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The Teaching Priority and the QEP

09 Apr Posted by in Academics | Comments Off on The Teaching Priority and the QEP

I’m recurrently asked, as I was today, how we can continue to emphasize Mason’s commitment to good teaching even as we develop ourselves as a research university. The challenge is real: we know from surveys that the outside community measures us more by research than by teaching (particularly since we don’t have football), and we know in our own lives that teaching and research commitments can sometimes conflict. Nevertheless, we need to meet the challenge if we’re not going to become one of the list of places that seems to have gone overboard on the research mission alone. (I remember from a previous institution the sense that the most successful faculty member was he or she who had managed to buy out of teaching altogether; I didn’t approve then and don’t now, and I’m glad Mason has largely avoided this.)

Challenge granted, several answers: research and teaching can often fructify each other, and we need to play up and value the connection. Mason is blessed with the Faculty handbook that has long recognized a genuine excellence in teaching channel for promotion (along with research competence); this is unusual and valuable and we should continue to take it serious. We have all sorts of units dedicated to imaginative teaching and a number of cross-curricular projects that are nationally known, and we should not only maintain these but encourage more units to take part in the projects and the pedagogical discussions.

And we have the QEP. The Quality Enhancement initiative is forced on us by our accreditation process, and I confess no small resentment over how elaborate the accreditation agencies have made their mission. But there’s no short term option but to comply. And since we must, and since we have three quite interesting alternatives to choose from, each of which could help focus additional educational efforts over the next several years, let’s take the project seriously. Once the final option is selected, let’s be imaginative and inclusive in how we pursue it and how we help make it part of our answer to the challenge of maintaining not just classroom excellence but a real and deserved reputation for teaching quality.