Merging in a Seamless Blend: How Faculty Integrate Teaching and Research

By Colbeck, Carol L. | Journal of Higher Education, November-December 1998 | Go to article overview

Merging in a Seamless Blend: How Faculty Integrate Teaching and Research


Colbeck, Carol L., Journal of Higher Education


By continuing the research tradition of looking at faculty in the same fragmented way, we are sustaining the view that their work activities are not integrated and leaving open the door to the academic debate that the work they do conflicts with the needs of students and the expectations of the public. (Ludwig, 1996, pp. 74-75)

The way faculty allocate time to their teaching and research roles is the focus of much debate as higher education policymakers and administrators seek to improve faculty productivity (Jacobson, 1992; Mingle, 1993). Many states require faculty to report the time they spend accomplishing teaching, research, and other goals; several states have enacted substantive measures designed to change the way faculty allocate their time (Hines & Higham, 1996). Policy decisions about faculty work, however, may be hindered by inadequate information about the ways faculty actually spend time engaged in teaching and research (Ludwig, 1996).

Many scholars and administrators believe that the achievement of teaching and research goals requires faculty to engage in separate and distinct activities (Barnett, 1992). In this view, faculty teaching and research roles are always fragmented; the time that faculty spend accomplishing research goals is necessarily time that faculty are not achieving teaching goals (Massy & Zemsky, 1994). In contrast, some scholars and policy analysts assert that faculty members' teaching and research roles do not always involve separate and distinct uses of time. Clark's interviews with college and university faculty, for example, reveal that professors find their own teaching and research activities "merging in a seamless blend" (Clark, 1987, p. 70). In other words, faculty sometimes jointly produce teaching and research (Layzell, 1996; Romney, 1971). In this view, faculty teaching and research roles are sometimes integrated: faculty occasionally engage in activities that accomplish teaching and research goals at the same time.

Prior research shows that joint production of teaching and research can be efficient and cost effective for colleges and universities (Hopkins, 1990; Cohn, Rhine, & Santos, 1989). Similarly, faculty may improve their efficiency if they sometimes allocate time to activities that achieve both teaching and research goals (Becker, 1975). To illustrate, a faculty member might spend two hours reading source material and drafting notes for a paper she will present at an upcoming conference, then spend another two hours reading additional materials and writing the outline for her afternoon undergraduate lecture course. In this example, the faculty member's research and teaching efforts are fragmented, and the activities required to accomplish both goals take four hours. The same faculty member might spend two hours reading source material and drafting notes that she will use for both the conference paper and the undergraduate lecture. In the second example, the faculty member integrates teaching and research, and the activities required to accomplish both goals take only two hours. Efficiency is improved because both goals have been accomplished. By integrating teaching and research, the faculty member has two additional hours to accomplish other goals.(1)

Although many studies have been conducted about faculty work, there is little evidence about the ways or the extent to which faculty integrate teaching and research. Indeed, most existing studies assume faculty work roles are always fragmented. Faculty workload studies, for example, ask faculty to estimate the time they allocate to teaching, research, service, and administrative goals separately (Yuker, 1984; Jordan, 1994). Because the categories are predefined as mutually exclusive, faculty members' reports necessarily indicate that whenever faculty are doing research, they are not teaching.

Similarly, investigators who explored whether faculty teaching and research roles are complementary or conflicting have not explored the extent to which faculty engage in teaching and research activities at the same time.

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Merging in a Seamless Blend: How Faculty Integrate Teaching and Research
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