Research Complements Teaching

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Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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13 Responses

  1. Avatar Kim says:

    There are fine teachers who understand that true understanding comes from teaching to others. Feynman’s like that…
    But an institution with twinned missions has a hard time keeping both running the same. Far too often, researchers are hired for their ability to win the university money or fame, and allowed to teach regardless of teaching quality.

    This is exacerbated when the teacher is forced to learn a new language, a different culture, and all of that.Report

  2. Avatar Lyle says:

    If an institution has a graduate school that issues Phds, then research is required, since that is an element of the Phd, and the faculty need to keep up and supervise to make the program work. So in the case of liberal arts schools 4 year college such as the one cited its not clear that research is needed, in particular if few of the students go on to Phd programs.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    While it might be true that “there is still a need for teachers who know where knowledge comes from and produce some of it themselves”, I’m not sure that the best solution is having the teachers do research and have grad students take over teaching duties.

    Which seems to be the solution we’ve chosen elsewhere.Report

  4. Avatar gingergene says:

    My experience in college is that no one ever taught Professors how to teach, and the students often suffered for it. It was assumed that understanding the material implicitly made you able to convey the material to students, which seems contradicted by the amount of education required to teach K-12 students. I can’t imagine that 18 year old high school seniors are that different from 18 year old college freshmen, and yet the difference in the training in *how* to teach given to their respective instructors is night and day.

    So while I might agree (and I’m not sure if I do) that researching a topic makes you a better teacher than you were before, I’m pretty sure that I disagree that researching a topic makes you a better teacher than most other people who are knowledgeable in the field but not actively researching in it. I think that is highly variable and much more likely to hinge individual talents and skills.

    I’m also pretty sure that most Universities choose professors based on their research with much less regard for their teaching ability. Based on my experience as an undergraduate, I would have liked that equation reversed. As a graduate student, I would have liked them to be equally weighted. At no point in my academic career as a student did I value my professor’s research over his/her ability to convey what they knew to me. That said, I never intended to enter academia, which may alter a student’s calculus.Report

  5. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    I did my first year of college at a commuter U, where the teachers were hired to teach, and research, if they did any, was usually done on the side in conjunction with nearby University.

    The teachers at commuter U were all of excellent quality. I learned so much from them, and so well, that University was a shock.

    I think Universities should have lecturers & professors. Lecturers are there to teach, and thus are hired, and tenured, based on their ability to teach. But I would also limit them to freshman and sophomore, maybe a few junior & senior level classes. Professors, on the other hand, should never see student under the age of 20 except as they pass them in the hall. Professors should stick to teaching the advanced & cutting edge topics, and to making sure the associated lecturers are up to date on the curriculum and the state of the art. By the time a student is learning directly from a professor, they should already be mature enough as a student to do the bulk of the learning on their own, with the professor there to merely guide the learning.Report

    • How would department governance work in this kind of arrangement? I’m thinking about the math departments I’ve known, at large state schools, where there would be large numbers of lecturers to deal with the hordes of engineering and science majors that typically have to do three semesters of calculus, one of differential equations, and one of linear algebra. These days, as I understand it, there’s also a considerable (but not necessarily horde-sized) group of people who are deficient in their college prep and have to take pre-calculus classes. Lots of lecturers needed, not nearly so many researchers.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Lecturers would be permanent staff, with the ability to get tenure, but whose main job is to teach, especially the lower level classes where the importance of being active in the relevant research is not so important. No reason they would not be part of the department governance. Call them adjunct, or assistant professors if it makes you feel better.

        I had a bunch of lecturers when I was an undergrad, and a lot of professors & TAs, and while the quality of instruction I got from professors & TAs was inconsistent, every one of the lecturers was a gem.Report

        • I assumed they were permanent, and involved. My concern in a math department in particular is that because of the very large number of students from outside the department that have to be taught, the lecturers would significantly outnumber the researchers/upper level instructors [1]. It strikes me that there would really be two different “departments” here: the larger that deals with hundreds of lower-level students mostly from outside the department; the smaller one that deals with undergraduate math majors and graduate students. To be perfectly honest, the former might do well to be staffed by people who aren’t PhDs.

          [1] I’m assuming that one of the purposes is to do away with 700-seat lecture halls and recitations where students are at the mercy of the graduate students.Report

  6. Avatar notme says:

    I thought Sweet Briar was closing since they couldn’t make it as an all female school.Report

  7. Avatar dexter says:

    @Vikram Bath, This may be off the subject, but articles in “Louisiana Voice” and “Something Like the Truth” might shed some light on Louisiana’s problems and why I dislike Governor Jindal so much.Report

  8. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    One of the reason I choose to attend a Small Liberal-Arts College was so I would be taught by Professors and not by TAs/Graduate Students/Adjuncts.

    I don’t get why attending a university with X amount of very important researchers if said researchers are not around to mentor or even really talk to undergrads. Seems like a bad sell.Report

  9. Avatar ScarletNumber says:

    I read the title to mean that research says positive things about teaching.Report

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