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Teacher-Scholar: The Mythology

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

Message Number: 
326

No one would question the need for teachers to keep up with current knowledge in their fields. But whether they must actually carry on research in order to do so is questionable.

Folks:

The posting below is another look at the supposed relationship

between quality teaching and quality research. It is from Chapter 6,

Accepting the Nature of Trade-Offs, in FACULTY WORK AND PUBLIC TRUST:

Restoring the Value of Teaching and Public Service in American

Academic Life, by JAMES S. FAIRWEATHER, The Pennsylvania State

University. Copyright (c) 1996 by Allyn & Bacon, A Simon and Schuster

Company Needham Heights, Massachusetts 02194.

[http://vig.abacon.com/] All rights reserved. Reprinted with

permission.

Note: I am grateful to Ed Nuhfer of CU-Denver for pointing out the

following in response to an earlier message:

I would also note that the converse fallacy--that good researchers

are automatically poor teachers--is as frequent in some

teaching-focused institutions as the converse that Diamond notes in

doctoral

intensive/extensive universities. The research actually shows that

the former fallacy is even worse than the latter.

Regards,

Rick Reis

reis@stanford.edu

UP NEXT: What is the Most Difficult Step We Must Take to Become Great Teachers?

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

 

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TEACHER-SCHOLAR: THE MYTHOLOGY

JAMES S. FAIRWEATHER

 

The teacher-scholar long has been accepted as the ideal in American

higher education.(note-1) Teaching and research are seen as mutually

reinforcing. From this perspective, the best scholars are the best

teachers: the best teacher is a scholar who keeps abreast of the content

and methods of a field through continuing involvement in research and

who communicates knowledge and enthusiasm for a subject to students.(2)

Feldman found that the claim that teaching and research are mutually

reinforcing has several tenets.(3) The first set of premises can be

categorized under Linsky and Straus' spillover effect."(4) This effect

is evidenced by the following:

* Research may help faculty keep current with their discipline and may

increase intellectual interest.(5)

* Faculty who conduct research may be more likely to introduce new

materials into their classes.(6)

* Research work requires skills in organizing materials, which may

assist faculty in better organizing materials for presentation in

class.(7)

* Research may socialize faculty to expect more from their students and

to challenge students intellectually.(8)

* Research-oriented faculty may be more likely to instill an enthusiasm

for scholarship among students.(9)

* Highly productive researchers may be the most stimulating

teachers.(10)

* Research productivity may enhance faculty interest in course subject

matter.(11)

Crimmel adds another commonly held premise about the "spillover" between

research and teaching:

* Faculty who are actively engaged in research may serve as better role

models for students than less research-minded faculty.(12)

Research and teaching productivity may also be part of a larger

construct of general intelligence or ability.(13) If both good teaching

and productive research are a function of general ability, the two

should be positively related.

Surveys of faculty indicate widespread acceptance of the belief that

teaching and research are mutually reinforcing.(14) A survey of faculty

in the natural sciences found that 95 percent agreed that keeping

abreast in the discipline through research is fundamental to effective

instruction.(15) Peer ratings of teaching effectiveness and research

productivity indicate a perceived positive relationship between the

two.(16) The National Academy of Sciences ratings of doctoral program

quality showed a strong positive relationship between peer ratings of

overall program quality (including quality of students and of

instruction) and research productivity across disciplines.(17)

The teacher-scholar mythology has two important policy and

administrative consequences. First, it requires that each faculty

member who desires promotion, tenure, and large salary increases follow

the same behavioral pattern encompassing both research and teaching.

The volume of research productivity and amount of teaching will vary by

type of institution, but both are required. Excellent teaching alone is

insufficient; both research and teaching are (purportedly) needed. This

concept is consistent with the general-ability tenet, in which both

teaching and research are indicators of an individual's overall ability.

Second, the presumption of a benefit to teaching from research activity

permits heavy emphasis by faculty and administrators on the importance

of research. Consistent with Linsky and Straus' spillover effect,(18)

since both teaching and research purportedly benefit from the research

function, the reasoning goes, faculty who spend the most time on

research enhance institutional prestige and visibility without cost to

the instructional function. That is, the best researchers make the best

teachers.

TEACHER-SCHOLAR: THE EVIDENCE

Despite the general acceptance of the teacher-scholar concept, Crimmel

asserts that "this claim is usually presented...not as an empirically

verified hypothesis, but as a self-evident truth."(19) Some critics

believe that research activity actually detracts from instructional

quality primarily by reducing the time faculty spend with students: "The

time expected to become a productive scholar and do research is taken

away from teaching activities, such as classroom participation, close

contact with students, and intellectual supervision of them."(20)

To examine both the dominant teacher-scholar ideology and the

contrasting view of the negative influence of research on teaching,

Feldman completed a meta-analysis of publish work on the relationship

between teaching and research quality.(21) Across several studies, he

found only a minimal relationship between student ratings of teaching

effectiveness and faculty research productivity (an average correlation

of .12). This relationship was small regardless of the measure of

faculty productivity used (i.e., publishing, obtaining research grants).

