Time to show teaching matters

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

February 2, 2007 Ed Cartoon

Officially, Western’s professors are expected to devote 40 per cent of their time to teaching and 40 per cent to research; some believe research takes precedence over teaching ability in spite of these numbers.

It’s understandable Western’s administration wants a research-intensive faculty, as research generates money and prestige for the school.

However, good teaching skills shouldn’t be overlooked. Enthusiastic and engaging professors not only inspire students to learn more but also create a positive buzz about the school.

Research often enhances professors’ classroom skills. Their expertise and enthusiasm for a subject motivates students and their cutting-edge research can add a fresh perspective to the curriculum.

Unfortunately, many professors put too much energy into research and too little into their lectures. Many tenured professors are reluctant to teach first and second-year courses as they’d rather focus on their research or teach graduate students.

Even when experienced professors teach lower-level courses, their high expectations, lack of enthusiam or intellectual sophistication can confuse and frustrate students rather than inspire them.

Students pay lots of money to attend university and obtain a quality education; they want to be taught by the best of the best. One thing distinguishing Western from other schools and drawing students to it is its high-calibre faculty. It’s frustrating to discover many of these talented professors are too busy researching to teach properly, or at all.

Western’s part-time or limited-term faculty, who aren’t required to conduct research, are noticeably enthusiastic and dedicated to teaching.Though they may lack the accolades of tenured professors, the quality of education they offer students isn’t necessarily worse.

Having tenured professors teaching lower-level courses is ideal, but perhaps not realistic. After all, award-winning researchers can only teach beginners so much. Their expert knowledge can better benefit upper-level students looking to specialize in a subject.

These professors can challenge upper-year students to push new limits, while enthusiastic but less experienced professors can provide first-year students with a subject’s basic building blocks and inspire them to reach a higher level of learning.

Western must ensure its teaching is on par with its research. There are numerous ways Western can ensure research doesn’t trump teaching. For example, the school could have prize-winning researchers assist limited or part-time faculty in the classroom or could offer more incentives and awards to talented teachers.

Students and teachers also play a role in keeping Western’s teaching on par with its research. Attentive and eager students make teachers enthusiastic and engaging, and vice versa.

It’s time to show teaching matters.

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