This series of posts presents ten simple suggestions to help you change your units or parts of your units to develop students’ research skills and competencies that you can adapt to suit your particular context.

10 easy ways

  1. Change an assessment to an inquiry
  2. Change a laboratory class to guided discovery
  3. Engage students in gathering or working with data
  4. Turn your unit of study into a conference
  5. Arrange for students to interview researchers
  6. Invite students and staff to research speed-dating
  7. Get students to write an abstract
  8. Change essays into academic articles
  9. Turn the class into a hypothesis-generating forum
  10. Create a competition

10.   Create a competition

Numerous national and international student competitions exist particularly in the Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering subjects and you may want to investigate what is available for your area. But you can also create a mini competition amongst your own students that will cause them to investigate a particular idea or formula. This is particularly useful where the work results in a practical demonstration that can be judged. For example, what about asking students to come up with the best solution to a specified environmental problem? You can also use poster presentations or short presentations such as are used for ‘three-minute thesis’ competitions if practical demonstrations are not possible, or if the competition is based on the best design rather than the implementation of it.


“Second year Engineering students research how to move a 10 kilogram block of ice through water powered only by candles. They then build a device to do this. A competition is held on a nearby lake. The winning device not only moves the ice furthest, it does so at least cost because cost is important in engineering design” (University of Sydney, Australia).

“An industrial organisation sets a task for students: to design a skating robot that can skate faster than the fastest speed skaters. The fastest robot is chosen for the first stage of manufacture.” (University of Calgary, Canada)

Posted by Lilia Mantai

Lilia's PhD was on the role of social support in the development of researcher identities in the PhD. She is a Higher Ed professional, passionate about education, research, and providing support to staff and students.

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