Research at the Teaching College

Should faculty at institutions devoted primarily to teaching be encouraged to do research? College and university administrators approach this question differently. I know colleagues who teach at schools where research is encouraged, but not supported. Teaching and service are the primary considerations in tenure cases at these places and scholarship requirements are minimal. (For example, at some places the scholarship requirements are met by attending conferences or paying for membership in a professional organization). At these schools, writing and publication and other forms of scholarship outside of delivering the curriculum are viewed as little more than a hobby.

Other teaching institutions, like the one in which I work, encourage scholarship through teaching reductions and research funds. The emphasis is still primarily on teaching, but the relationship between faculty growth and research is understood.

Some well-endowed teaching institutions have permanently reduced teaching loads that come close to the loads offered at research universities. Dickinson College, for example, recently dropped their teaching load from a 3-3 to a 2-3.

In today’s economy, even those college and universities that support faculty research may be tempted to cut costs by reducing funds devoted to scholarship. I personally think that this is a bad idea and I am supported, to an extent, by a recent article on the subject in Inside Higher Ed. The article mentions a study by Dahlia Remier and Elda Pema, economists who studied the benefits of faculty research.

According to Inside Higher Ed, Remier and Pema have drawn the following tentative conclusions:

1). Students gravitate toward research orientations.
2). Research make professors better teachers.
3). Research oriented professors help sort students by being poor teachers. (Are all research oriented professors bad teachers? This one seems a bit odd).
4). Research quality has been a proxy for teaching quality.
5). Altruism (Scholarship produces socially valuable knowledge).
6). Faculty members like to do research.
7). Envy and prestige. (Departments doing research may inspire other departments to do the same).

Read the article. For what it’s worth, there is a lot here for administrators to think about before cutting their faculty’s research funds and opportunities.

2 thoughts on “Research at the Teaching College

  1. Ali: Good to hear from you. It sounds like you had a great trip, including a visit to my wife’s former boss, Deb Snyder. I am going to include a link to your blog on my next “Sunday Night Odds and Ends” feature. Look for it sometime Sunday night.

    I hope all is well. Thanks for keeping me posted.

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