Melissa at Confused at a Higher Level has a nice post on the tension between faculty research and teaching:
Malachowski writes, “We all know that working with undergraduates is time consuming and in some cases it slows down our research output, but work with undergraduates should be supported, celebrated, and compensated at a high level. For most of us, the process involved in research with students is as important as the product.” If colleges adopt a narrow definition of scholarly productivity measured only by publications, they may unintentionally provide incentives for faculty not to include undergraduates. As a junior faculty member, the tension between trying to get results in a timely manner and investing time in student researchers has been palpable for me. I enjoy and prioritize working with students in my research projects (and the students I work with are wonderful contributors). However, as I talk with junior faculty at other primarily undergraduate institutions, there is a broad spectrum of how much institutions value student involvement in faculty scholarship and how much the faculty reward structure is oriented towards publications. I appreciate undergraduate institutions that take a big-tent approach and recognize that there are many results from faculty research beyond peer-reviewed publications, one of the most valuable being the undergraduate students who have gained research experience and take that experience with them to their future careers.
(This is in response to a paywalled op-ed in the CUR Quarterly that I can’t access.)
This is something that faculty at small colleges struggle with all the time. On the one hand, we need to do research to get tenure, and to stay connected with our fields. On the other hand, we need to educate our students, which includes teaching them how to do research. And teaching students to do research necessarily involves a lot of very slow progress, as they find their way around.
These two missions are often in conflict. I could make faster progress in the lab if I chased my students away and did everything myself, but then they wouldn’t learn anything. Of course, when there are stretches of time when I can’t get in the lab at all, this means that progress tends to grind to a halt. Finding the right balance is a really difficult thing to do.
I don’t have any brilliant solutions to offer, though I’m happy to hear some if you have them– please, leave a comment with a brilliant solution. I just wanted to note this, because it’s something that’s been on my mind recently, and it’s nice to be reminded that it’s a universal problem (for values of “universal” restricted to undergraduate institutions).