Asian Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

The Asian Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (AJSoTL) is an international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online journal. AJSoTL seeks to create and nurture a global network of academics and educators who will discuss ongoing changes and future trends in tertiary education.

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Balancing teaching and research in research intensive environments

Teaching and research are the primary intellectual activities of a university academic, and doing well in both of them is desirable and important. The (real or perceived) “tensions” between these two activities, particularly in research-intensive universities, may prompt the questions, “How does one strike a balance between teaching and research activities?” and “How does one excel in both teaching and research?”.

In this online discussion forum, we invite you to share your thoughts and experiences on this very important issue faced by academics. You could address one or more of the following questions.

 

  • How do/did you approach the challenge of balancing teaching and research?
  • How do you stay motivated to achieve this balance? Do you feel you have achieved it – or has one of the 2 roles won out?
  • Has your teaching helped your research (or vice versa)? What factors play a role here?
  • Has your institution addressed the teaching-research nexus through policies or strategies, and how successful have they been?

(Please indicate if you feel that your institution is teaching- or research-intensive, or has achieved a good mix of both roles)

1 Reply

Saketh1:

Aug 30, 2013

A Senior Professor in a State University in the US had shared his thoughts with me about a year ago (and he was OK to sharing it with others). I reproduce it below:

"It is commendable that some Universities are putting emphasis on teaching as much as on research. At one time the pendulum swung too much towards research (more specifically research income and output). For me both are (and should be) essential and natural features of any successful academic, not as defined by the University system, but as defined internally by each academic. I couldn’t succeed in one without the other. I have enjoyed both tremendously and each has strengthened my interest in the other in ways that are difficult to quantify or communicate.

Engaging deeply in research brings a certain level of fluency in the class room in responding to questions as one would have thought through much deeper issues and can relate to them and connect them to students experience to drive home the point. The level of discussion and the engagement of students’ attention increases in the class room. Projecting an air of confidence in the subject matter before the students is also important to get and keep their attention. Research is about asking increasingly tough questions and seeking answers to them. The same technique is effective in the class room also. Being on top of the research helps sharpen that process in the class room. If I were not active in research, I won’t become aware of advances in new technologies in the computing arena and I would still be teaching courses without mentioning software (things that did not exist when I did my undergraduate and graduate studies!) that have made learning more real and enjoyable . Hence active research helps in keeping one current in the class room.

How does good teaching help in research? This is perhaps less clear, particularly at the undergraduate level. The benefit may not be to the individual who is teaching a specific course, but there are clear benefits to society if that teacher can mentor, inspire and encourage the brightest students in the class to go to graduate school. As a strong researcher and an inspiring teacher, we are able to be much more successful in catalyzing that interest in the next generation of academics. I was fortunate to have such teachers in all three institutions that I attended. I try to emulate them.

Because research is becoming increasingly demanding, it is unfortunate that teaching only positions are becoming attractive for some and less expensive for Universities. From administering a University, a blended model where both co-exist may become more and more attractive. But a true academic must embrace both, as the reward is quite an exhilarating journey and the impact is much more stronger.

How does one balance both? That is a time management skill which I have not mastered! But I keep trying! 12-14 hour days are not uncommon. But if one enjoys both, that does not seem like a long day or a chore. Lots of time and time management skills will solve that problem of balancing both. The real challenge is when you throw in the time for family which is equally, if not more, important; but one which is outside the scope of this discussion. Because of its importance I would like say that every academic should strive to achieve that fine balance between teaching, research and family. Since research is often associated with glory it may be a time sink. Ability to recognize that and put a time limit on it will release enough time to enjoy the other two activities equally."

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