Thursday, March 18, 2010

Either/Or Proposition

The case of a disgruntled Michigan Tech professor who mailed his teaching awards back to the university (along with angry letters) raises anew questions about how universities value teaching relative to research, and whether it is reasonable to expect someone to be good at both for their entire career.

In the Michigan Tech case, the professor is an associate professor who has not advanced beyond that rank, apparently owing to his low level of research activity.

The professor in question says it is an "either-or proposition" for him -- teaching or research.

I don't want to dwell on the specifics of the Michigan Tech case, in part because I don't know the expectations of that institution regarding research and teaching. Instead, I want to discuss the more general question:

Should a tenured professor who focuses primarily on teaching at a research university be 'valued' the same as those who remain active in research?

(by 'valued', I refer to promotion to full professor, salary, etc.)

Teaching is valued by universities, and there are serious efforts to improve the teaching abilities of professors via workshops and mentoring. Our teaching is constantly evaluated, and teaching (as measured in large part by teaching and peer evaluations) is part of the equation for promotions and raises.

Nevertheless, teaching is, of course, just one component of the job. At a research university, most tenured faculty are expected to teach and maintain an active research program. Those who do not advise graduate and/or undergraduate students in research, work with postdocs, write grant proposals and papers, and give presentations at conferences are, technically, only doing part of their job, no matter how much additional effort they put into their undergraduate teaching.

The question raised by the Michigan Tech case seems to be what to do after a professor gets tenure and decides to choose between teaching and research. Should this individual be promoted and be given the same salary increases as colleagues who maintain active research programs but who are, perhaps, not as great at teaching as the not-as-active researcher?

I have no idea what the answer is for Michigan Tech, but at a major research university, I think that an outstanding teacher who has tenure and a decent salary and recognition for teaching excellence is doing pretty well already. I'm not saying they should never be promoted to full professor, especially if there is some level of research activity, but perhaps it will take longer for promotion. And the salary of such a person should certainly not dwell at the lower limits for their rank, but perhaps it won't be as high as those who are active in both research and teaching.

Being active in research and advising requires a lot of time and effort, and therefore faculty who are active and reasonably successful in both research and teaching should advance in their careers with respect to promotion and pay.

Of course universities also like the grant $ that active research faculty bring in, but I hope that the 'value' of research is calculated in a broader sense, encompassing the tangible and intangible benefits of discoveries and ideas, the synergy between research and teaching, and the excitement and visibility that research contributes to a university's overall mission, not to mention the time and efforts of faculty, students, and other researchers.

It's difficult to ignore the role of money in these discussions, though. According to the Chronicle article on the Michigan Tech case:

[Students] have a nagging sense that their tuition money is subsidizing the salaries and stipends of professors and graduate students who spend little time in classrooms.

I hope that students will therefore be happy to know that if their tuition money is supporting a graduate student, that graduate student is teaching. If the graduate student is not teaching, she or he is not being supported by undergraduate tuition money. And professors who are not often in the classroom may be bringing in grant money; these faculty are therefore not sucking up tuition dollars whilst pursuing arcane research in secret labs.

All universities need outstanding teachers, and I respect and admire my colleagues who excel at teaching. I suppose, though, that I have an active-researcher's bias and therefore think that a mid-career professor who views teaching vs. research as an either/or proposition should realize that they are making a choice with consequences, but that those consequences do not directly translate into the value (or lack thereof) that an institution places on teaching relative to research.

Perhaps the denied promotion and raises in the Michigan Tech case were too severe (I don't know), but in general I think it reasonable that low research activity be a factor in decisions about promotion and pay at a university.


QuiltingChaos said...

Interesting... it reminds me of NASA's old "cheaper, better, faster" where most people working there ended up following that up with "choose two."

My experience in a large research university is that professors who participated in both teaching/advising and research/advising, rarely excelled at both. Your point is well taken. The system is set up to reward people who participate in both activities.

Maybe it's worth asking whether the system is set up correctly.

John Vidale said...

A department needs both breadth of science research and breadth of course offerings.

However, most of us can teach a wider spectrum than we can master for research.

So I think that we can fill in a bit for faculty with strong research and weaker teaching, and also fill in with less extensively-credentialled non-ladder faculty.

But if faculty member cannot fulfill the research role for which they were hired, the department may well have a gaping hole that will handicap their colleagues in related fields. I would certain bridle if my geophysical colleagues punted on maintaining their research skills.

Morgan Price said...

The article claims that "he does publish peer-reviewed research, albeit slowly—one or two papers per year." So to say that he's not an active researcher seems like a bit of an exaggeration. The article also implies that he teaches more undergrads than his colleagues who mentor grad students do, and that he wrote a successful textbook. So is he really less productive than his research-focused colleagues?

Spiny Norman said...

"Of course universities also like the grant $ that active research faculty bring in, but I hope that the 'value' of research is calculated in a broader sense, encompassing the tangible and intangible benefits of discoveries and ideas, the synergy between research and teaching, and the excitement and visibility that research contributes to a university's overall mission, not to mention the time and efforts of faculty, students, and other researchers."

That has got to be the funniest thing I've read all day. And I just finished reading this.

Seriously, though, it really is just the money. How will you know? You'l know if you stop bringing it in, and soon enough. How else they gonna pay the provost's obscene salary?

barbara said...

When I was a grad student, I told my advisor that I wasn't sure I could make a career in research, and I would be happy to find a quiet college and concentrate on teaching.

He answered that it's your continuing research experience that makes you look with fresh eyes at the basics, and gives you every year renewed enthusiasm and an ever changing perspective. "You have to know a thousand to teach well ten".

Twentyfive years later, I have a position at a Research University and totally agree with him. And I've already repeated the advice to a number of students of my own.

DrDoyenne said...

I don't know the details of the Michigan Tech case either. Perhaps the professor has a legitimate grievance, but perhaps not.

In general, though, you shouldn't accept a job and then later complain that part of it is not to your liking or deserves less effort (in your opinion).

If you are hired to both teach and do research, then it seems reasonable to expect that you will perform both of these tasks well (the proportion of effort may vary among institutions, but it's incumbent upon the employee to understand what this is).

You may disagree with your university's policies regarding teaching and research, but failing to do your job is not a wise way to express your opinion.

Anonymous said...

I find this discussion interesting. Teaching has never been considered that important because it does not help advance scientific knowledge which is the primary aim of research. Having said that, there's the argument of social responsibility in teaching as we are preparing the workers, scientists (or whatever!) of tomorrow.

I am in the UK where this is really an issue. Teaching scholars do not exist and have colleagues who have taken that route and who seem frustrated and underappreciated all the time (a colleague says he's rejected, underestimated and generally invisible because he's doing what the rest doesn't want to do).

As part of an admin role, I deal with students' serial moaning and I have mixed feelings on this whole situation because I see resentment coming from students at the small amount of contact time they have, some saying that the university is happy to take their fees but staff are into their own world and do not care about anything other than their research and personal academic glory (ouch!).

A few universities in the UK are said to be using other metrics and have implemented professorial teachers as a tenure option. I'm not familiar with this; my institution is research-intensive to the point where nothing else seems to matter much so I'll have to get grants and publish my *ss off to get somewhere, but I've heard of other places where they have implemented this.

I'm an early career academic and often wonder whether as a system academia has become a Taylorist factory. I have to say that I see how there's no value anymore in intellectual exchange... I mean, I have colleagues who will not discuss their ideas in informal forums as they prefer to target discussion to conferences where they will be seen and to people with whom they can publish... as you cannot do that with students generally speaking, I can see why teaching is seen like a waste of time. The issue is that as dirty a job as it may seem to some, someone's gotta do it!

Too much rambling that I hope adds to your initial post... :) I've just discovered you blog and it's really interesting! I shall be coming back.

