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Author Topic: Problems preventing academic reforms  (Read 5783 times)
florlaca
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« on: September 05, 2009, 12:35:21 AM »

Academic excellence has always been the dream of every UP official and faculty member as far back as many alumni can recall. At the start of this century, they realized that an essential component of real academic reform is improving research performance.

While reform is ongoing, adverse practices continue and still await determined action. I review some of them and focus on the important few with specific examples. I see these problems as a hindrance to developing a research university, crucial if UP is to function as a true National University.
Publications that meet internationally-accepted criteria (valid publications) are the best indicator of research performance. They also measure competence to do other academic work — teaching, training graduate students, reviewing manuscripts, evaluating research proposals & output, disseminating information, participating in debates on national issues, etc. All these are important means of achieving and showing academic excellence.

Poor practices in faculty recruitment are a major problem. One is confusing qualification (e.g., graduate degree) for performance (valid publications). A PhD without such publications is not given a faculty position or research grant in major universities abroad. In said universities, research is the principal criterion of faculty recruitment.

Another important problem is giving more weight to length of teaching experience than research track record. Years of teaching experience does not necessarily distinguish a good from a bad teacher, whereas research performance can be reliably measured by objective indicators.

These two problems alone prevent faculty development to enable members to properly do research and train graduate students. Since they also serve in most academic positions, the needed change can hardly be achieved through the usual process of consultation. This suggests that the principle of democratic governance within the university may not be enough. Instead, strong, visionary leadership from above may be necessary to bring about real change. And this will develop UP into a functional National University, produce new knowledge, improve education, and build a nation — three university roles only UP can do best and has the national mandate.

Read the full text of Dr. Flor Lacanilao's paper on this subject in PhilippinesToday.net
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renzphotography
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« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2009, 10:36:11 PM »

I am not from UP but I remember the observation of one of my senior professors. He said there are two types of professors, one who is good in research but poor in teaching and one who is poor in research but good in teaching.

If it were up to you to decide who to hire for a teaching position that will handle a full teaching load then who would you value more, one who is good at creating new knowledge or one who is good at imparting knowledge?

Remember both teaching and research require time and dedication. This means an applicant with extensive research background might have limited teaching background ergo a poor teacher. Meanwhile, an applicant with extensive teaching background might have limited research background ergo a better teacher.

The irony there lies in the mismatch between the skills sought and the actual work to be done. If the criteria for a teaching position requires an extensive research background and not teaching background then how will that work out?

While it is true that years of teaching experience does not guarantee a good teacher still a track record counts for something--especially since teaching and research are two different endeavors.

However, it does not always have to be in these extreme conditions. There have always been compromise arrangements. There are part-time teaching positions where the teacher could still maintain other professions (perhaps research related). Of course, this set up has its advantages as well as disadvantages.

There is also an arrangement where a full-time faculty member could devote more time in research than in teaching. This may occur if the college has gained a research grant and a faculty member has to be assigned to handle it.

I’m sure a lot of professors would like to be involved in research work one way or the other but if that means cutting them some slack (reducing the teaching load) then how would the students cope with the shortage of teaching professors? Unless if you plan on having auditorium-sized lecture halls with 400 students so the professor can maximize productivity (he could have two teaching assistants) like the way it is done in western countries.

« Last Edit: September 20, 2009, 10:48:15 PM by renzphotography » Logged
florlaca
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« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2009, 11:26:26 AM »

The concept of research and teaching under one roof was envisioned by the Philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt, who founded the University of Berlin in 1810 (1). It gave the students direct access to the leading researchers and thinkers of the time. The scientists, in return, would benefit from the critical inquiries of their students. Humboldt’s idea proved to be very successful that the University of Berlin changed its name to Humboldt University in 1949 to honor its founder. The university quickly became a renowned institution, which attracted many internationally influential thinkers and scientists.

Hence, the relationship between research productivity and teaching effectiveness has led to the development of research universities. And studies from this development have shown that (a) the two are positively correlated — teaching effectiveness benefits from research productivity, (b) research and teaching are complementary activities is central to the idea of the modern university, and (c) these two activities are so mutually reinforcing that they must coexist in the same institutions.

Nobel laureate Joshua Lederberg, president emeritus of The Rockefeller University, says that research is no longer an ancillary function of the university; and that it is the principal criterion of recruitment to our major universities (2). It is also the most objective and reliable criterion for faculty promotion. Assistant professors are hired without teaching experience.

In our hiring practice, however, teaching remains the principal criterion, when there is hardly an established measure of teaching performance. We often consider length of teaching experience more important than research tract record, without really knowing that one may have been a bad teacher. Applicants are asked to give a seminar where candidates are often rated on the basis of the panel members’ subjective evaluation or a set of criteria. Either way, a common outcome would be based on a range of reasons — from “I know a good teacher when I see one,” to mastery of the required body of facts, to clear explanation of things.

But would such teacher qualification meet the requirements of proper science education? Will it give students a deeper understanding of the world around them? Will it enable them to make sound decisions on critical matters of public policy? Will it make the students more creative and effective in their future work?

