Publishing Learning and Teaching Research in Higher Education Journals

I am not infrequently asked for thoughts or advice on which higher education research journals might be considered suitable for publication of the results of learning and teaching studies.  Often I struggle to give what I consider a satisfactory answer and a recent article published by Professor Malcolm Tight from Lancaster (Tight, M. 2017. Higher education journals: their characteristics and contribution. Higher Education Research and Development gives a clue to why sometimes this question poses a dilemma.

In an analysis of higher education journals Professor Tight documents what has been an explosion in higher education research since 2000 with new journals appearing at a rapid rate.  The situation is not stable, however, for not only are new journals continuing to appear but other journals are disappearing, merging or changing their focus.  This does make it potentially difficult to select a suitable journal for the publication of a particular piece of work.  As Professor Tight identifies while there are a number of avenues for publishing one’s work such as conference papers, reports monographs or books the peer-reviewed article still enjoys a level of respect and a greater status than many sources.  This is not to overlook books some of which have had profound impact upon education but journal articles still rank very highly.

Professor Tight categorizes refereed journals either wholly or regularly publish higher education research into three types.  There are the generic journals such as Studies in Higher Education or Higher Education Research and Development, topic-specific journals focussing on one particular aspect of practice such as assessment or policy and then the discipline-specific journals publishing work in one or a group of disciplines, Medical Education would be one such journal.  In total there are a large number of journals, depending upon who is counting somewhere between 80 and 140 and this is likely to be an underestimate.  In his paper Professor Tight lists 86 Journals though, by his own admission, this is almost certainly not comprehensive.  In an effort to help us all navigate through this complexity the paper then goes on to characterise the journals in various ways ending in an attempt to help us navigate this maze by listing a number of what might be considered key journals.  The paper uses a ranking system based on citations but not the one most of us might be familiar with, with ISI impact factor, but instead the Scimago Journal rank Indicator ( selected because it compares a broader journal range.

The Table in the paper listing those 28 journals is reproduced below, 10 are generic journals, 14 and topic-specific while only 4 are discipline-specific.  The majority are internationally-focussed.  Some most of us might recognise but others will be less well-known.  Though the paper dos not state this specifically the message is surely clear.  If you want to publish your work in one of the more highly-ranked higher education journals then ideally it should have characterisable in one or more of the following ways by being multi-disciplinary, cross-institution, with an international focus and perhaps topic-based.  This is not to say that other work with a narrower focus is not valuable for of course it is but that some journals looks for more.  The paper ends on something of a cautionary note.  With such a volume of output annually we already know a lot about about ‘what works’ in HE so perhaps the most urgent need is for meta-analyses and systematic reviews of the existing literature as much as new research.

Table 1 (reproduced from Tight, 2017)

Academic Medicine 1707 2.202 1926 USA
Accounting Education 656 0.655 1992 International
Active Learning in Higher Education 260 1.099 2000 International
Advances in Health Sciences Education 1136 1.397 1996 Canada/International
Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 1285 0.972 1975 International
Community College Review 341 0.799 1973 USA
Higher Education 1646 1.717 1972 International
Higher Education Policy 554 0.681 1988 International
Higher Education Quarterly 448 1.081 1947 International
Higher Education Research & Development 1323 0.936 1982 International
International Journal of Doctoral Studies 486 0.584 2006 International
International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 894 0.616 2000 International
Internet and Higher Education 396 3.561 1998 USA/international
Journal of College Student Development 1066 0.615 1959 USA/international
Journal of English for Academic Purposes 568 1.164 2002 International
Journal of Higher Education 928 1.189 1930 USA
Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management 689 0.525 1979 International
Journal of Hispanic Higher Education 385 0.610 2002 USA
Journal of Studies in International Education 487 1.564 1997 International
Medical Education 1283 1.550 1966 International
Minerva 490 0.658 1962 International
Quality in Higher Education 276 0.652 1995 International
Research Evaluation 495 0.919 1991 International
Research in Higher Education 1030 1.724 1973 USA/international
Review of Higher Education 504 1.703 1977 USA
Studies in Higher Education 2286 1.160 1976 International
Teaching in Higher Education 1021 0.802 1996 International
Tertiary Education and Management 389 0.918 1995 International


