The Impact of Departmental Research and Teaching Climates on Undergraduate Growth and Satisfaction

By Volkwein, J. Fredericks; Carbone, David A. | Journal of Higher Education, March-April 1994 | Go to article overview

The Impact of Departmental Research and Teaching Climates on Undergraduate Growth and Satisfaction


Volkwein, J. Fredericks, Carbone, David A., Journal of Higher Education


Introduction and Problem Statement

Achieving the proper balance between the discovery and the transmission of knowledge is a major challenge for research universities. The faculty's institutional role (to provide instruction for students) may compete with the faculty's professional role (to carry out research and scholarship.) Caplow and McGee |14~ were among the first to study the interesting dichotomy created by institutions that hire faculty primarily to teach but give them promotion and salary advancement based primarily on their research and scholarship.

Many authors |19, 30, 48~ view these faculty research and teaching roles as being in conflict. Clark Kerr |30~ describes the "federal grant university" as one in which the best faculty are diverted from undergraduate education by the lure of research grants and graduate instruction. Sample |40~ argues that research can produce intellectual narrowness and overspecialization. At least three national reports have expressed concerns about the weakened priority of undergraduate instruction in universities: "Involvement in Learning" |34~, "Integrity in the College Curriculum" |2~, and "The Undergraduate Experience in America" |8~. Sykes, in his book Profscam, paints an unattractive picture of faculty life -- one that ignores the needs of students |42~. Additionally, students, parents, and many legislators and trustees generally expect faculty t be more devoted to teaching students than to research and scholarship. State reviews of faculty teaching workloads have been conducted or are underway in at least five states |12~.

A second view, held by other authors, is that research and teaching are companions, not competitors. These authors argue that learning through research increases faculty knowledge and intellectual vitality |29~, that faculty who carry out research and scholarship are more likely to produce desirable student outcomes |1~, that teaching fosters a love of knowledge that compells one to conduct research |43~, that the best faculty scholars and best students both tend to be attracted to research universities |7~, that being a productive scholar stimulates faculty interest and enthusiasm |15~, that scholarly performance is the best test of one's ability to perform in the classroom |11~, that faculty who are productive in research are more likely to challenge students by their higher expectations |32~, and that research productivity reflects systematic thinking, self-discipline and orderliness, which are concomitants of good teaching |23~. Faculty and administrators at research universities generally believe that scholarship and discovery define the specia mission of the institution and benefit both students and society as a whole |28~.

A third possibility is that research productivity and instructional effectiveness have no relationship to each other. Feldman's |22~ review and synthesis of the literature on research performance and teaching performance lends empirical support to this view. Across twenty-nine studies, he reports that the average correlation between student ratings of instruction and various measures of faculty research productivity is 0.12. He also found little support for the hunch that research production has a differential impact on specific dimensions of instruction. In other words, these studies report a positive but weak relationship between measures of research and scholarly productivity on th one hand, and measures of teaching effectiveness on the other.

The vast majority of studies rely upon student ratings of instruction as the dependent measure. The published literature contains only a few studies that examine the relationship between faculty research activity and student outcomes as distinct from student ratings |23, 26, 27, 39~. The studies by Friedrich and Michalak |23~ and by Rossman |39~ were conducted at relatively small private liberal arts colleges. The Hoyt |27~ and Hoyt and Spangler |26~ studies took place at a relatively large public research university and produced somewhat different results than the other two. …

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The Impact of Departmental Research and Teaching Climates on Undergraduate Growth and Satisfaction
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