Teaching Today's Students, Tips on Teaching

Striking a Balance in Scholarship and Teaching

by Robert Cole, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

Upon entering academia, we are very aware that scholarship and research are emphasized on the path to success. Kehrer and Svenson (2012) state that “At its core, a university is a community of scholars, scholarship should permeate every… college and school”. However, now more than ever, universities are beginning to expect good researchers to be good teachers as well. Finding this balance between scholarship and teaching and including other expectations such as service and time for yourself and family is a difficult task for some.

Creating and adhering to an explicit plan for meeting your teaching and research goals are at the heart of creating the balance between these and other interests. Rockquemore (2017) suggests creating a plan in which you categorize time by research, teaching, service and me time (Vicens and Bourne 2009). Vicens and Bourne (2009) assert that an unfulfilling personal life is incompatible with successful teaching and research careers.

Begin by creating a calendar on which you block out times for both teaching and research, long-term goals first then short-term goals leading you to achieve the long-term goals. As you’re drafting your proposal, think about the time frame for the various steps from completing the proposal you are working on to submitting the final work for publication. In addition, think about your current teaching schedule and potential teaching schedule for future semesters. Keep in mind the parts of teaching such as planning, grading, communicating with students and attending office hours that would require blocks of time and goal setting as well.  As they become clearer, make goals as specific as possible to create both a realistic picture of the work ahead and to ensure each area is being adequately addressed. In addition to long- and short-term goals for teaching and research, add time blocks for service and time for you; the me time alluded to by Vicens and Bourne (2009).

Vicens and Bourne (2009) offer other considerations that may be helpful in achieving your goals.

If possible, begin teaching early in your career. An increasing number of universities are developing programs to offer teaching experience to graduate students and post-docs.

Once you are teaching, consider bringing your research interests into your teaching. Many students are interested in how what you teach relates to the world around them. Moreover, integrating your research and teaching may make one or both more palatable to you. In addition, talking about your research while teaching may serve as a recruiting tool, encouraging students to think about a line of research they hadn’t thought about before. It may even provide inroads to taking on student researchers aiding in your goal attainment and allowing you to spend time on other issues.

When it comes to designing and teaching a course, you do not have to recreate the wheel. Consider making use of development programs and resources to assist you in the process of creating a course or revising a preexisting course to make it your own. Also, think about making use of text books that have robust ancillary materials that will aid you in planning your classes and creating supporting materials. Finally, if you have access to teaching assistants, think about collaborating with them to not only help assist you with your teaching load, but also to provide them with some experience.

Be honest with yourself and attentive to your goals when taking on other responsibilities. Some service opportunities or other secondary commitments are very attractive, but may not serve to move you forward in your pursuit of goal attainment. Outside of research and teaching, consider taking on what is required until you have a better idea of the time commitments required for your goals. Then you may be freer to take on additional things that you are passionate about.

Sometimes you may have to think about compromise. There may be times when something that is not parallel with your teaching or research goals is very attractive. It may be a new course that would be really exciting to design and teach or a committee assignment addressing a topic to which you are particularly committed. The compromise may mean you have to decline some things you really want to do in favor of the things you must do to reach your goals.

After completing this activity, you should have a calendar which maps your time over the life of your research project and teaching as well as service and personal time. Incremental goal setting of short- and long-term goals should allow you to progress toward your ultimate goal efficiently and deliberately. The final and perhaps most difficult step is to commit to enacting and following the map. To help with that, consider choosing a day each week to reflect on where you are in the plan. What has been accomplished and what still needs to be done? How does the plan need to be adjusted because something didn’t work out last week, or because something worked so well you could proceed with additional steps early? Knowing full well that life happens and things don’t usually go to plan, flexibility and being kind to yourself will help tremendously. But most importantly, commit to the plan. Setbacks or advancements are inevitable, but keep moving forward. Your planning and patience will be rewarded.

If you would like to discuss matters of balancing your teaching and research responsibilities, consider requesting a consultation with someone in the Reinert Center.

Kehrer, J. and Svensson, C., (2012). Advancing Pharmacist Scholarship and Research Within Academic Pharmacy. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education: Volume 76, Issue 10, Article 187.

Rockquemore, K. A., PhD, January 16, 2017 in her Monday Motivator http://www.facultydiversity.org/

Vicens Q, Bourne PE (2009) Ten Simple Rules To Combine Teaching and Research. PLoS Comput Biol 5(4): e1000358. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000358