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Pedagogy 5.3 (2005) 495-500
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A Fine Balance:
Connecting Undergraduate Teaching and Research
[Works Cited for Roundtable]
Last summer two unrelated "review" assignments crossed paths on my desk: first, my department was undergoing its regularly scheduled internal academic review, and in the division of the labor involved in researching and writing the report for the examiners, I was assigned the task of preparing the section detailing the connection between undergraduate teaching and research; a few days later, the editors of Pedagogy asked if I would be willing to moderate a roundtable review based on some aspect of children's literature. Initially I approached these as discrete and separate issues, the one a necessary form of service to my department, the other a welcome opportunity to engage in a scholarly exploration of the relationship between pedagogy and the discipline of children's literature. The projects, however, intersected in unexpected and complementary ways, and the process of reflecting on the relationship between teaching and research fostered by the [End Page 495] departmental review eventually found its corollary in the book review project. Both reviews initiated "conversations" in the sense outlined in the early issues of Pedagogy, offering opportunities to examine the role of teaching in our professional lives, and in particular, the role teaching plays in our lives as research scholars.1
As part of my data collection for the departmental review, I solicited responses from my colleagues detailing their sense of the relationship between their work in the undergraduate classroom and their publications. Given that our undergraduate program consistently attracts high-caliber students, the department offers a climate conducive to integrating teaching and scholarly research. Responses, however, were decidedly mixed and testified to the fact that "the two nations" described by George Levine in the inaugural issue of Pedagogy are still with us and still divided: among other divisions, Levine (2001: 6) points to "the split between our work as teachers and our work as scholars," adding that " 'My work' usually means research and writing as opposed to work in the classroom or service to department or university." While my respondents were consistent in their praise for their students and the value of undergraduate teaching, they differed significantly in their sense of the correlation between the classroom and their publication. At one end of the spectrum, some frankly noted that connections between research and undergraduate teaching were tenuous at best, with one asserting pragmatically that the two activities were necessarily opposed because they competed for limited resources of time and energy, and that the time invested in the classroom came at the expense of "work," which is to say research. Indeed, when one thinks of the uncanny ability of page proofs to arrive at the very moment when lectures on new material must be prepared, or mountains of essays graded, it is difficult to disagree with this assessment. Among those who perceived a connection, the majority commented on the classroom as a site for exploring their research ideas. Colleagues in this group were also explicit about the need for more special topics seminars, which they saw as facilitating the introduction of their research into the teaching experience. Still, they presented the classroom more as a place that received literary research rather than one that produced it.
A few respondents, however, were eloquent in expressing their sense of the fruitful and reciprocal relationship that exists between their work as scholars and as teachers. The sense of coherence between teaching and research was, perhaps not surprisingly, most pronounced among those involved in producing editions for classroom use, whose editing projects were closely linked to teaching experience and ranged from contributions to [End Page 496] such familiar standards as the Norton Anthology of English Literature to the revision of the pedagogical canon through the recovery of little-known texts and authors.2 For others, the link was less immediate, though no less real, as some mentioned publication as a service to...