Do you want a Researcher or Teacher?

One thing I really enjoy about my job and actually look forward to, is the teaching. I love to communicate, hence the waffling, and to interact with learners. Often this presents its own challenges but, in turn, I like to challenge the learners and I get to see them progress throughout the lessons/modules and hopefully reach their final goal. I wrote last time about the possibility of a QTS Skill Test for science with an emphasis on subject knowledge. Within higher education, as well as the teaching, link tutoring, open days, interview days, marking and general admin, there is the requirement to research, with my current institution requiring three ‘outputs’ every three years. But what do you, as the student, actually want from me as a tutor and, are the two, teaching and researching related? Well that is what this week’s waffle is about…


Skilled researchers and effective teachers are neither substitutes nor complements for each other — in fact, they have no relationship at all

I’m going to answer the second question really early on in this waffle by referring to an article which I read and which actually partially prompted this blog post. The article was titled – “Study: Teaching and Research Not Tied” – and its first claim was that skilled researchers and effective teachers are not really a substitute for each other and have no relationship between them. Now, this might be the findings of the study, although I am sure that there must be some connection between the two jobs, especially if you look at the associated skills – for example – perseverance and problem solving. But what about how these two professions impact on the students within sessions and their learning and achievements.

  • Subject Knowledge for tutors – The Carter Review – I will stop mentioning it eventually, ensured that teachers need an effective and secure subject knowledge of the curriculum areas. Since coming to higher education, I have become slightly more specialised within my teaching, focusing more on mathematics, science, computing and general pedagogy, rather than the complete range of curriculum subjects. Although the subject knowledge within these subject is not that demanding – I’ve been teaching and doing primary mathematics for some time now – there are always changes happening with regards to how to teach the subject and how children actually learn. You might consider that the holy trinity of Piaget, Vygotsky and Burner still remain at the front of the pack, although how you actually use and implement these theories does change. You only need to look how ‘Mastery’ is being introduced as a new teaching approach for mathematics to see this in action. As a tutor, I do need subject knowledge of the curriculum area, but perhaps more important than this is an up to date understanding of the approaches and developments within the teaching of the subject. This is what I need to communicate to the learners and support them as they engage and reflect on how these new approaches could work and be implemented within the classroom. This is when being more specialised would actually be more beneficial, although being an ex-primary school teacher, being specialised has never been an option for me. As a tutor I would hope that I demonstrate an up to date knowledge of these approaches but maybe, actually completing research within the primary classroom as to their effectivenees may be more beneficial.

  • Researching and teaching – As a teacher, it is also important that I have an understanding of how to teach students. When I say students, I am referring to learners within higher education. Often, I consider that tutors use pedagogy which they have used to teach children within higher education. Although there are some similarities, there are also a wealth of differences and it is important for me to be up to date with these in order to ensure that how I teach in my sessions is not only appropriate but also effective. Many tutors, especially on a primary education course, might say that they are modelling good practice within their sessions for the students to learn from. This is, an effective why of teaching but it must be remembered that learners need to engage in their own ways in order to be motivated and engaged. As a tutor, I want to ensure that I am up to date with the current approaches to teach students within higher education but I also think that it is probably important for us to engage with research which relates or contributes to teaching and learning within universities. So rather than focusing and being a researcher in primary pedagogies, would it be more beneficial for me to actually research teaching approaches within higher education.

  • Demands on time – You can never tell how busy anyone is until you have actually done the job for yourself and experienced the demands which it brings. When I started working in higher education, I wasn’t really aware of the range of tasks which I would be completing. I knew there was teaching involved and marking, but beyond that I was unaware of the both the extent of the work and also the variety. As the workload continues to increase within a job, you are forced to start to prioritise what needs to be done and when. My priority is always my teaching coupled with anything which relate and/or impacts on, or to a positive, student experience. Research is something which time needs to be allocated to, but frequently comes closer to the end of my ‘to do’ list. It is interesting, and it might be that I will have to consider this in the future, that activities and ‘outputs’ such as this blog and Wilson Waffling Live, do not contribute to the three in three outputs as they are not classed as ‘academic’ which means this is actually time ‘wasted’ when the ‘to do’ list is looked at. I do think that researching more would make me a better practitioner, although being able to find the time within the working week might actually make me a better person when it comes to general well being.

  • So, the big question is – what or who would you prefer stood at the front of the room teaching you. I will eventually be published perhaps every three years and possibly even have ‘Dr’ as a title, but would you, as a learner, want that and would it, from your point of view, make me a better teacher and ultimately impact positively on your learning. If you have an opinion, and I hope you do, it will be great to hear from you by posting your comments in the box below. It is easy enough to register for an account and you don’t even need to use your own name if you don’t want to. Let’s face it, most people call me Waffling Wilson!

    I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send them to me via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, Google+ or email.

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