Teacher’s aid

Chheng-Hong has decided to turn the multiple choice exam on its head. I am probably one of the teachers he’s looking toward there, since I recall not making as many comments on student work last semester as might have liked. In any case, it’s symptomatic of the difficulties of teaching at a research school.

When I was a grad student I often thought professors’ complacency in teaching was astounding, and that was in a program where they actually cared about teaching. One of the things I’ve been working on is trying to spend less time on teaching (hopefully without it having disastrous effects), but I know I haven’t been able to crank out research like others have because I care about students’ experience. Sometimes it feels like I care more than they do.

A couple of weeks ago a group of students complained that a colleague of mine (also pre-tenure) started out a class by telling the students that he “got paid to do research” and that teaching was just something he had to get through. That seems like an odd thing to think, let alone to say, but it’s part of the mantra here, and I suspect at many top research universities. I also got into this because I like research, but why would you become a professor if you weren’t going to work at becoming a good one?

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4 Comments

  1. Richard Smith
    Posted 4/21/2005 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    Well said, Alex. I have to say my school isn’t quite as aggressive as this on the research or die thing – teaching is taken seriously and is being taken more seriously every year. There are a growing number of supports here for the faculty member who wants to improve, but it is easy to dodge those things if you want to. Sad to say.

  2. Posted 4/22/2005 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    i personally don’t care about teaching…. i care about my students and whether or not they learn… teaching is just one of the ways that can happen. i also care about research, because that is another way to encourage learning.

    I just had this discussion the other day… Universities aren’t here to teach is my position, it is based on an understanding of the university where ‘teaching’ and ‘lectures’ are fairly recent historical advents that arose to manage populations of students. universities are here to provide a space for learning–to provide the material, models, and the guidance for that learning. this is contrary to most people’s thoughts which regard universities of yet one more level of certification…. but such is life. i’d say look toward the history of universities for the models.

  3. Dan
    Posted 4/22/2005 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    I can see both sides of the coin, although I am stuck on one side of it (I’m one of the students to whom you are referring in your post). I can’t disagree with Jeremy’s post more. Universitys shouldn’t offer degree programs unless they intend to provide guidance, insight and direction while imparting a level of knowledge upon us that we can’t achieve on our own. We can’t teach ourselves. Yet, professors consistently don’t teach and complain that we don’t know what we should. A viscious cycle.

    Also – there are a great many of us who have come to learn from you, the teachers, who could care less about research. I know that the life I live and the luxeries I enjoy are a product of the research that occurs at universities, but I’m not interested in becoming a researcher – graduate education != researcher wannabe. Some of us are just trying to better ourselves.

  4. Posted 4/22/2005 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    To Dan: I think we can, and we should teach ourselves. A teacher’s role should be a facilitator of this process.

    I am a slow reader, and the language obstacle makes the reading much slower. It will be very helpful if a teacher can point out some classic research to me as a start point, rather than just tell me “search on your own”.

    This kind of help can be achieved in many ways, such as attending a well-designed course, listening to a well-prepared lecture, asking professor questions, participating in a research project, and so on. For me, all of them involve teaching and learning.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Happy Together » Necessary evil?? on 4/22/2005 at 3:31 am

    […] your paper without actually reading it. But it is what I have now. Alex also talked about some dilemmas of teaching in a research university. As a research assistant working in a research u […]

  2. By Happy Together » Necessary evil !? on 4/22/2005 at 4:00 am

    […] aper without actually reading it. But sometimes it really happens. Alex also talked about some dilemmas of teaching in a research university. As a research assistant working in a research u […]

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