We invest in research, but what about teaching?

From a nice piece by Vikram Savkar at ScienceProgress.org entitled “We invest in research, but what about teaching?”:

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.

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2 thoughts on “We invest in research, but what about teaching?”

  1. Makes perfect sense from the University perspective. The students will come either way and most won’t choose a school because awesome Prof. X teaches there.

    Research on the other hand brings lasting prestige in the academic world and can be the source of considerable grant funding.

    This issue is actually a big part of why I haven’t pursued academia professionally. I’d enjoy the teaching and occasional research, but I’m not interested in being a researcher 24/7.

  2. This is certainly a key part of why I like UMM so much. (Nearly) everyone understands that high quality teaching is our reason for being, but there is still support for doing high quality research (and wonderful students to do it with).

    Sadly, I expect that grant funding is considerably more important than prestige to this particular calculus. If that’s true, though, then entities like the NSF do have the ability to leverage schools into placing more emphasis on teaching.

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