Anonymous said...

At my university, you can in theory be promoted based on teaching only. But that means doing a lot more than just your assigned teaching load. You have to really get into research about teaching and write papers on why some teaching approach works or develop an entirely new e-learning course (they love e-learning!) or run seminars in teaching for new faculty or things like that. And I think that is fair enough - someone who is pushing the boundaries on teaching deserves recognition, because it is not an easy thing to do. But just getting great feedback on your assigned classes is not enough.

Anonymous said...

I am curious what people would say about an 'in between case' where a professor excels at teaches, brings in curriculum development grants and publishes/presents papers on teaching. Obviously, it depends on how the university views such things, but does anyone have thoughts on how such things should be viewed?

Comrade PhysioProf said...

(1) Students at research universities are not just paying tuition to sit in a class room and be lectured to. By paying tuition, they are also entitled to work with faculty on original research. When I was an undergraduate, several faculty spent what probably amounted to 100s of hours each mentoring and otherwise working with me on my undergraduate research projects.

(2) My understanding is that the undergraduates who pay the highest tuition in the country are not at research universities, but rather at the elite small liberal arts colleges. Now what's subsidizing what, again?

(3) If fuckwad didn't want to do research, he shouldn't have taken a position at a "research" university. I have zero sympathy for this tenured douchebag who is too lazy to keep his research program going and too entitled to keep his fucking head down about it.

Anonymous said...

“distracted faculty members, eager to get back to their labs, brush off questions from students during office hours”

This part of the article made me bristle. Give me a break. You could fill in the “eager to get back to X” with almost anything.

Shannon said...

"I hope that students will therefore be happy to know that if their tuition money is supporting a graduate student, that graduate student is teaching. If the graduate student is not teaching, she or he is not being supported by undergraduate tuition money."

This may be true for the sciences at your university, but it is probably not true in other fields (such as the social sciences and humanities) nor is it universally true at all institutions. My directional state school has grad programs in the sciences and engineering where grad students do not teach, but I know they are not supported by grants.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree that teaching is only one component of the job, and that a professor at a major research university ought to be actively pursuing both teaching and research. However, I think the issue is more that the standard isn't being applied uniformly from both sides. I'm willing to bet that a professor who neglected his/her classes to spend extra time putting out good research would have no trouble getting promoted, whereas (as we've read in this post) that's obviously not the case with someone who's teaching focused. Mediocre teaching is usually noted in some way (whether through teaching evaluations or other means), but carries no real consequence. The same can't be said for research. I'm not advocating bad research, of course. I just wish there were more incentive for people to teach well.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly the decision I am facing now, whether to become a teaching specialist, in which my research output will be educational research, and face the consequences of a slower career progression and lower salary compared to someone who pulls in science research grants. I am not convinced you can excell in both teaching (as in fully developed, reflective teaching practice that researches and develops new methods) and research. I think there should be a place for teaching specialist faculty in every department. It is teaching that generally suffers at the expense of research, and I am definitely a departmental anomaly in that I want to specialise in teaching. I accept there will be consequences because of the prevailing attitude that you can do it all, although I think the consequences are unfair. I will be interested to read the comments that follow.

Anonymous said...

My inclination is always that active involvement in research adds a lot of intangibles to teaching - it raises the quality of the teaching in ways that are not necessarily obvious to students. Also, I don't think popular teachers are necessarily better teachers. So, I normally wouldn't have a lot of sympathy for this guy.

However, in this case, the expectations for research productivity evidently changed well after he became established at MTU. What accomodations were made to help their faculty make the adjustment? Or are faculty just out of luck if their university changes direction?

CPP, the idea that students at my research university are *entitled* to do original research with me makes me SHUDDER. All fine and well if you have a large lab with plenty of postdocs, techs, and grad students to bear the load....but for those of us with small labs, it would be the kiss of death. I'm approached by easily 30 students every semester. Entitled, my ass.

