Friday, January 24, 2014

No Tenure=Better Teaching? From BU Today.

A recent study by researchers at Northwestern University found that non-tenure-track lecturers at that school were superior to tenure-track faculty at spurring first-year students to pursue further study in a topic—and in preparing them to get better grades in the follow-up class. The results were most pronounced among the least academically gifted students.



  1. I'd say it's a function of what the faculty's primary responsibility is. If they gave tenure for teaching excellence at NW, the statistics might look different.

  2. They also noted that most of the non tenureds they studied were full time. My fear is some adminflake will look at this and think "fire all the tenured faculty and hire part timers" as opposed to hiring FT teachers to teach and letting researchers research.

  3. The link title immediately makes one go "Well, of course, but ..." and then the article covers the fine points a bit (that these folks don't have the research and service demands, that it's considering full time and relatively secure instructors, etc)-- title these things carefully when they get out in the wild lest admin not read the whole thing and get the wrong idea.

  4. As everybody else has noted, the issue here is not tenure, but that, at least at large research universities, the faculty who concentrate on teaching are not on the tenure track. This is completely assbackwards, since universities are essentially subsidizing work (research, publications) by the tenure-track faculty that would qualify them for work in any number of places, while failing to give the job security of tenure to the people who are putting the most time and energy into gauging and meeting the ever-changing needs of their particular university's particular student population. At least some of BU's NTT faculty are paid at the same level as their TT faculty; that's pretty rare (and, once again, backwards; in any logical system, employees would have a choice of job security or a higher salary, not a (non-)choice of both or neither).

    I'd also note that, for all that faculty (rightly) complain about it, service is a pretty important component of even a teaching-intensive job. People need time to reflect on their teaching, alone and in in groups, and service, at least in an ideal world, provides that opportunity. It's also the only way to truly participate in faculty governance, and avoids the situation where people teaching 2/2 loads prescribe what people teaching 4/4 loads should do. Even if it meant working longer hours, I'd much prefer a 3/3 plus service job over my present 4/4 with no service one (I'd also like to do research on the clock now and then, but that's probably another discussion, though if tenure-track professors are going to argue that research feeds their teaching, then they probably need to look at finding a way for the people doing most of the teaching to also have some time for research, maybe on a more modest scale/at a slower pace than professors with a lower teaching load, but some time).