Pages – number of printed pages published in 2016;

Ranking – SCImago Journal Rank Indicator 2015;

Orientation –Whether the editorial board international, wholly drawn from one country or split between one country and an international composition

The road to HEA senior fellowship: a view from a recent researcher/teaching academic convert.

andrew-knightIt is important for Higher Education Institute (HEI) academics who are involved in teaching and learning to be able to demonstrate that their practice is both effective and meets professional standards. One way in which Newcastle, and many other HEI, actively encourage academics to evidence this, is through the award of Higher Education Academy (HEA) fellowships that recognise a commitment to both these key qualities.

What is an FPLO?
In 2013 I became a Faculty Programme Liaison Officer (FPLO), working as part of a team of cross-Faculty academics alongside the Learning & Teaching Development Service (LTDS) to support and mentor staff undertaking the CASAP programme route for HEA recognition.  FPLOs assist CASAP participants, in a process of documenting both reflection and evidence related to their teaching practice, as part of their application for HEA fellowship status.

Sharing our experience with Dundee University
In May I was invited to speak about my career path to an HEA Senior Fellowship Award as part of Dundee University’s Life and Biomedical Sciences Education seminar series.  I have been working with colleagues in Dundee as they decide which approach to HEA fellowship applications they will take as an institution.  The seminar was a perfect opportunity to discuss the various procedures involved in documenting evidence for applications and there was much lively discussion.  I’d like to thank Dr Rosa Spencer, LTDS, for her invaluable help in preparing my presentation for this seminar.

My journey to HEA Senior Fellowship
My personal career journey has taken me from laboratory-based researcher to a teaching academic. Starting as an immunogenetics PhD student at the MRC Clinical Research Centre and then post-doctoral research assistant in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Dundee, I took up my first academic appointment as a principle investigator (PI) and honorary lecturer at the University of Edinburgh.

Teaching commitments at Edinburgh initially were limited to the supervision of Level 6 BSc students during their laboratory-based projects. I then joined the team delivering the Biological Sciences BSc Programme and I added non-laboratory based teaching to my portfolio. I also completed the Edinburgh University’s Introduction to Learning and Teaching programme and gained a Professional Certificate in University Teaching.

In 2005 I joined Newcastle University, initially in the Institute of Cellular Medicine, again as a research focussed PI, and am now currently based in the School of Biomedical Sciences. Whilst at Newcastle I have been involved in PG/UG student laboratory supervision, delivering taught MRes programme content and curriculum planning/teaching on the Biomedical Sciences BSc Honours programme. In October 2016 I was awarded an HEA Senior Fellowship as recognition of my commitment to professionalism in teaching and learning.

Andrew Knight, School of Biomedical Sciences

Gwyneth Doherty-SneddonIn September 2015, the School of Psychology opened up a new MSc in Forensic Psychology which offers comprehensive training for Stage 1 of the British Psychological Society-recognised qualification in forensic psychology

The course accreditation panel met in November and thanks to the stellar performance of everyone involved in delivering the MSc, the feedback was excellent.

The panel recognised and valued the following key strengths of the programme:

  • extremely high quality student experience
  • the practice based approach
  • the reflective practice element
  • administrative diligence and support
  • academic leadership.

I appreciate that accreditation is a lot of work for everyone involved but it is a vital part of what we do and ensures our programmes are fit for purpose. Well done and thank you.

Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon, HoS, School of Psychology

