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Monday, August 22, 2011

Teaching & Research

My good friend and colleague Jorge has won a big teaching award. Of course, he is also one of the most publishing scholars in my department. Good teaching and good research often go together, so I don't think Jorge is a rare case in the least. It's like hitting and fielding in baseball: some will be better offensively and some defensively, but there will be plenty of talented athletes who are good at both.

Popular views of teaching in research posit two kinds of college professor: the absent-minded researcher who can't be bothered to teach well, and the dedicated teacher who is so devoted that there is no time for publications. Nowadays, you have to have a good teaching portfolio as a grad student to even get a tenure-track job. Pedagogical training is better and more extensive than it ever was. At least in the humanities and some social sciences, many prominent scholars genuinely care about undergraduate teaching and want to do it well. (I can't speak to the sciences, because I simply do not know enough, but it wouldn't surprise me to find more dedication to teaching than we might expect based on popular stereotypes.) People who stop doing research don't automatically become better teachers either. A good balance between the two activities helps to prevent academic burnout.

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