The Journal of Higher Education 73.5 (2002) 603-641
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The Relation Between Research Productivity and Teaching Effectiveness
Complementary, Antagonistic, or Independent Constructs?
Herbert W. Marsh
The major responsibilities of academics in the modern university are teaching and research as well as, to lesser extents, administration and community service. Indeed, some (Crittenden, 1997) consider that one of the defining characteristics of a university is that all academics are expected to be active researchers and active teachers (while noting the rationale for teachers who are not expected to pursue research in non-University tertiary institutions). Senior academics often contend that this mutually reinforcing, symbiotic relation between teaching and research is what distinguished universities from other research and educational institutions (Neumann, 1992). Conventional wisdom—typically not based on empirical research—is that teaching and research are mutually supporting if not inseparable (Webster, 1986). Ideally, teaching effectiveness and research productivity are complementary. Much of the rationale for the existence of research universities is that these two activities are so mutually reinforcing that they must coexist in the same institutions. Marsh (1987), Hattie and Marsh (1996), Braxton (1996), and others, however, argue that plausible arguments can be made as to why teaching and research activities should be complementary, conflicting, or unrelated to each other. [End Page 603]
There is a strong rationale reinforcing the claims that research should contribute to teaching. Research forms the basis of the content of teaching. Teachers who are active researchers are more likely to be on the cutting edge of their discipline and aware of international perspectives in their field. Because textbooks may not be current in many rapidly developing areas, lectures may be the first point of contact with the latest developments. Teachers who are involved in research are more likely to be at the forefront of their discipline. Results from one's research can be used to clarify, update, and amend the teaching of a topic. Research enhances teaching through the introduction of new topics and methodologies. Teachers discussing their own research provide a sense of excitement about the results and how they fit into a larger picture. Active researchers are more effective at instilling an actively critical approach to understanding complex research findings rather a passive acceptance of facts. Students appreciate teachers who present research that the teachers have actually conducted. This provides an authenticity to the presented material that differs from presentations by teachers who are only discussing the work of others in which they have no active involvement.
Similarly, teaching should contribute to research. The process of teaching the subject matter of a discipline forces academics to clarify the big picture into which their specific research specialization fits. Preparation of teaching materials can elucidate gaps in the academic's knowledge base. Sharing the results of one's research with students in a teaching context helps researchers clarify their research. Students' suggestions, comments, questions, and criticisms can elucidate new research directions. Sharing the results of one's research efforts with an appreciative audience provides reinforcement for having done the research and pursuing further research.
In presenting the case for why teaching and research should be complementary activities, Braxton (1996) argued that the roles of teaching and research are similar, that they involve common values (e.g., rationality) and that they should be mutually reinforcing. Sullivan (1996) emphasized that academic staff, even those who are the most productive researchers, support normative structures that place a high value on teaching effectiveness.
Ramsden and Moses (1992) proposed what they referred to as a weak version of the teaching-research hypothesis (of a positive relation between the two activities) based on data aggregated at the departmental level. Thus, it is not necessary for every academic to be an active researcher for the department to be a strong research department. According [End Page 604] to this weaker version, it is only necessary for academics to be in a strong research department in order to facilitate their teaching effectiveness.
It can also be argued, however, that...