Teaching and research are correlated but the link is loose and highly nuanced by para-academic factors #pcthe

There has been an excellent discussion on the SEDA maillist on the links (or not) between teaching and research. Hunt it down in the February archive here: re: PhDs and Learning and Teaching https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A0=sedaMy contribution makes less sense out of context, but I want to post it for my own purposes:

As a relatively recent appointee to lead a PGCert (and an even more recent PhD), the references and insights in this discussion are very useful. I can only add personal anecdote, expanding a little on John Lea’s observations. Although the evidence is convincing that there is at best a loose correlation between research activity and teaching practice, I suspect the story is a lot more nuanced and is coupled with what might be called para-academic factors of economics, institutional and disciplinary micro-politics, and identity.

In my case I strongly feel that my research has positively affected my teaching even though my research is only loosely related to the teaching that I do. But I was a “teacher” before I was a “researcher” so I came to “the academy” with little of the anti-teaching baggage that hangs on many new researchers. This is, in part I suggest, a generational thing but the shift is relatively recent. 1993, in the UK, is probably a signal moment when all of a sudden a lot of people without PhDs were teaching in institutions newly named universities and an institutional and personal bun-fight for status ensued, which has not yet played out. In my practice I regularly hear of heads of
departments (in both old and new universities) who actively discourage and disparage teaching and any efforts to improve it. Only last week I was told of a department head, who struck out (or tried to) any reference to HEA membership on person specifications and told staff that if they wanted to do a PGCert, it was to be on their own time. In these circumstances it might even be possible to suggest that there could be a negative correlation between research and teaching.

But, John’s point and my anecdote, is that academic identity probably is a factor in teaching (and research) quality. Vicki Dale cites Prosser et al (2008) that teaching and research approaches may be related. Here Boyer’s (1997; and also Nibert, n.d.) work should be mentioned. While accepting Newman’s argument that discovery and
teaching are “distinct gifts”, a fully rounded scholar (academic, whatever) probably does engage with discovery, integration, application and teaching. And, in all but the most antediluvian researchers, I suggest that there could even be a positive correlation between teaching and discovery. Though that requires the researcher to abstract the processes of discovery from the particularity of their research. (This is in a large part, the purpose of a PGCert.) And, as Ellen London suggests, what counts as discovery in different disciplines may or may not be graced with a PhD.

  • Boyer, E.L., 1997. Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate, San Francisco: Jossey-Bas
  • Nibert, M., Boyer’s Model of Scholarship. Available at: http://www.pcrest.com/PC/FGB/test/2_5_1.htm [Accessed 07/10/2010]

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