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Further Comments on the Teaching-Research Relationship

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

Message Number: 

A meta analysis of student rating vs research that does not take into account the nature of the institution and the nature of the faculty is worthless.


I received a number of responses to posting #326 TEACHER-SCHOLAR: THE

MYTHOLOGY (June 12, 2001). It seems to have generated considerable

discussion. Here are two examples.


Rick Reis

UP NEXT: Making Effective Use of Your Peers

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning


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Dear Rick,

In response to posting, TP Msg. #326 TEACHER-SCHOLAR: THE MYTHOLOGY,

the following comments come to mind:

1. The assumption that student ratings are a valid and reliable

measure of teaching effectiveness. Our mission is to change our

students for life, not merely to affect their satisfaction during the

class. When our alumni report that well into their careers they

realize that we equipped them with critical tools, habits of thought,

wide knowledge and an appreciation of the complexity of human

behavior, and of the utility of the scientific approach to social and

behavioral issues, then we know we have done well as teachers.

2. The generalization across the entire domain of academic

institutions. I would suggest there is a vast difference in the

relationship between teaching quality and research in different

classes of institutions. Merely engaging in research is not a

sufficient condition for quality teaching. The quality of the

research, the degree to which one is at the cutting edge of the

field, the impact of the research and much much more, are crucial in

determining the degree to which the various assumptions about the

impact of research on teaching are valid. A meta analysis of student

rating vs research that does not take into account the nature of the

institution and the nature of the faculty is worthless.

3. Finally, the article misses the most important point about the

relation between research and teaching. My own experience as a

department head supports the following assertion: any first class

researcher can be deployed as a teacher in a manner that would make

quality teaching highly likely. Thus the quality of the instruction

offered by a quality department in a first rate research university

depends on the effectiveness with which the department deploys its

instructional resources. Very few faculty teach with equal

effectiveness in each setting. Some do well in large classes and

poorly in small seminars others work more effectively in other

settings. It is up to the departmental executive officer, and the

faculty, to manage faculty teaching assignments so that each

colleague is placed in the teaching environment best suited to her,

or his, talents.

It is, unfortunately, the case that the converse is not true. There

can be very effective teachers who have neither the talent, nor the

inclination, for being active and creative scholars. There is very

little that a department can do to manage the creativity and

imagination, as well as the persistence and work habits, that are

necessary conditions for successful scholarship. This, in fact, is

the root of the widely misunderstood asymmetry between research and

teaching in promotion decisions. Given that most researchers can be

deployed as good teachers, it is wise to assure that your colleagues

are outstanding scholars and then you manage their teaching

assignments. It wont work the other way...

With regards,

Manny Donchin

Emanuel Donchin

Professor of Psychology

Member, The Beckman Institute

University of Illinois


Dear Rick,

There is a perception that an "active research program" may correlate

positively with "excellent teaching" although, as correctly pointed out in

the article below, much research yields results somewhat more nuanced. I am

definitely not a qualified researcher in education, but all of the articles

that I've read on this topic invariably set up an experimental protocol

that plots some quantitative measure(s) of effective teaching against some

quantitative measure(s) of research productivity, and I wonder whether that

misses the point. ALL the teachers in the studies that I've read seem to

carry out some research as a component of their career.

So I wonder whether any research on this topic has compared teaching

effectiveness between those who do *no* research and those who do *at least

some*? I think it stands to reason that if someone spends 90% of a 80-hour

week on research, there may well be little time or energy left for

teaching. Someone who doesn't have a research program at all, on the other

hand, can certainly hone their teaching skills, but does one become stale

in disseminating only the findings of others, or can one really appreciate

the elegance of what one is teaching without being actively challenged in

performing research oneself?

I would appreciate learning whether this approach to the problem has been

considered, and what the findings have been.


Reuben Kaufman,

Professor of Zoology.

Department of Biological Sciences

University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada