The teaching researcher: faculty attitudes towards the teaching and research roles

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Newcastle (Australia)]On: 03 October 2014, At: 07:10Publisher: Taylor & FrancisInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    The teaching researcher: facultyattitudes towards the teaching andresearch rolesE. Alpaya & R. Verschoorba Faculty of Engineering, Imperial College London, SouthKensington, London, UKb Imperial College London, South Kensington, London, UKPublished online: 13 Mar 2014.

    To cite this article: E. Alpay & R. Verschoor (2014) The teaching researcher: faculty attitudestowards the teaching and research roles, European Journal of Engineering Education, 39:4, 365-376,DOI: 10.1080/03043797.2014.895702

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  • European Journal of Engineering Education, 2014Vol. 39, No. 4, 365376, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03043797.2014.895702

    The teaching researcher: faculty attitudes towards the teachingand research roles

    E. Alpaya and R. Verschoorb

    aFaculty of Engineering, Imperial College London, South Kensington, London, UK; bImperial CollegeLondon, South Kensington, London, UK

    (Received 26 March 2013; accepted 11 February 2014)

    Results from a survey on faculty attitudes towards the teaching and research roles are presented. Atten-tion is given to: (i) the perceived value of teaching (and teaching achievements) relative to research, (ii)approaches for research and teaching integration, (iii) the satisfaction gained from typical work tasks, and(iv) the importance of various work-life factors. Factors such as academic freedom, an intellectual workenvironment, flexible work hours, inspirational colleagues, and work diversity are found to be highly val-ued. Support from peers and colleagues is also seen as a key in learning to manage the different academicroles. A relatively low value is attributed to teaching achievements. Likewise, there is often little utilisationof teaching opportunities to support research work (other than senior-year research projects). Female fac-ulty were found to give marginally a higher importance to teaching recognition and collaborative teachingopportunities. Based on the findings, general recommendations for supporting the teaching researcher arepresented.

    Keywords: teaching and research integration; faculty roles; gender differences

    1. Introduction

    Tensions between research and teaching in university have been widely reported, see e.g. Ramsdenand Moses (1992), Jenkins et al. (1998), Serow (2000), Jenkins and Healey (2005), Taylor (2007),and Lucas et al. (2008). In recent years, there has been a re-emergence of interest in the natureand practice of researchteaching integration, in part confounded by the increasing competitive-ness amongst universities for both research funding and high student satisfaction ratings (Alpay2012). Moreover, there are concerns of the growing dichotomy between the teaching and researchresponsibilities of academic staff. For example, whilst institutional and personal prestige mayrely on research output, there is an increasing demand for student training and skills developmentfor work and leadership in practical and global contexts. Indeed, students themselves often stressa desire for such development and for greater involvement in the research life of the institution(Zamorski 2002; Alpay et al. 2008; Jenkins et al. 2008). Thus, a strong need exists for improvedsynergy in the teaching and research realms of such institutions.

    Corresponding author. Email: e.alpay@surrey.ac.ukCurrent address: Department of Chemical and Process Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences,University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey GU2 7XH, UK.

    2014 SEFI

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    mailto:e.alpay@surrey.ac.uk

  • 366 E. Alpay and R. Verschoor

    Previous work on research and teaching integration has considered the perspectives of students(Jenkins et al. 1998; Healey and Jenkins 2009), faculty (Ellen, Lindblom-Yianne, and Clement2007; Lucas et al. 2008), and academic institutions (Taylor 2007; Gull 2010). In general, suchstudies have led to insights on the approaches and antecedents for researchteaching integration,the benefits of such integration on graduate attributes and managerial and institutional approachesfor teachingresearch balance. However, tangential to the studies has been the specific facultymotivations for researchteaching integration and indeed an academic career overall. One notableexception has been the work of Rowland (2006) on the promotion of enquiry-based learning asthe key to capitalise on the academics love for their subject. Nevertheless, concern still remainsfor motivational drivers for teaching outside the immediate research interests of the academic.In a similar way, where practical methods are offered to help facilitate, support, and manage ateaching and research balance, the long-term incentives for such a balance are unclear given someof the inherent weaknesses for teaching in research-intensive universities (Alpay and Jones 2012).

    In understanding personal motivational drivers, attention also needs to be given to in-groupvariations, such as academic rank and gender. Attitudes towards teaching and research are likelyto change with work experience and be influenced by the cultural and institutional expectationsassociated with the individuals academic standing or career stage. Likewise, social and culturalinfluences may lead to different male and female attitudes, perspectives and experiences of engi-neering and subsequently the academic role in engineering; see the discussions of Sagebiel andDahmen (2006). Indeed, such influences may lead to the various reported gender inequalities inacademic careers and outcomes (Probert 2005; Barnard et al. 2012; Dobson 2012; Duch et al.2012). Although much has been reported on gender differences in academic job satisfaction (see,e.g. the review of Sabharwal and Corley 2009), to date, little has been published on gender dif-ferences in, for example, the drivers for researchteaching integration and the relative value ofteaching- and research-related academic achievements and accolades.

    Recently, the current authors have undertaken a UK Higher Education funded project titledPractices and Approaches for the Integration of Teaching and Research. The aim of the study wasto identify and disseminate practices that help faculty manage and integrate their research andteaching roles. Data were collected from semi-structured interviews, case studies, and a nationalonline survey. The survey particularly focussed on a broad range of faculty attitudes towards theteaching and research roles, such as:

    (1) the perceived value of teaching (and teaching achievements) relative to research,(2) general approaches for research and teaching integration,(3) the satisfaction gained from common teaching and research activities, and(4) the importance of various work-life factors.

    The survey also enabled exploration of any differences in perspectives based on, e.g. years ofemployment and gender, thus providing a general insight into the experiences of being a teachingresearcher. This paper will focus on data collected from the national survey.

    2. Methodology

    2.1. Overall research design

    The overall project involved a combination of surveys, semi-structured interviews, and case stud-ies. Several scientists and engineers (Table 1) were initially consulted to explore their views onteachingresearch links and issues, and to enable formulating relevant questions for both thesurvey and in-depth case studies. For the case studies, Science, Technology, Engineering andMathematics (STEM) academics from across the UK were selected based on their achievements

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  • European Journal of Engineering Education 367

    Table 1. Overview of consultation team.

    Position/role (number of people) Affiliation

    Senior academic staff across STEM universities (13) Universities of Aston, Loughborough, Liverpool,Northumbria and Imperial College London

    Education consultants (3) Engineering EducationAcademic and curriculum advisors (2) Higher Education AcademyPrincipal concept engineer (1) Industry (Shell)Educational development lecturers and equivalent (4) Imperial College, Kings College, Newcastle

    University

    in both teaching and research (Verschoor and Alpay 2011). As mentioned above, the online sur-vey was designed to obtain complementary data on a broad range of faculty attitudes towardsthe teaching and research roles. The data were collected from a wide pool of academics (seebelow).

    2.2. Participants

    Although the target audience of this study was faculty in research-intensive universities, datacollection was from a broad range of institutions to reflect individual examples of teaching andresearch excellence across the Higher Education sector. Specifically, a wide network of HigherEducation Institutions was established through contacts within three UK university groups: theRussell group, i.e. an association of 24 public research universities; the Million+ group, com-prising 22 post-1992 universities of former College or Polytechnic (i.e. teaching-only) standing;and the 1994 group comprising 11 relatively small research universities. Data collection was fromfaculty across the STEM sector.

    2.3. Questionnaire

    A summary of the survey questions is given in Table 2. These were a mix of closed and openquestions, the former typically requiring a response on a 7-point Likert scale. Two questionswere adapted from previously published surveys, i.e. Questions 8 and 9 on practices for/theperceived value of teaching and research integration. Questions exploring the specific value andenjoyment of academic roles and achievements (i.e. Questions 11, 13, and 15) were designedto focus on equivalent teaching- and research-related matters (e.g. a teaching publication and aresearch publication), thus enabling an internal reference for gauging the relative value of each.The questionnaire was transcribed into SurveyMonkey for online administration and piloted onthree academic colleagues.

    2.4. Procedure

    Several routes were used for the electronic circulation of the questionnaire web link to faculty:(i) the utilisation of faculty email databases held by centralised offices within institutions, such asEducational Development Centres, offices of the Dean/Principal of Education; (ii) the utilisationof a network of colleagues established through the consultation team (Table 1) with requestsfor on-forwarding of the questionnaire; (iii) the use of existing education networks through, e.g.the Higher Education Academy, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and theStaff and Educational Development Association; (iv) conference promotion, i.e. the Society forResearch in Higher Education annual conference (2012); and (v) direct email collation of a random

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  • 368 E. Alpay and R. Verschoor

    Table 2. Summary of survey questions.

    Background: 1. Institution; 2. STEM discipline; 3. Gender; 4. Academic rank; 5. Years of teaching experience; 6. Timededicated to research work; and 7. Who do you teach?

    8. Please rate your level of agreement with the following statements (1 = not at all and 5 = to a great extent); (adaptedfrom Ramsden and Moses (1992)) [5-point Likert scale]

    (i) My research is enhanced by my undergraduate teaching; (ii) Having to teach something helps me clarify my ideas inmy research work on it; (iii) I share ideas from my research with my undergraduate students; (iv) Doing goodresearch enhances my undergraduate teaching; and (v) I feel I have something to learn from my undergraduatestudents in my research

    9. Which of the following approaches do you use in your teaching to undergraduate students? (1 = never and5 = always); (adapted from Jenkins and Healey (2005)) [5-point Likert scale]

    (i) Students read, discuss, and write research papers (or equivalent information); (ii) Students learn through researchwork, e.g. carry out enquiry-based activities; (iii) Students are made aware of research in the area of study, e.g.through anecdotes or examples; and (iv) Students are taught how to do research and what the research processinvolves

    10. Can you give any other example(s) how you use research in your undergraduate teaching or vice versa?11. How important are the following aspects to your work life? (1 = no importance and 7 = great importance):(i) Academic freedom; (ii) flexible working hours; (iii) diversity of work; (iv) sabbatical leave/secondment

    opportunities; (v) intellectual work environment; (vi) inspirational colleagues; (vii) personal developmentopportunities; (viii) advancement within organisation; (ix) integration/combination of teaching and research; (x)involvement in UG student development/learning; (xi) involvement in PG/research student development andlearning; (xii) collaborative (team) teaching opportunities in own institute or with other academic institutions; (xiii)collaborative research opportunities in own institute or with other academic institutions; (xiv)...

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