Director update: Autumn 2016

steve (2)Welcome to the first ERDP newsletter of the new academic year.  As you receive this our new cohorts of students are already with us and the academic year is well underway.  This newsletter is both looking back and looking forwards.  So, we have a number of reports from meetings that we have attended over the summer telling our colleagues from outside Newcastle about the interesting and innovative work going on in Newcastle.  The newsletter also contains details of our programme of events throughout the year.  In addition to our regular Journal Club and seminar programmes we add two new series of events this year.  Jane Stewart is running both of these.  Her series “What do I mean when I say” is designed to stimulate debate about contested issues in learning and teaching.  Two of these sessions have taken place so far, both have been well-attended and both have given rise to some lively discussion.  Her lunchtime workshops are designed to support you in your teaching.   Our seminar programme this year will start with two speakers from outside the Faculty.  In November Pauline Kneale PVC(T) in Plymouth will be visiting and talking to us about pedagogic research.  In December the new Head of School in ECLS, Caroline Walker-Gleaves will talk to us about her recent work on pedagogic caring within HE.  Both seminars will stimulate and challenge our thinking so do come along.  I still have dates free for seminars later in the year so if there is anybody you would like us to invite then please let me k now.  Organisation of the Journal Club has now been taken over by Luisa Wakeling and the programme for the year has now been arranged.   Our events programmes are consistently well-attended so to those who have been regular attendees welcome back and if you have not been able to attend many, or any, of our events do come and join us.
Our ERDP small grants programme continues this year and we are announcing the submission dates for the full year so that people can are better to plan should they have a project that they would like us to support.  Remember too that support can be requested for short Study Visits to other institutions.  We are keen to encourage applications for this purpose.  If you have an idea for a Study Visit but would like to discuss it first then please get in touch.  Our small grants programme has been running for 18months so our Learning and Teaching forum in November will focus on our projects.  We will be contacting previous grant awardees to invite them to speak at this event but if you have preliminary outcomes that you would like to disseminate then do contact either myself or Sarah Harvey.
I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible at our events during the course of the year and to sharing ideas about learning and teaching. If you have articles for the next issue due in December just send them through to

Prof Steve McHanwell, Director, FMS Unit for ERDP

Being Paul Hubbard

paul hubbard lecturingWhat route has your career taken to get you where you are today?

My career pathway started on a fairly standard scientific academic route; completing a BSc in Neuroscience at Sheffield University and a PhD in Glial cell biology in spinal cord injury from King’s College, London, followed by a short period as a post-doc at Birmingham University researching dementia.  I discovered an interest in teaching fairly early on in my career, demonstrating for practicals and giving small group tutorials at King’s and then Birmingham.  I further developed my teaching at Birmingham completing an accredited teaching qualification that allowed me to gain, what was then, associate membership of the HEA.  After finishing my post-doc I moved into education more permanently, gaining a lecturer post in biology at Loughborough college.  I consider this period almost as an apprenticeship in education.  Teaching GCSE’s, A-levels, BTEC, Foundation and Access to HE courses I gained a lot of experience in education and learning theories.  I also started working as an associate lecturer for the Open University during this time, a position that has given me vast experience of online and distance teaching techniques.  It was during my time at Loughborough that I gained my second teaching qualification – Professional Graduate Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PGDTLLS).  After four years at Loughborough College….and one OFSTED visit….I thought it was about time for a change and wondered about a return to HE.  I saw the job advert for my current role in the medical school at Newcastle advertised over Christmas 2012, quickly put an application together (having noticed the advert the day before application deadline) and got an interview in February 2013.  Luckily I got the role and started in June 2013 once the college academic year had finished.
What do you find most challenging about working in HE learning and teaching?

For me I think it is the number of students. Working in the FE sector teaching groups of between 15-25 on a daily basis allowed me to get to know and understand the students and thus tailor my teaching to more adequately meet the needs of those students.  Every student is an individual that learns in their own unique way.  In HE students are more anonymous because of the large numbers and it is difficult to teach in a way that is broad enough to meet all of their learning needs.  This is why teaching students the skills to learn themselves is probably more important than teaching the content itself.

What’s the best  thing you’ve been involved in since you started working with Newcastle University?

The best thing I’ve been involved in so far is probably the most unexpected thing that has happened to me at Newcastle to date.  Towards the end of 2015 I received an offer to go to our NUMed campus in January 2016 to set-up the Foundation Certificate in Biological and Biomedical Science.  My past experience of working in FE and teaching at foundation level was catching up with me!

Heading out there at such short notice was tricky, seeing I’d just made an offer to buy a house!  As it happened I just managed to complete the purchase and move in a week before locking everything up and moving out again and heading off to Malaysia for what became a five month placement.  It was great to have the freedom to plan and prepare a new curriculum for a new course in a new country, meeting new and different staff and students along the way.  I enjoyed the challenge of living in a different culture, but also the opportunity it gave me both academically and personally.  As well as having the chance to travel to and explore different parts of south-east Asia we did manage to get the foundation programme up and running, building a great team of teaching staff for the opening cohort of 45 students from across Malaysia.

