Research vs teaching? PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 05 August 2017 00:00
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Sarthak edit

Seems a false tradeoff but it is best left to universities


Education minister Prakash Javadekar appears to have fallen for the line advocated by a vocal section of university teachers going by his statement, the other day, that research output will no longer be mandatorily considered while evaluating the performance of college teachers. College teachers looking for a lighter load, of course, should hold the champagne since Javadekar spoke of student-related activity and community-work as possible ways to evaluate teachers—in other words, the work-load may not immediately decrease. It is true that there is no binary relationship between quality of teaching and research output, and there are many studies that say quite the opposite even though, as a general rule, you would think a teacher doing research would have that much more to offer students. So, a Brookings report in January based on data from Northwestern University in the US found no relationship between research and quality of teaching; a 1996 study by Hattie and Marsh argued “the common belief that teaching and research were inextricably intertwined is an enduring myth”. Yet, research by Baxter-Magolda of the Miami University of Ohio, a research university in the US, finds involving students in faculty research and research-like activities led to them acquiring more sophisticated knowledge and developing into more confident learners.

What is missing in this debate, though, is that the research requirements for government teachers are not that onerous to begin with. At the Delhi University, for instance, assistant professors have to score a minimum aggregate of 110-120 points per year of which 10-20 (depending on annual grade pay) points are to be from research activities and to be promoted to associate professors, they must score a minimum of 30 points per year under the research activities head; associate professors must score a minimum of 30 points per year and 40 points to be promoted as professor. Professors have the lightest teaching burden but the heaviest research burden, being required to score a minimum of 40 points per year under the head. Javadekar may be right in saying making research mandatory has lowered the quality of research, but the cure is implementing it right and not junking the idea altogether. While a debate on the pros and cons of research can go on forever, since the government is freeing up universities anyway, perhaps the best is to adopt the American model where it is left to the universities to define their priorities—’research’ universities in the US expect their faculty, both tenure and tenure-track, to continuously engage in research while ‘teaching’ universities focus largely on providing tertiary education, with often largely vocational/professional course offerings.



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