Since President Obama’s announcement of the Educate to Innovate program in November 2009, an encouraging number of technology and media companies, non-profit organizations and government agencies have been working in concert to strengthen the nation’s approach to science education. But the reality is that the lion’s share of transformation must come from within: from school systems, in the case of K-12 education, and from the academy, in the case of higher education.
A position paper recently issued by the Nature Publishing Group illustrates this point in the context of higher education. A significant majority, 77 percent, of the 450 faculty surveyed for the paper consider their educational responsibilities to be equally as important as research responsibilities. Only 6 percent consider research more important than education. Yet when asked to appoint a hypothetical candidate to an open tenure position in their department, the majority chose a star researcher with poor teaching skills over both a star teacher with little research background and a candidate equally skilled, though not notable, in both teaching and research.
The ripple effects of this mindset in the academy are damaging to the goals of universities.