What’s the wisest piece of advice you’ve received from a mentor or colleague?

Keep a note/journal of everything I have done/achieved in my current role.  It’s amazing how many things you forget you have done and having a record makes it a lot easier to prepare for PDR meetings or promotion applications.

What’s your top educational research interest

Being a neuroscientist, neuroeducation is of particular interest.  This relatively new and interesting field of applying neuroscientific knowledge to develop new, evidence based, teaching and learning tools could have a great impact on the way we approach teaching in the future.  Utilising knowledge and understanding of the way the brain learns could be particularly useful in developing ideas and methods to aid student’s own study skills techniques.

If you could have dinner with 3 famous people from history who would they be?

Charles Darwin – I’m a Darwinist so it would be interesting to discuss the development of the theory of evolution, and the voyage of the Beagle.

Caratacus – (Chief of the Catuvellauni, a pre-roman British tribe, who fought the Roman invaders for many years before being captured and paraded in Rome).  I like my history and the Roman invasion of Britain is particularly fascinating.  They say history is written by the victors so it would be great to hear the story of the Roman invasion from the other side.

Brian Clough – As a Nottingham Forest football supporter there can be no other option!

Dr Paul Hubbard, School of Medical Education

Making connections within Dental Educational Research globally

IADR 2016A number of academics from Newcastle Dental School recently attended the International  Association for Dental Research (IADR) conference in Seoul, Korea, giving us the opportunity to  network with dental academics from around the world.  A particularly inspiring part of the conference was our engagement with the Education Research Group of IADR, who are leading dental education research globally.  Attendance at their lectures was both inspiring, but also encouraging to see how advanced we are in this field.  James Field, Richard Holmes and myself attended their business meeting and are likely to become engaged with the organisation of next years meeting in San Francisco.  It was fantastic to see Newcastle so well represented at this meeting and our ideas and enthusiasm for dental education so welcomed and encouraged by peers across the globe.

Dr Sarah Rolland

Photo L-R: James Field, Sarah Rolland, Angus Walls, Rebecca Wassell,Richard Homes

School of Dental Sciences on European stage

john whitworth2Staff from the School of Dental Sciences have taken leading roles within the Association for Dental Education in Europe (ADEE), chairing three of its Special Interest Groups that bring together educators from across Europe and beyond to encourage collaboration and promote standards.

During the 2016 congress in Barcelona, 24-27 August 2016, Newcastle staff chaired the following Special Interest Groups:

  • Clinical Skills Teaching – James Field
  • General Medicine and Surgery in Dentistry – Mark Greenwood
  • Monitoring & Assessment of UG Endodontology – John Whitworth

SIG Clinical Skills Teaching

ADEE special interest2This was a very busy and productive session discussing current practice across Europe.  Newcastle Dental School was well represented by  Iad Gharib presenting on the relationship between teacher perceptions of pre-clinical dental student professionalism and patient satisfaction and Sarah Rolland, there on behalf of the British Dental Association.  Paul Miller (Newcastle School of Education) presented on the use of a Video Observation tool to enhance clinical teaching.

SIG Monitoring & Assessment in UG Endodontology

Now in its third year, this SIG, chaired by John Whitworth in collaboration with the European Society of Endodontology, continued its work to harmonise assessment in Endodontology at the point of graduation, and to begin work on the development of case-based teaching resources to support schools in delivering the Undergraduate Curriculum Guidelines for Endodontology (International Endodontic Journal 2013).

There are plans for a series of workshops and the SIG will be hosting a half-day event at the ADEE annual congress in Vilnius, August 2017.

