Lecturers regard research as their top priority

October 31, 1997

LECTURERS have failed to respond to pressure from United States legislators and fee-paying students to devote as much time and effort to teaching as to research, according to a new study.

Research remains the path to job tenure to the detriment of classroom instruction and service to society, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching reported.

"Campuses have a long way to go before they show that other forms of scholarship receive equal value to that accorded to traditional research," a foundation study said.

The report, Scholarship Assessed: Evaluation of the Professoriate, said peer evaluation committees deciding whether colleagues should be hired, granted tenure or promoted simply find it easier to measure research achievements than teaching skills. But teaching and research can co-exist, it said.

The foundation urged that teaching faculty be judged in six areas: whether they have clear goals, adequate preparation, appropriate methods, significant results, effective presentation and reflective self-evaluation.

Mary Taylor Huber, one of the report's three authors, said: "The way it's typically done now is not adequate for giving a really careful consideration of a faculty member's teaching and often their applied scholarship or public service.

"It is much harder for a faculty member to show to their colleagues what they have done as teachers and what they have done in the way of applied scholarship than it is for them to show what they have done in the way of research that's come out in published form," said Dr Huber, a former Princeton University anthropology professor. She and her co-authors found that most higher education institutions are re-examining staff roles but have not yet made changes.

Critics claim "professors are more interested in promoting their own careers than they are in helping people by teaching," Dr Huber said. "I think that charge is much exaggerated, but it has fed into the broader national movement for accountability of all of our institutions, and education - especially higher education - is a relatively recent recipient of that kind of gaze of suspicion, which is uncomfortable."

Staff feel burdened by the expectations of research and frustrated by competing demands on their time, the study found. Those who love to teach nonetheless feel pressured to conduct research in order to advance.

It urged professors to have a third role: service, such as involvement in the academic or local community, or professional associations, "where you extend knowledge you normally address an academic audience or a larger public audience, either to help solve an important problem or to bring your knowledge to that audience", Dr Huber said.

Without such steps, she warned, "the external pressure will continue, and it will undercut further public confidence in what higher education can do".

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