Measures of the quality of research publications based on citation

indices were found unrelated to teaching effectiveness (r = -.002).

Feldman also examined the distinct components of the

teaching-enhances-research ideology. He found modest support (average

correlation about .20) for the beliefs that research helps faculty keep

abreast of their discipline and increases intellectual interest, and

that research can assist faculty in better organizing their class

presentations and syllabi. Feldman found little, if any, support for

the ideas of research socializing faculty to expect more from their

students, research-oriented faculty being more likely to instill an

enthusiasm for scholarship among students, highly productive researchers

being the most stimulating teachers, faculty who engage in research

bringing new material into classroom instruction more frequently than

less research-oriented faculty, or research productivity enhancing

faculty interest in course subject matter. Feldman concluded by

stating: "An obvious interpretation of these results is that, in

general, the likelihood that research productivity actually benefits

teaching is extremely small or that the two, for all practical purposes,

are essentially unrelated."(22) Centra adds:

"No one would question the need for teachers to keep up with current

knowledge in their fields. But whether they must actually carry on

research in order to do so is questionable. Reading and discussing

current findings in their discipline as a whole may do as much to help

some teachers keep up-to-date as they focused on a narrow research

problem."(23)

Feldman found no support for research productivity being negatively

related to teaching effectiveness. Yet Crimmel argued that the emphasis

on research has led to a culture which denigrates teaching and harms

instruction:

"The myth of the "teacher-scholar" is rationalized by a web of false

beliefs. Chief among these are the empirically mistaken belief that

publication benefits teaching and the conceptually mistaken belief that

publication is one of the essential responsibilities of the teacher in

the liberal arts college.

NOTES

1) H.H. Crimmel, "The Myth of the Teacher-Scholar," Liberal Education,

70 (1984): 183-98.

2) J.G. Gaff and R.C. Wilson, "The Teaching Environment," AAUP Bulletin,

57 (1971): 477.

3) K.A. Feldman, "Research Productivity and Scholarly Accomplishment of

College Teachers as Related to their Instructional Effectiveness: A

Review and Exploration," Research in Higher Education, 26 (1987):

227-98.

4) A.S. Linsky and M. Straus, "Student Evaluation, Research

Productivity, and Eminence of College Faculty," Journal of higher

Education, 46 (1975): 89-102.

5) J.A. Centra, "Research Productivity and Teacher Effectiveness,"

Research in Higher Education, 18 (1983): 379-89; Crimmel, The Myth of

the Teacher-Scholar"; R.J. Friedrich and S.J. Michalk, Jr., "Why Doesn't

Research Improve Teaching? Some Answers from Small Liberal Arts

College," Journal of Higher Education, 54 (1983): 145-63

6) R.D. McCullagh and M.R. Roy, "The Contribution of Non-Instructional

Activities to College Classroom Teacher Effectiveness," Journal of

experimental Education, 44 (1975): 61-70.

7) Friedrich and Michalak, "Why Doesn't Research Improve Teaching?"

8) Friedrich and Michalak, "Why Doesn't Research Improve Teaching?"

9) Centra, "Research Productivity and Teacher Effectiveness"; J. Harry

and N.S. Golder, "The Null Relationship Between Teaching and Research,"

Sociology of Education, 45 (1972): 47-60.

10) Centra, "Research Productivity and Teacher Effectiveness"; Linsky

and Straus, "Student Evaluation, Research Productivity, and Eminence."

11) Centra, "Research Productivity and Teacher Effectiveness"; Friedrich

and Michalak, "Why Doesn't Research Improve Teaching?"

12) Crimmel, "The Myth of the Teacher-Scholar," 184-5.

13) Centra, "Research Productivity and Teacher Effectiveness" 380-1;

M.A. Faia, "Teaching and Research: Rapport or Mesalliance," research in

Higher Education, 4 (1976): 235-46.

14) Gaff and Wilson, "The Teaching Environment."

15) L.R. Jauch, "relationships of Research and Teaching: Implications

for faculty Evaluation," Research in Higher Education, 5 (1976): 1-13.

16) Centra, "Research Productivity and Teacher Effectiveness."

17) For example, L.V. Jones, G.Lindzey, and P.E. Coggeshall, eds., An

Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States:

Biological Sciences (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1982).

18) Linsky and Straus, "Student Evaluation, Research Productivity, and

Eminence."

19) Crimmel, "The Myth of the Teacher-Scholar," 184.

20) Gaff and Wilson, "The Teaching Environment." 477.

21) Feldman, "Research Productivity and Scholarly Accomplishment."

22) Feldman, "Research Productivity and Scholarly Accomplishment." 275.

23) Centra, "Research Productivity and Teacher Effectiveness." 388.