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Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning


I believe research-led teaching can offer perfect conditions for learning. Some of the best research in the world goes on here, so there’s an opportunity for us to have the best teaching in the world. – Dr James Kelly, Senior Tutor at Queens’ College

Q: What is research-led teaching?

A: It’s helpful here to consider Mick Healey’s identification of four main ways in which teaching could be research-led:

  • ‘research-tutored’ (teaching students about research findings)
  • ‘research-led’, (again teaching students about research findings)
  • ‘research-oriented’ (teaching students about research methods)
  • ‘research-based’ (actively engaging students in research and inquiry).

(Healey, Mick (2005) Linking research and teaching exploring disciplinary spaces and the role of inquiry-based learning. In R. Barnett (Ed.), Reshaping the university: new relationships between research, scholarship and teaching (pp. 67-78). Maidenhead: McGraw Hill / Open University Press.)

When most people say ‘research-led teaching’, they seem to mean teaching that is ‘research-based’, in which students learn through research or enquiry. In fact, ‘teaching’ is a bit of a misnomer – it’s really students learning through doing research.


Q: Like a dissertation, or an undergraduate research project?

A: Yes, dissertations and research projects are great examples of research-led teaching, and here are some others:

  •    Plant Sciences holding undergraduate practicals in the Botanic Garden;
  •    Archaeology students analyzing ancient artefacts in the Digital Teaching Collection;
  •    Students in a range of academic disciplines carrying out projects on University buildings with the Living Laboratory for Sustainability

This is far from an exhaustive list. If you have more examples of research-led teaching, please email us at and tell us about them!

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