How important is the teaching role to the tenure-track professors?

This article was originally delivered as part of the Future Professoriate course at Virginia Tech.

11/9/20201 min read

Today, Class, I’m Proud To Announce My Tenure is a drawing by Farley Katz

I have been in higher education since 2013 and my shallow experience may not be enough to comprehensively judge the education system, but what has been engaging my mind is that the boundary of teaching with research is not optimally handled in higher education, especially in the U.S. schools. I have had many experiences with professors in the U.S. who were not devoting enough to their teaching responsibility. In the engineering fields (which I have been involved with), the importance of seizing funding opportunities has adversely affected the faculty member’s passion for teaching and preparing the next generation of young scholars.

I think the current education system – especially in engineering school – directs the tenure-track faculty members to assign more weight to the publications and bringing funds to the school to secure their tenured position. This does not mean that the teaching part has no significance. However, my initial feeling was that young professors try to be as nice as possible to their students and try not to make the homework and assessments too challenging to keep the class participants satisfied. This can sometimes hinder the students to gain the most out of a class.

While I do not visualize a short-term change in the priorities of the tenure-track faculty members, technology can introduce workarounds to enhance the quality of teaching and lower its burden for the instructors. This can be done through a one-time design of the course material (especially presentation lectures) which can save much time for the instructor. By ensuring top quality of the course material, the trade-off between time consumption and course quality is handled such that the students benefit from a well-prepared lecture and the faculty member can efficiently manage the course load and other tasks.