Anonymous said...

The notion that undergraduate tuition subsidizes research is not as far fetched as you make it appear. The (often higher) 9-month salary of those teaching-light faculty and the capital costs of the labs, contract offices etc. are paid for by the institution. And don't mention overhead. It's well understood that negotiated federal overhead rates systematically underrecover the real costs.

The sad fact is that big-time research and big-time athletics are engaged in the same con game. Look at all the money we bring in. Give us some more.

Anonymous said...

I've worked at both research intensive and teaching intensive institutions, so I have a feel for what it takes to be really good in both endeavors. I don't think it is possible to both do high level, funded research, and to be a really good teacher who reaches everyone, not just the top students. It takes TIME to be a good teacher, a lot of time. I think there is some argument to be made that teaching focused faculty should do some research or scholarly activity, just to stay current. That is especially important in my field (computer science). But the kind of research effort needed to publish in the best journals and to get lots of funding is not necessary to good teaching, and probably is too much of a conflict.
The argument that researchers mentor undergraduate research is not that compelling. At most, those undergrad projects benefit the top 10% of students. We need to be reaching all of the students.

Ann said...

Our university does have positions for people who want to focus on undergraduate teaching. They are called lecturers, with promotion to senior lecturer and then principal lecturer possible for people who are doing an outstanding job. The latter are long term (renewable every five years) positions, and there are 1 or 2 of them in most large departments. There are also "research" faculty, paying their salaries from grants, and only doing research.
The "regular" faculty are supposed to be doing both research and teaching at a very high level, which is a juggling act, but I can't see the justification in complaining about that or refusing to do part of your job, if that is the track you chose.

Kevin said...

It's the money. One can be doing great research and very good teaching and still get slower than usual promotions if you aren't pulling in big bucks in grants. (Happened to me.)

I was not aware that Michigan Tech was a "research university". It certainly wasn't 20 years ago---it was an adequate 4-year college, with an emphasis on teaching engineering.

John Vidale said...

I did a little research after reading the linked article, which also had remarks from the prof in question at the end of the comments.

RateYourProf suggests he is earnest, helpful, gives a lot of work, and not particularly easy to understand - either from his accent or his clarity of exposition - probably a somewhat better than average teacher.

Amazon, on the other hand, sells two of his books, and the more basic one only had two horrible reviews, and both were hardly selling. So writing those book doesn't seem like a huge contribution.

This particular case for the injustice of not rewarding effort for teaching may not be so strong.

Unknown said...

I think in some ways you are wrestling with a false dichotomy. Excellent science teaching is about engaging students in the creation of new understandings about the functioning of the natural world. This happens best when students pose their own scientific questions, spurred on by perplexing or otherwise engaging observations, wrestle with data an other evidence to create explanations, and then share those explanations with others. Wait a minute! That sounds an awful lot like the research enterprise...

The key for tenure and promotion of faculty ought to be two-fold - whether or not you are scholarly in your pursuits and whether or not your pursuits advance the mission of your institution. The scholarly piece is well documented in the Boyer report from Carnegie - it is possible to define a scholarly standard for any intellectual endeavor, be it particle physics, composing, or teaching. The mission piece is very rarely discussed seriously by faculty and I think that is the root of much dissatisfaction with tenure decisions.

If your mission is to be one of the top creators of new knowledge in the sciences, then your scholarship better be focused at the cutting edge of your discipline and you are going to want to be very picky about the students you accept into your program at any level. On the other hand, if your mission is to prepare the next generation of science-literate citizenry, then your focus should be on the scholarship of promoting effective knowledge creation by your students, some of whom might end up working on the cutting edge, but not necessarily so.

If these distinctions could be clearly articulated by a school along with clarity about their own place in the continuum, there would be a lot fewer unhappy professors, and fewer unhappy students, too.

Anonymous said...

Lord help us all if we're to use and to evaluate teaching.

Moondragon007 said...

I'm not a teacher or grad student, but I did attend a university as an undergrad. So if I seem incredibly naive, that's why.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that my biochem professor did (probably stil does) active research and teaching at the same time, by employing advanced students as lab assistants. I don't know if everyone does this or not. I think he prefers research though, cos he's a bit of a douche in the classroom.

NTT & happy to teach said...

John V said: " less extensively-credentialled non-ladder faculty" can fill in .... WTH? why are we "less-credentialled"? I had three "post-doc" jobs in teaching. I was more than qualified and "credentialled" for a "non-ladder" position. please don't be so narrow minded to think that a scientist only demonstrates scholarship by gaining credentials in research.

I am highly skeptical that most faculty can excel in teaching and research. there aren't enough hours in the day. To excel in research takes active data collection, grant-writing, networking/collaboration, mentoring, writing, constant reflective questioning & revision of research direction. To excel in teaching requires development of new methodology/curriculum, mentoring, writing, networking/collaboration, constant reflective teaching & revision of pedagogy.

They are similar but still two different aspects of academia.
Show me someone who truly excels in both (publishing in both arenas, developing innovative practices in both arenas) and I'll show you 2 dozen who can't. There's always a superstar among us. But to apply those standards to the bulk of us, well, it just doesn't work.

I agree it improves us all to have a little bit of either. But if you tell me you excel at both, I won't believe you. You aren't as good as you think you are at one of them...

Anonymous said...

I have no idea where this teaching OR research idea comes from. Nor do I know why people keep insisting that good researchers are usually bad teachers.

My experience is that the best researchers are also the best lecturers. Possibly because they actually know their shit instead of looking it up from some textbook.

We had a guy visit our clinicial research outfit earlier in the week who gave one of the most interesting lectures I've ever heard. And he's usually pumping out 1-2 PNAS science or nature papers a year.

And it was the same in undergraduate an aditional 2 very different fields. The most productive researchers were also the best lecturers (with the obvious exceptions in both directions). Ditto medical conferences now.

John Vidale said...

to anon@02:41

RateMyProf and Amazon reviews correlate with reality. The correlation is not perfect, but recurrent themes emerge. Check some books that are good and bad, some profs who are great teachers and terrible teachers. I suspect you'll find general validity of comments. Certainly it is better than ignorance.

to NTT@03:01

My impression is that NTT people hired just to teach classes generally have weaker credentials than the TT faculty. If you wish to contest this impression, please point me to a department for which that is not true. I certainly did not claim that every NTT person is less qualified than every TT person, nor less qualified than the average TT person.

Anonymous said...

Universities need both good teachers and good researchers...the two are not mutually exclusive. In my experience, what happens more often than not is, either the bar that defines "good research" is raised, or people who achieve tenure abuse the fact that they cannot be terminated. In the latter case, I have encountered many faculty who "announce" after they get tenure that they are no longer going to do research, but instead are going to focus on teaching and service. In theory, this is fine (considering the whole academic freedom principle) but, depending on the size and the needs of the department, may be wholly impractical for the survival of the department (or even college) as a whole. This is the situation I am in. A significant number of tenured faculty in both my department and college no longer engage in active research (proposal submission, paper writing, and advising graduate students). As a result, the research expenditures for the entire college (60+ faculty) are less than $2 million/year. Essentially, the responsibility to do research (publish, obtain funding, and support/advise graduate students) falls solely on the backs of the untenured professors. And several departments have only one untenured faculty member. These untenured faculty have the same teaching load - 2 courses per semester - as all of the other faculty (excluding lecturers and adjuncts).

Departments, especially small ones, cannot expect to be able to maintain a healthy graduate program when a significant number of faculty are not engaged in research. Additionally, faculty who do not maintain an active research program cannot effectively mentor or evaluate untenured faculty.

In my college, good teaching is valued, and really bad teaching can get an untenured professor dismissed. But a successful tenure decision is heavily dependent upon research success. In my department, about 1/2 of the faculty (all tenured) have either not had a research grant, graduated a student, or published a paper in the 5 years that I have been there. In some cases, individuals have not done any of those things in the last 5 years. In speaking with colleagues, the situation is similar in all departments across my college. However, ALL members of the department get a vote on my tenure decision. Needless to say, these faculty have provided essentially NO mentoring to me, and I don't believe they can effectively evaluate my progress, since they have no perspective regarding the current "status of the field" with respect to my (or any) research, nor do they understand the current routes to successfully obtaining funding at national agencies.

Unless a department can afford to hire faculty who are exclusively dedicated to teaching, allowing significant numbers of tenured faculty to either conduct a substandard research program (with respect to the rest of the department) or essentially abandon their research does a huge disservice to any untenured faculty in the department. In my opinion, a position should be declared as "teaching only" or "teaching focused" when the individual is hired. In the case of tenured faculty who want to pursue the "teaching centered" route, they should have to compete for a special position/title with any other faculty in the department or college who may also want to become "teaching centered" for a LIMITED number of positions (based on the size/needs of the department/college).

Doctor Pion said...

One way to boil some of this down to a number is to ask near-term alumni (say 5 years out as they approach the PE exam) what aspect of their engineering education was most valuable. Will they still mention a particular teacher by name, or will it be hands-on experience in a lab, or will it be working closely with others on a competition design project mentored by someone who does that instead of research?

What strikes me about this case is that the professor in question actually does do research and publishes papers, and has even written an apparently valued textbook (2nd edition). It also sounds like he teaches more than the norm, so he makes up for less research productivity by carrying part of the teaching load of those doing more research - and doing it with excellence.

This is not the case (which I have seen) where Prof A teaches one class and does no research, while Prof B teaches the same number of students but does lots of research. That is a case where pay and promotion should be different, not one where a person puts more effort into area X than Y while another puts more effort into Y than X. There should be assigned duties, and evaluations based on how well you carry out those duties. It sounds like Tech gives points for having a grad student regardless of how well that student gets trained and regardless of who provided most of that training (classroom or lab), and gives the same points for teaching regardless of how well you carry out that task.

I do disagree with your comment about whether tuition is paying for research. It won't pay for the grad student doing research (although it might, if that student is paid to teach but puts little effort into teaching so ze can focus on research), but it does pay for the professor doing research unless they have a buy-out for salary. Normally, the person teaching 10 students and doing lots of research and the person teaching 140 and doing little research both get their income from a mix of state and tuition dollars. Only summer salary comes from an external source. So it is the case that more research translates into a need for more faculty (and thus more tuition and state funds) to teach the same number of students as when Tech had a teaching rather than R1 mind set.

Anonymous said...

At my institution you need an excellent research record (and middling teaching) or exemplary teaching, departmental and university service to go to full professor.

So, an associate professor who is a great teacher, maybe chairs the most onerous departmental committee and has developed a new university wide curriculum initiative will be able to get promoted even if their research program is nearly stalled.

If you are a great teacher and a typical departmental level contributor with little University wide profile you will never get promoted to Full Professor without a stellar research record.

This seems reasonable for a research oriented university which needs to have some people focussed on teaching, running and renewing the place. If you reward no one for outstanding teaching and service efforts then no one will make them. This was a policy shift after we lost several high profile teachers who had built great new programs to places like Harvey Mudd and Smith where their ideas and efforts are appreciated.

Anonymous said...

" shouldn't accept a job and then later complain that part of it is not to your liking or deserves less effort (in your opinion)."

I agree.

Anonymous said...

I have a related question. By her own statements (and forgive me if I've gotten the details wrong), FSP is a good researcher and teacher and to do this she works upwards of 70 hours a week. Is it reasonable to expect this level of commitment for promotion? Can you really be a good teacher and researcher working a more 'normal' amount in a typical week? Personally, as someone relatively new to the tenure track, I don't think it's reasonable to expect that amount of work, but I'm pretty sure I won't get tenure without something along those lines.

