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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: We shouldn’t demand that our professors be both teachers and researchers

When you think of your professors, you mainly focus on their teaching. Yet professors, and many graduate students, have more than teaching in their job descriptions.

Between teaching, grading, class preparation and meetings, professors lead busy lives. In addition to their teaching responsibilities, they are also required to produce research — scholarly articles — peer reviews and books in order to not only maintain their careers in academia, but to advance them.

Reporter Colleen Flaherty wrote an Inside Higher Ed piece about research done on professor’s schedules.

“Some 59 percent of work – or 36 hours per week – takes place on campus, with 24 percent of work taking place at home and 17 percent of work taking place at other off-campus locations,” wrote Flaherty.

In addition to working during weekdays, professors also dedicate their weekends to class preparation, grading and attending workshops and conferences.

The issue is that teaching and research are orthogonal . They are separate domains. Who forces our professors to operate in such distinct capacities? Our university does.

Universities want published material from their professors because it means higher rankings and reputations and, in turn, more revenue.

Most professors, however, typically excel in either teaching or research, but rarely both. A professor who is able to explain his or her research in a technical way may not be able to communicate at a level to which students would be receptive.

Making professors and graduate students conduct research in addition to teaching is a university-wide issue that should be changed. If a professor is only comfortable teaching, he or she should not be forced to do research. If he or she is an excellent researcher, they should not be required to teach a certain amount of units every semester.

It really does come down to the economic benefits and prestige that the university stands to gain. The more research their professors produce, the more revenue and credibility the university will procure. However, there is a flaw in this model.

Professors are under constant pressure and their time is limited. Not only do some of them simply regurgitate their research in the classroom, but they also are too busy with research to meet with students one-on-one to ensure course material is absorbed. Often times it’s the students who suffer, as they are left to teach themselves the material.

One thing can be done to alleviate the pressure of balancing teaching and research that many professors face: Hire professors exclusively for teaching or research, not both. This would allow teaching professors more time to interact with students and commit to educating them during and outside of class. It would also allow research professors to commit to the projects that bring the universities the respect and revenue they so desperately desire.

There should be teaching done and there should be research done. If we continue to force professors to do both, we will be left with burned-out professors who are not nearly as efficient as they could be if they were able to focus their energy on the things they were trained to do. 

Follow Michael Cortez on Twitter

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