr Melissa Lacey

In this blog we talk to Dr Mel Lacey, co-author of ‘A guide to pedagogical research for scientists from a biological sciences background’, published in Access Microbiology this week takes us behind the scenes of her paper and why she believes the publishing of pedagogical research within the field of microbiology is so important.

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What inspired you to write this paper?

I found pedagogy research really hard when I started because there was a lot of ‘how to’ textbooks for qualitative analysis but they’re from a social sciences perspective. There wasn’t a huge amount of pedagogy done by bioscience researchers that I could get into, so I had to do a lot of learning by doing. I therefore started thinking about writing a ‘how to guide’ for anyone who’d like to think about trying pedagogy research themselves. Then, last year, while attending the Teaching Microbiology in Higher Education Symposium at the Microbiology Society Annual Conference, I realised that although people were giving amazing talks and presenting fantastic pedagogy posters there wasn’t an equivalent level of papers being published. People just didn’t seem to know where to start, so I thought it was the time to try and write one. I hope that it means people will feel empowered to start publishing and, that by having a guide, readers will make fewer of the mistakes I made.

Why do you think pedagogical research is important for microbiologists?

I think it’s so important that we publish pedagogy research because so many academics work in teaching intensive universities or have teaching focused roles; there are so many of us at the chalkface day after day doing really good work that we never share with our community. We may share it over a cup of tea with colleagues, but we don’t put it out there and we’re such an innovative group of people that we should feel empowered to publish our findings. Then, because we don’t publish as much, we’re under-represented in the educational field, but we’re really innovative people and we look at things in a unique way. As a molecular microbiologist my brain works in a very reductionist way, and that’s how I approach this research: I want to take it apart, take an element out and see what happens; that’s the approach I bring to teaching.

What do you hope this can be used for?

I really hope that it’s a supportive resource that helps people to feel like they can go out and try pedagogical research themselves. I’d like it to cover a lot of ground in a relatively short piece so that when you go into the literature you have a general overview and know which way you want to go. The paper ends with a more informal section of hints and tips; what we’ve learned by doing and rabbit holes we’ve gone down. By writing those learning curves down, hopefully it will support people in getting started. As microbiologists we do lots of beautiful pedagogy and public engagement work. We need to be better at writing this up and sharing it with the community and the public; I hope this can give people a push to do it.

Why do you think Access Microbiology the right place to publish this type of article?

We chose Access Microbiology because it is a great place to publish case studies. Unlike some other journals, Access Microbiology wants to publish any ‘good science’ which can be used as inspiration by other researchers. It’s really valuable to know that your research, any good research, has a home.

What would you say to others thinking about publishing in a Microbiology Society Journal?

The Microbiology Society is really wholesome. That’s a direct quote. If you look at the wider picture of what the Society is, what it stands for and how it looks after and advocates for its members, it’s just really wholesome. By publishing with the Society, by putting our money and time into the Society you’re putting money and time back into our community. The Society provides so many opportunities for my PhD students that I, as their supervisor, can’t offer. If I can do anything to support that I’m going to do it and publishing with the Society is a great way of supporting them. 

Access Microbiology is now accepting pedagogical research submissions within the field of microbiology. As an open research platform, we post all articles as preprints and offer transparent peer review, as well as fee-free open access publication until June 2023.