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Are Teaching & Research Oppositional?

February 9, 2012

An article last year in The Chronicle of Higher Education highlights what I’ve believed all along – teaching is an important part of being an academic, a scholar and a member of the higher education community.

The article details a recent study in the Science journal which argues that grad students who both teach and conduct research show greater improvement in their research skills than those who restrict themselves to just conducting research. Teaching vs. research is a bad binary that limits the dialogue and cordons off faculty and students into ‘research streams’ or ‘teaching streams’.

What is needed is more focus on praxis, the connection between the research and the practicing of the theory and skills learned. Teaching is about more than simply instructing others or relaying information, it is about practicing theory, finding new and innovative ways to communicate information, and about being reflective – all things that will prove beneficial for the researcher. Research is about more than analyzing and collecting data and then writing about it, it is about exploration, analytical thinking, and problem solving – all things that will prove beneficial for the teacher.

So, instead of the typical viewpoint which sees teaching as a distraction from research, perhaps we need to see teaching as a vital part of developing research skills. This also demands an expansion of the definition of research beyond publishable material. There is the need for the re-envisioning of the role of the academic to a more holistic vision that sees the connections between service, teaching and research – each informing and strengthening the other.

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