While we’re at it, shouldn’t history professors give up reading?

28 01 2011

John Fea got me to read an IHE article that I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have clicked upon otherwise.  Its premise is that no job market exists to reward good teaching.  I wouldn’t have read it otherwise because I know it’s wrong.  I work at a teaching institution, so when we interview job candidates it’s practically the only thing we ask them about.  And I dare anyone interviewing at a community college to tell them all about their dissertation.

The thing is, I also publish and I firmly believe that my research improves my teaching.  Where’s my evidence?  The smart ass answer to that question is that I teach both the undergraduate and graduate research classes in my department.  But it’s more than just that.  We all lecture about what we know, and since my research interests are rather broad I know that I talk often about the topics that I’ve eventually published upon.

It’s worth noting that that assessment includes both primary and secondary source research.  Just to give you an example, I have a contract to produce a general survey text on late American industrialization (which I really need to finish soon as its way past its deadline).  That’s why I picked up a copy of H.W. Brands’ American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900.  [It’s good, by the way.  A little disorganized perhaps, but a really fun read.]  The topics he covers (big business, immigration, the West, etc.) are the same ones I’m lecturing on in survey now and I’ve literally been tweaking my lectures with his quotes as I go.

If teaching college precludes us from doing anything else, why shouldn’t we just give up on reading too?  My reading, like my research, informs both.  Is that evidence that it makes me a better teacher?  The ed guys cited in that IHE article seem to rely on teaching evaluations as their measure of teaching effectiveness.  I don’t trust that measure as far as I can throw it, but I do know that I’m a better informed teacher doing things my way.

Is that a bad thing?




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