Both within and outside higher education, the perception (and too often the reality) is that at many colleges and universities, research productivity is valued more than teaching effectiveness (e.g., Bleak et al., 2000; Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, 1998; Gray et al., 1996; Rice et al., 2000). At other kinds of institutions, such as community colleges and some liberal arts institutions and comprehensive universities, teaching is considered paramount, and the evaluation of teaching and learning has received greater attention. Even in some of these schools, however, the increased availability of public and private funds for research has shifted this priority such that some faculty may question whether effective teaching is valued as highly in their institutions as it has been in the past.

This gap can be attributed both to the ways in which research is sponsored and to the importance ascribed to scholarship that emphasizes discovery of new knowledge, application of that knowledge through technology transfer, or impact on regional economic growth. There also is a perceived difference in objectivity and credibility between the evaluation of research productivity and that of teaching effectiveness.

In the world of research, peers who work in closely related areas are the rigorous evaluators of the quality of a research scholar’s work. Serving as anonymous reviewers for granting agencies and professional journals, these referees are the main source of formal critical feedback to researchers. Less formally, researchers are assessed, and assess themselves, when they take advantage of their many opportunities to share ideas and learn from colleagues in their own or other institutions. Home institutions bask in the reflected glory of their most distinguished research faculty. In turn, institutions often provide them with perquisites such as endowed positions; additional research support; laboratory space; higher salaries; and few or no other responsibilities, including teaching and advising of undergraduate students. On the other hand, researchers who fail to produce or who become unproductive may lose institutional support, are given diminished space in which to work, are assigned fewer student assistants, or are denied tenure or promotion.

In contrast to the well-established norms for scientific research, many colleges and universities rely heavily on faculty initiative to nurture and sustain improvement of teaching and learning. Although criteria for assessing performance in the research arena are well established relative to those for assessing performance in teaching, the committee agrees with Boyer’s (1990) contention that teaching in higher

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement