Tuesday, 13 August 2013

On the value of Teaching

In modern Academia, you might come across with the terms “assessment”, “league tables”, “research inputs and research outputs”, “publications in peer-reviewed journals”, “h-index” and “number of citations” very often.
In fact, a single day might not pass when you or one of your colleagues does not think or consider one of these terms.
There is nothing wrong with that.  In one way…

On the other hand, how often have you come across with  terms “continuous development” , “teaching and learning”, “writing a textbook”, “e-learning”, “learning outcomes” ?

We all like to consider ourselves as top-class researchers and excellent teachers.
Teaching and research are two virtues that top Academics can indeed combine.
And when I write “top Academics”, in fact I mean very few…
I have met very few of them in my 25 years in Universities.

What makes them good researchers and good teachers at the same time?
How can we encourage people to combine research and teaching?
How can we persuade them that writing this chapter for that book is NOT actually a waste of time but some exercise with some value and substance?

Is it possible, in a more general context, to change the way that “committees” and “evaluation teams” assess Universities and persuade them (i.e. the committees’ members) to value equally research and teaching?

I think not! [ here is some food for thought ]

However, I do believe in combining writting books and design new  training courses but also in pursuing research and writing research papers at the same time…It is not easy…not easy at all...
but exciting things are never easy!

Writing books may look boring and not a rewarding output when it comes to research assessment BUT a book means two things:
  1. that you know what you are writing and
  2. you can put it on a piece of paper (or a laptop screen)

Designing courses (MSc or e-learning or CPD) is equally boring and exciting. Boring in research terms (although the best results can sometimes be reaped while talking to colleagues to design a new course!) but so so exciting: how to bring a set of scientific knowledge (e.g. on heart disease or functional food) to a wider audience and train Academic and Industrial people on specific topics.

I do admit it: personally, I find this very very rewarding.
When an ex-student comes to my office or emails me (years after his graduation) and he mentions that “that lecture/chapter was really helpful”.

So, Teaching VS Research?

Or should we say Teaching AND Research?

P.S. While writing these lines this August morning (instead of making some baits to go fishing!) I was trying to remember my best teachers in Greece and UK. There are only two or three who are good in both (teaching and researching).
The best teachers though…I remember them as Passionate in teaching and explaining things and thought-facilitators. These are really valued!

Equally, the best researchers were really bad teachers…(with the exemption of one or two, at most…)

At the end of the day, we are what we are thanks to our Teachers / Mentors / Tutors /Trainers. Not thanks to the Researchers…

Over and out, I am going fishing ;)

I leave you with a song for the Teachers! My teachers! who make a difference!


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