Archive for March, 2012

teaching vs research university

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

I do not understand why teaching and research are coupled at universities.

At a teaching university professors spend nearly all of their time teaching classes and may not get enough real life or research experience (in engineering anyways). This is the knock on teaching universities. However, there are systems in place at these institutions to get professors this experience. At a research university it is the opposite end of the spectrum.

Teaching is not a job to be taken lightly or as an afterthought. However, this is exactly what professors at research universities do. I had a conversation with a professor (who is a good teacher) where he said he allots 10% of his time to teaching and no more. Teaching only a single class effectively should require more time than this, but the demands of his job (research first) require him to focus elsewhere. Obviously he is an effective teacher and relates well to students, but for many professors this does not work.

A researcher is at the cutting edge of his/her field and teaching classes in these areas would be great and this sounds good on the surface. However, the demands of rigorous research combined with the incentives in place for procuring research dollars creates a focus on only the research aspect of the researcher’s job.

I love research. If I could get tenure doing research only I would find that job, but it does not exist in my field (kind of). Because I have to combine my research with teaching, I want to be the best teacher I can be. This may take away from my research. But, I love research so this may take away from my teaching….and so on.

Why can we not uncouple it and have research faculty and teaching faculty at research universities? There is a bit of this, but it is not widespread. They could still work together but significantly reduce the teaching load on the researchers (one class or co-teach classes) and reduce research on teachers (consultants only).

In other fields private industry takes part in research. In mine I have been told this is not possible. I wouldn’t mind trying someday.

So I ask you, what would be the repercussions of this solution? Could we completely decouple teaching and research? Somewhere in the middle?




Saturday, March 10th, 2012

I have been thinking much lately about what I will do when I become a professor because I have begun applying for jobs (one of which is my dream job). Specifically, my role as an adviser. I will be expected employ undergraduate and graduate students to achieve my research goals. I look back upon my education and have no experience as a manager and no training in this area. I have only my experience being managed and being advised. This, along with teaching, seems to be neglected in training of future professors. I have had the two ends of the management spectrum. My previous advisers kept me very focused and managed my time very well. I had little time to think about what I was doing, let alone the big picture. My current advisers give me enough rope to hang myself. I have been free to explore things that interest me and provide community service. Which one is best? I do not know. Maybe it is best that we find our own way as every manager needs to at some point, but then why is management an entire major?