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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Productivity

The only things academics produce are publications. Those are the only widgets we make. Productivity in teaching would be what, the number of students taught? Then a large section is always more productive than a small one. Power-point lectures to 400 students are the most productive. Once again, then, teaching and research are defined so differently that the very definition of productivity is wildly different: the graduate prof with a lot of publications is likely to teach fewer courses with fewer students and be less productive, however brilliant her teaching.

Economists talk about productivity as how much work each employee can churn out per hour, so that is a measure of efficiency.
One of my goals this summer is to learn to distinguish, by ear, the various palos of flamenco, because I want to teach a course on this some day. This is productive work but not efficient. All the work on the scholarly base seems highly unproductive, in fact, because it doesn't lead directly to articles and books, and only some of it filters down into classes taught. I could never justify all my work on the scholarly base in the management-speak of "productivity."

8 comments:

matt said...

What a great idea for a post, that work on the scholarly base tends to feel unproductive.

I feel this way all the time. I'll be working on a specific project like an article or a dissertation chapter, and I run across a text I know I should read to become a competent member of my community, but can't justify reading given the need to feel productive.

could this feeling of not being productive sometimes serve as a sign of useful work?

Jonathan said...

Try to have times slots devoted to writing, to reasearch specific to the main enchilada, and the free play of the mind. That way you can actually schedule the scholarly base by having these three categories in separate time frames.

Jonathan said...

Also, the people who are the most productive also end up with the largest scholarly bases. The larger the base, the more ideas you will have.

Contingent Cassandra said...

Sadly, there's an organization, The Center for College Affordability and Productivity that is measuring professors' productivity on the basis of credit hours taught (which, yes, favors larger classes, including those which use TAs -- whose labor doesn't seem to be figured into the calculation). They also measure research productivity by dollars brought into the university from outside sources, which of course doesn't work very well for humanists. The Washington Post's education bloggers have been drawing a lot on their reports recently, with very little distance or skepticism -- a distressing development.

Jonathan said...

The Washington Post owns Kaplan and other for-profit diploma mills.

profacero said...

Does it, truly?

...At my U they officially like publications, but what they really like are SCHs and large amounts of external funding.

Clarissa said...

"The Washington Post owns Kaplan and other for-profit diploma mills."

-Really? Now so many things have become clear.

Jonathan said...

That explains the Wapo editorial page positions on education. It is really scandalous.