Research and Teaching

Moderator: I’ll ask this section again another question from this section. Sir, quickly?

Audience Member: Jim McNeil, Colorado School of Mines. I’m the head of the Engineering Physics Program there and I deal with new faculty all the time. We hire a new faculty member to do research material science, we give them $400,000 or whatever for startup, and if they decide to go into the education research their tenure is in jeopardy. So to those faculty members I say, you stay focused on the research for which you were hired. On the other hand, teaching excellence is of high value at our institution.

So I tell these new faculty, go to the teaching workshops, become knowledgeable, understand the fundamentals of human learning, have a theoretical basis upon which you can build your pedagogic philosophy. Then implement best practices, stay current in education research, go to education conferences, but that is very different than conducting education research.

Moderator: Did you say $400,000?

[laughter]

Moderator: Colorado School of Mines

[laughter]

Moderator: Any comment? Sir?

Gary Gabriele: I think that’s certainly good advice, but I think in the end and hopefully you’ll do this it means something to that young faculty member when they sit down with you at the end of every year and hear about their evaluation. So, I think in the end it still has to come back to have they seen any value and have they been credited for having done that.

Moderator: Sheri?

Sheri Sheppard: You know, I think Jeremy made the comment that he’s hoping other people have cleared the path. In some ways, to be honest with you, Jeremy, you’re creating a new path because the model you were talking about is someone who’s educated, with their Ph.D. in a traditional area, and that’s what they’ve been hired for.
You’re at the front of actually getting your Ph.D. in a new field and saying, this is the main work that I’m bringing to your institution. I really do hope our institutions are going to have their doors wide open to you.

Jeremy Noonan: Well, it’ll be quite a job for me to sell myself.

Jim Pellegrino: The point about encouraging junior faculty to be excellent teachers in the current climate in universities, the typical research side of the tenure portfolio as well as the quality teaching side are becoming increasingly balanced. But I would make a plea, and a concern that I have, is that while we seem to know how to use the wider community to evaluate the quality of research we do that all the time, we are still abysmal in the higher education in terms of evaluating teaching. Quite frankly, that twenty-item bubble sheet that’s completed by the students at the end of each semester is hardly an adequate evaluation of teaching. It’s a beauty contest. Until we equally invest in really evaluating teaching, and having colleagues evaluate their colleagues’ teaching in serious and sustainable ways, where the engineering education community can help as well as others, I don’t think we’re going to see it valued. Because, quite frankly, I put very little faith in the psychometrics as well as the validity of those end-of-course evaluations.

Juan Rivera: I would add that until executive management in the academic institutions make it a priority, as part of the yearly evaluation process, that it won’t get the attention that this deserves.

David Radcliffe: The other piece I’d add based on our history is that we had a system that was developmental, to help new faculty in their teaching. But then the university said, well, we want to measure that at promotion time or tenure time so we’ll take that data. So, suddenly a developmental thing becomes an evaluative thing, and that totally debases it. Trying to have a system that is development, separate from the evaluations is absolutely critical.

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