Anonymous said...

to anon who asked "Can you really be a good teacher and researcher working a more 'normal' amount in a typical week? "

I think it depends on how much help you have. If you have TAs to help you teach your classes, and if you have postdocs to do the research and train your grad students and run your lab for you, then sure you can excel at both teaching and research at the same time, or rather least be successful in being responsible for both teaching and research getting done.

NTT & happy to teach said...

To John V: I don't challenge that most NTT faculty are not highly distinguished in publications or depth of research program. Frankly, that's why I'm in this route - I am much more passionate about the classroom than the research. I enjoy my research, but not nearly as much as I enjoy teaching.

My soapbox is directed towards your definition of "credentials" as purely research-based. For multiple reasons, NTT positions are growing in number and here to stay. That means the "stepchild" view of these positions needs to evolve. I am more qualified than many of my peer Asst Prof and Assoc Prof to be in the classroom, in terms of time in the classroom, experience developing curricula, exploration of pedagogy. I am certainly not distinguished in research accolades. Some faculty choose to be a master of research, others choose to master teaching.

I don't doubt that a few can do both. And it is a good point that great research brings great stories and applications to the classroom. But it doesn't necessarily mean you know the best mechanisms to deliver content, structure the classroom, and ensure student success. I don't see why we stick to an antiquated expectation that we should all excel at both. There are now CEOs and CFOs, and those responsibilities were once carried by one individual. As businesses (or institutions) grow, that split occurs. It isn't the end of the world to admit that we can hire people to specialize in one arena over the other. Everyone here seems to agree that TT faculty are hired (at R1 at least) to master research. My soapbox is just that we should be able to recognize that it's a great thing to hire people with a different sort of credentials to excel in teaching!

Anonymous said...

If your (institutional) mission is to be one of the top creators of new knowledge in the sciences... On the other hand, if your mission is to prepare the next generation of science-literate citizenry...

Actually, the mission is to maximize near-term monetary return. That's why *funded* research is valued more than teaching, or anything else that doesn't bring in money. *Unfunded* research counts for hardly anything at all, no matter how "good" it may or may not be. That's how my institution operates anyway.

Anonymous said...

I do NOT understand this direction that some University staff feel badly treated in terms of promotion because they are lacking in research. If a professor is not doing research (or doing the minimal amount so they can say that they are) then how is that any different than pre-university teachers in our primary and secondary education systems. Anyone (with average intelligence or even slightly below) can come in, read a book and teach courses, but without the research element then they cannot bring much more to the students than the students would obtain from simply reading the book themselves as they do not have the grounding and proper understanding of the subject. This is simply a fact, and in the same way a researcher will learn something new every time they deliver a course because they have new research problems. Hence a University professor without research should be on the pay scale of pre-university teachers.

The other argument that I hear regularily is that I am bogged down in administration and don't have time for research. In my experience those who get bogged down in admin very often do so simply because it is easier to push some paper and discuss ("usually crap that is never implemented") things than actually perform intellectual research activity. Why should we assume that anyone with a PhD can drive research, especially with the standard of some PhD's I have seen recently, and recent appointments within my own department. In fact this is one of the main problem, there is a strong correlation between those who are weak at research and those who stop research once they are made permanent.

As for being good at teaching or research, the formal response through teaching assesment units from our customers (the students) in my experience has actually not highlighted any such divide. If anything those who research get higher rankings. The main point I would have is the follow, if your are getting a satisfaction rating of say 80/90% or above from you students, well then where is the room for improvement and further focus/efforts on your teaching.

This then leads to a paradox, the only case for not doing research is if you are a bad teacher and you need to spend time learning how to become a good one. Those with studnet rankings below say 70%

Finally, to those who are doing research in teaching. This is as valuable as any research in my opinion, the topic does not matter just the quality of the research.