Research News

Are Great Teachers Poor Scholars?

IPR economists examine relationship between research and teaching quality


college
The study reveals "no relationship" between research quality and teaching quality among tenured faculty.

Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro and Professor David Figlio, both IPR economists, have published research asking the question that has challenged elite universities and liberal arts colleges alike in recent times: “Are Great Teachers Poor Scholars?”

Their answer, based on research using the full population of all first-year undergraduates enrolled at Northwestern between fall 2001 and fall 2008, more than 15,000 students in all, is that there is no relationship between the teaching quality and research quality of tenured Northwestern faculty.

Schapiro
Morton Schapiro

“Colleges and universities must balance many goals, and research universities in particular aspire to excellence in both teaching and research,” they said in their research study published by the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

“University administrators and policymakers alike are interested in ensuring that publicly-supported private and public universities operate at high levels of instructional and scholarly quality, but to date we know little about whether scholarly excellence comes at a cost in terms of teaching quality, or vice versa,” the study said. 

Figlio
David Figlio

President Schapiro is professor of economics in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and holds appointments in the Kellogg School of Management and the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern. David Figlio is Orrington Lunt Professor of Education and Social Policy and of Economics, and he directs Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research.

“We hope that faculty and administrators at other institutions will be inspired by this study to carry out similar exercises to see whether their tenured faculty teaching entering undergraduates pay a price in terms of research productivity,” they wrote.“While Northwestern admittedly occupies a rarefied space in the hierarchy of American universities, our results suggest that excellent teaching and excellent research are not substitutes (though neither are they apparently complements),” Figlio and Schapiro concluded in their study

Read the Brookings report.

Originally published in Northwestern Now.

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