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Balancing Teaching and Research

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As an academic, you may sometimes feel the demands of teaching and research as opposing forces. It is a challenge to do both, to one's satisfaction, during the same period of time. Promotion processes in the institution, in addition to your own desires to break ground and develop intellectually, probably require you to have research projects in the works most of the time. Yet, as a responsible professor, it is imperative that you not become so preoccupied with your own projects, graduate students or consulting jobs that you give the undergraduates - who are after all, your major clients - short shrift. Thus you may need to create a system for alternating the two vital activities of research and teaching, to obtain a degree of balance that is satisfactory to your students as well as yourself. It is important to realize that balancing teaching, research and service is individual and particular to the home department. Becoming a careful planner pays off, however, if you take into account the beneficial interaction of the two spheres. Teaching and research are both creative and both spring from the urge to discover, understand and instruct. It is not surprising, then, that the two aspects of academic practice enrich each other - more so, if you intend them to. Similarities between the two activities:

  • teaching and research depend upon the same fundamental principles, and because they share some common ground, you can occasionally use your research experiences as examples to illuminate the principles you teach;
  • teaching and research both involve presenting information and ideas, necessitating good communication skills;
  • teaching and research both require imagination in their analysis and synthesis; both have to do with connections that are facilitated by such means as analogies, sense experiences, visualizations and geometric models;
  • questions which come up in class can suggest new directions for research, while experimentation provides an opportunity to communicate your excitement to the students and give them a current context.

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