Prof John Whitworth, School of Dental Sciences

Director’s update: Summer 2016

steve (2)We are approaching the end of another academic year and the programme of events and activities for the ERDP Unit.  So, first of all I would like to thank everybody who has contributed to our events programme through presentations at Journal Clubs, presenting at or helping to organise Faculty Learning and Teaching Fora or in any other ways including simply attending events.  The strength of the Unit is very much dependent upon the contributions from its members and I am pleased that people are so willing to give up time to contribute to or help organise events and also that attendance at our events remains so strong.  Next year sees the introduction of a new series of seminars organised by Jane Stewart “What I mean when I say”.  These seminars promise to be engaging with plenty of active discussion.  If you have ideas for future topics Jane will be pleased to hear from you.

Another way members of the Unit have been contributing is by sending us well-framed and focussed applications for funding from our ERDP small grants scheme.  We were very pleased at the high standards of the applications received in the last round and look forward to hearing from the successful applicants as they progress their projects.  We were also pleased to be able to fund requests for funding for Study Visits including requests for travel to Complutense University, Madrid Dental School and Harvard Medical School and we wish all our Study Visit applicants fruitful and stimulating trips.

As you can see from other reports in this newsletter projects already funded are starting to bear fruit.  We do encourage successful applicants to disseminate the results of their work in appropriate ways.  This could simply be by presentation at a local event but it could also involve presentation at external events or through publication and we are very keen that applicants take every opportunity to publish externally.  This will help you by telling the outside world what you are doing, helping you to develop external learning and teaching networks and it will also raise the profile of the Faculty as a centre of teaching excellence.  Several people have sent us details of recent publications and I would ask everybody who succeeds in getting work published in L&T Journals to let us know so that we can showcase your work.  Just send the details to

We are also approaching the time of summer conferences and so if you are going to any event this summer and can spare the time please write us a short meeting report highlighting what you felt were the key contributions at your conference and what you learnt from attending.

One final point about dissemination and that is to draw your attention to the BERA blog.  This is a great way to let people in the education field know about what you are doing and Rachel Lofthouse in ECLS will be glad to advise you if you are thinking of posting something here.

Let me end by wishing everybody a good summer.  These days summer vacations seem to be filled with ever more activities beyond the UCAS results being announced in mid-August but I hope you will all be able to make time for enough annual leave to recharge batteries in time for the start of another academic year.

Prof Steve McHanwell, Director, FMS Unit for ERDP

Student vs Staff

Prof Janice Ellis (SDS) and Daniel Mall, a 4th year BDS student were interviewed by Hazel Davis for the spring 2016 issue of BDJ Student.  Although the interviews were done independently, both focussed on the same positive theme of how passionate and engaged our staff are and how there is a real sense of community within the School of Dentistry here at Newcastle. All positive stuff!

If you have a log in you can read the full article via Student 2016

Find a voice through the BERA blog?

rachel lofthouseIf you are engaged in research or enquiry related to education you might be interested in contributing to the British Educational Research Association multi-authored blog.  You can find the link at

As one of the blog editors I am a strong advocate of this forum as a means of scholarly communication and would be happy to talk to anyone who might be tempted to write for us. If you take a look at a few blog posts you will realise that they are diverse in style, theme and authorship.

At present Newcastle University’s ECLS is one of the best represented academic schools on the BERA blog, with posts from both staff and students.  Our presence in this social media has supported our profile, with colleagues being asked to keynote or join research activities as a result. Sometimes our blogs have been summaries of published papers, sometimes they are part of the writing process for new papers, and sometimes they have simply allowed us to ‘get it out there’ – when an idea seems critical and could be shared.

The following examples illustrate some of the types of blog that you might feel able to write:

So – what about you?

There are several aspects of work that would be relevant.  As indicated above we are interested in posts related to research methods. Could you capture approaches that you have used to research pedagogy, curriculum or student experience? We are interested in issues pertinent to Higher Education, and more discussion around professional education, internationalisation or the impact of policy changes in H.E., for example, would be welcomed. We are interested in research related to innovation as well as the continual knotty issues such as technology enhanced learning, feedback, meeting student expectations.

Each blog post is a maximum of 750 words, they can be single or co-authored and can be re-published on your own blog sites (personal or institutional) under the Creative Commons agreement and I can advise on drafts as well as be your gatekeeper to the editorial review team.  Why not give it a go? And if nothing else please remind Steve McHanwell that he keeps promising me a submission!

Dr Rachel Lofthouse, ECLS,