For faculty members across the university, research and creative activity is an opportunity to learn, discover and give back. What goes into researching a novel? How do composers bring the black dots on a page to life? What happens to the chemicals we regularly spray, pour, dump and store? We’ll explore these questions, and more, in our faculty research series.
Dr. Gerard Bellefeuille has a long history of researching child welfare, community and wellness. His passion for research aligns with MacEwan University’s strategic plans for continued focus on undergraduate research, which he oversees in the Bachelor of Child and Youth Care program.
He admits it was challenging to introduce research into the program’s curriculum, where much of the learning is relational and hands-on.
"We made a commitment several years ago that all of our students would get involved in research, so we developed the idea of implementing course-based research," says Gerard. Course-based research, he explains, "is inquiry-based learning that involves practicing a discipline."
In the fourth-year Child and Youth Care Research course, students undertake a small research project under the supervision of faculty members. The class of 50 students splits into 10 groups—collaborating to choose a topic, frame a question and determine the best way to collect data from their sample.
The program teaches arts-based methods of working with children, so the students use "creative inquiry" methods to collect their data. "In their research, our students work with children and youth who are often in gangs, are very angry or deal with mental health issues—conversation isn’t going to work. Instead of having children answer a survey, our students ask them, for example, if they can draw how they feel about their school, or take a photo of what it feels like to live on the street.”
“Not only are the students learning scientific methods and principles of research design, but the concepts they’re learning are also tied to the curriculum, and we use the articles they write in years to come,” says Gerard, who adds that in 2014, students studied identities and what it means to be a child and youth care worker. “We know a little more about a topic because students delved into it. It’s all related—and builds the curriculum in the process of doing research. When you’re creating knowledge, knowledge doesn’t flow in a single direction.”
At the end of the course, students showcase their work, which Gerard says builds their confidence and shows them that they can be both a practitioner and a researcher. He says of the more than 50 students who complete the course, up to seven of them continue on to complete a master’s degree. “If you’re celebrating their work as they go through it, it energizes them.”
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