Friday, July 29, 2011

A Team of Catchers

Last time, I wrote: 

Some of us live for the opportunity to conduct research; some of us live for teaching; some of us live for the interaction with the community. I believe it is good that we are not all driven by the same motivations.

I mentioned in that post that research and teaching seem almost antithetical at times, but I believe there is a benefit in viewing research, teaching, and outreach as a system of scholarship activities.

Let me focus on just research and teaching. How, then, can we get our “great researchers” to better appreciate the teaching role and our “great teachers” to better appreciate the research role? (Of course, this is not a universal problem, but where it exists it needs to be addressed.)

When these questions come up, I like to point out that as important as a catcher is to a baseball team, it is very unlikely that the best baseball team would be constructed by putting the nine best catchers on the field as a team. Imagine grouping the eleven best quarterbacks together to form a football team or the five best centers together to form a basketball team!

No, the best teams have a diversity of great players filling many different roles. In fact, I think the players on great teams have high expectations of the each other and they work together to ensure that each player has the best opportunity to excel. Notably, the players on the great teams often assist each other when mistakes do occur. In other words, they are “in it together.”

I encourage our “great researchers” to remember that in the greater public’s mind, universities exist to educate students. Our researchers often focus on working with doctoral students, but that group is typically too small to justify the great researcher’s working life. The great researcher must make an effort to ensure the new knowledge being created is described in a manner that lends itself to communication to persons outside of the research community. The great researcher does not fulfill all of her obligation to scholarship when she fails to effectively communicate her discoveries.

I encourage our “great teachers” to remember that in today’s business world, the organizations that recruit our students expect those students to bring new ideas into the organization. It is not enough to teach the same material that covered the topic last year in the same way. The great teacher must also make an effort to ensure the new knowledge being created is getting into the classroom. The great teacher does not fulfill his entire obligation to scholarship when he is not current in the research in his field and thus cannot effectively understand the latest discoveries in the discipline.

We need great researchers and great teachers – and they need to work as a team to produce great graduates.

A team of catchers simply won’t do.

1 comment:

  1. excellent! I hope this thinking represents a trend...