Teaching and Research: Who Does What and How Well?

Part I of II

L. E. Olson

I happened on two papers that addressed the nexus of teaching and research, and found the conclusions interesting enough to pass along in two separate contributions to ExEdCom Corner. The first paper looked at productivity measures of research and teaching across a large number of faculty and institutions, and the second asked whether there were any data to support that contention that "teaching and research are mutually supporting if not inseparable" streams of work. This is of interest given the following quote from a recent Wall Street Journal article:

A growing number of schools are marketing themselves as places that emphasize teaching of all things??Giving up research aspirations generally consigns colleges to second- or third-tier status and means forgoing the research grants that help pay for the labs and science buildings that state budget cuts have made prohibitive. But with tuitions rising, and students incurring years of debt to finance their educations, it?s also tougher for universities to consign undergraduate teaching to part-timers while high-priced professors huddle in their labs.

Fairweather1 used data from the 1992-93 (US) National Survey of Postsecondary Faculty, representing 25,780 full and part-time faculty from 817 institutions stratified by Carnegie classification to answer two questions:

  1. What percentage of faculty are productive in teaching OR research?
  2. What percentage of the faculty are simultaneously productive in both teaching AND research?

Faculty were categorized as highly productive in research if the number of refereed publications in the past two years exceeded the median for their program area and institutional classification. Alternately, faculty were categorized as highly productive if the number of refereed publications fell in the second quartile AND they were either in the top quartile in total research dollars generated OR were in the top quartile of conference presentations, OR were above the median in both total research dollars AND conference presentations. Faculty were categorized as highly productive teachers using either a stringent measure or a relaxed measure. The stringent measure required that they be above the relevant median in classroom contact hour production (classroom hours x student headcount) OR be in the second quartile of student classroom contact hour production AND also in the top quartile of independent study contact hours AND in the top quartile of serving on dissertation and thesis committees AND used predominantly active instruction or collaborative learning (a proxy measure of teaching effectiveness). The relaxed measure did not include this latter requirement regarding teaching style.

Numbers of interest:

Research Institutions (all program areas)Health Sciences Program Area ( all institutions)
mean/faculty SE mean/faculty SE
Publications/92-93 year 5.8 0.2 5.8 0.3
PI (%)/92-93 year 47.3 1.4 39.2 1.9
Research $/92-93 year 198,654 17,391 175,064 23,640
Conference presentations/92-93 year 5.4 0.2 5.4 0.3
Student contact hours for Fall Qtr 317.6 15.2 557.2 39.5
Independent study contact hours for Fall Qtr 7.6 0.3 9.7 0.6
Thesis/dissertation committees for Fall Qtr 7.3 0.3 2.5 0.2
Proportion using active/collaborative instruction for Fall Qtr 0.2 0.01 0.2 0.02
Research Institutions
mean SE
% highly productive researchers 49 1.4
% highly productive teachers 52 1.4
Proportion using active/collaborative instruction 0.2 0.01
% productive in both teaching and research
Relaxed teaching criterion 22 1.2
Stringent teaching criterion 4.6 0.6

The author concludes that it is more common for faculty to be highly productive in either research OR teaching, than to be highly productive in both research AND teaching, given the selected productivity measures. He suggests that faculty productivity be aggregated across a department and that department chairs combine efforts of individual faculty to reach acceptable levels of productivity at the departmental level.

Interestingly, the author does not provide median values for benchmarking purposes. However, out of curiosity, I pulled some department numbers to which I had ready access for comparison purposes ? recognizing that this particular study does not include clinical service activities. Teaching productivity measured as student contact hours in the Department of Veterinary Biosciences ranges from near zero to a quarterly average of 6530 student hours. Research productivity, as measured by expenditures during the 04 calendar year averages $202,106 per regular faculty2, and ranges from zero to $1,469,441, with approximately 50% of the regular faculty reporting extramurally funded expenditures. It made me wonder how many faculty in the Department of Veterinary Biosciences would meet the definition of "complete faculty"; i.e. highly productive in teaching AND research when benchmarked against 1992/1993 national data?

I present these data because they stimulated me to think beyond activities; i.e. what we do, to productivities; i.e. what we "deliver" as a result of the activities? I would encourage each faculty member to do some mental arithmetic as we approach "annual review" season. What are the appropriate productivity measures and how do we know how well we stack up ? as individuals, department, colleges, and as a university?

In addition, given these rough estimates of productivity and the fact that the majority of faculty are unable to achieve high productivity in both research and teaching simultaneously, what about the belief that teaching and research are complementary; is it supportable by data? Stay tuned.

1. Fairweather, J. S. The Mythologies of Faculty Productivity: Implications for Institutional Policy and Decision Making. J. Higher Ed. 73(1) 26-48, 2002.

2. I assumed that there were 30 regular faculty in the Department when making this calculation.