According to Carl Wieman, a Nobel laureate in physics, “Science education research clearly shows that a true understanding of science, as demonstrated by how it is practiced, is not merely about learning information. Rather, it is about developing a way of thinking about a discipline that reflects a particular perception of how ‘knowledge’ is established, its extent and limitations, how it describes nature and how it can be usefully applied in a variety of contexts” (3)

Wieman continues, that developing such a way of thinking is a profoundly different experience from learning a set of facts — as what students learn from our current way of teaching science — and requires very different teaching skills. This is the reason why research and teaching, which are so mutually reinforcing, must coexist in the same institutions

The lack of emphasis on research is the reason why we don’t make it in academic ranking of world universities if indicators for research performance are used. In a respected university rankings being done by a leading Chinese university since 2003, for example, using publications in journals covered in the major ISI indexes — Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, and Arts and Humanities Citation Index — none from the Philippines has yet made the top 100 in the Asia Pacific or in the world’s top 500 (4).

Another common practice at our universities is to choose the needed field of specialization over research track record. We prefer the major field of the applicant based on graduate thesis over his or her research experience and published work. Overlooked is the scientist’s creativity and ability to teach a related undergraduate course, as long as this is within the same major field (e.g., biology). Some famous scientists changed fields to maintain their creativity.

Darwin, for example, worked on unrelated disciplines — including psychology, geology, genetics, taxonomy, and ecology — to continue being productive (5). He wrote books on origin of coral atolls, geology of South Africa, pollination of orchids, ecology of earthworms, evolution, human emotions, taxonomy of barnacles, and movement in plants. Although Darwin considered himself a geologist, the world remembers him as a biologist.

The following paragraph from Craig Loehle makes the point (5):

“The current system seeks to fill all the square holes with square pegs. The biology department wants one geneticist, one physiologist, and one ecologist, but they don’t want three generalists who would work in all three areas. In what department would one put Darwin: genetics, geology, taxonomy, or ecology? Should Goethe be in the literature, biology, physics, or philosophy department? He actually was most proud of his work on optics, though that work was largely flawed. Would Newton and Fisher find comfortable academic niches today? The current rigid departmental system is confining to the truly creative person and discourages the vitally important cross-fertilization of models, data, techniques and concepts between disciplines.”

Now that UP is rewarding those who publish in peer-reviewed international journals, making research the chief criterion of hiring will be consistent with this development. Hiring a PhD without primary publications in peer-reviewed international journals should therefore be avoided.
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renzphotography
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« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2009, 02:07:22 PM »

If you want to have your house designed and built would you hire a senior carpenter who has built many houses or would you hire a fresh graduate architect for the job?

One problem lies with the very nature of teaching. How would a graduate of another discipline (even if he is backed by stellar research) discuss the foundation theories that he had never encountered? As in the example above, would a carpenter be able to lecture on topics like strength of materials?

I think a highly published individual who has a degree from another field is welcome to teach but perhaps only as a guest lecturer or a resource speaker--someone who will give updates on the latest developments on the field. And as for a full-time teaching position I'm not quite sure.

Preferably, the candidate should have the educational background plus the research background on the same field.

Moreover, perhaps many research professors will be drawn away from teaching by their drive for research work (if not through boredom).

Also, you have to understand that the people who will make the hiring decision have to justify their decision with their superiors (usually the directors). If you were that person would you so much as  put your career on the line and make a risky decision?

While it is still possible to have a research university the big question there is how much time will a research professor spend on teaching as against research work. I believe the answer to that question will help us realize if having a research university is feasible in the country.

« Last Edit: September 23, 2009, 07:07:13 AM by renzphotography » Logged
florlaca
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« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2009, 10:44:18 AM »

The research university has a long developing tradition (200 years), as mentioned in my last comment. It has been shown as the important means to reduce poverty and achieve national growth in all developed and fast developing countries. You find it in the huge economic success of the United States, in the rapidly industrializing China and India, and being started in some African countries. See, “Africa needs research universities to fight poverty” at, http://www.scidev.net/en/opinions/africa-needs-research-universities-to-fight-povert.html

We hardly have better alternatives but to develop some research universities if we also have to move forward. And UP is the first candidate. UP will have to give up most of its undergraduate teaching, leave this to other universities, and concentrate on graduate education. This will then provide a new breed of faculty to raise the standard of teaching in other universities. These in turn will provide better graduates for the workforce and teachers that will change the teaching methods and learning experience in the secondary and primary levels. The objective is to provide a lasting solution to our poor system of education and national problems.

The new system of learning will give students a deeper understanding of the world around them, it will enable them to make sound decisions on critical matters, it will make the students more creative and effective in their future work, and contribute to national progress.

Hence, the nature of education we have been used to, together with the failed solutions to problems, will all change. No matter how we tried, education problems continued to get worse because of poverty and overpopulation. Poor education, poverty, and overpopulation form a vicious cycle; and they can hardly be solved individually, without attending to their common cause (see my comment in “Thoughts on education”). Poor science and technology is the common, basic cause; and Research University is one tested way of improving S&T. This will introduce new curricula and teaching methods at all levels of education.
 
Of course acceptance of the innovative teaching methods will take time. A research university is a strategic way to start, and this too will take time developing. Meanwhile, the new teaching methods can also be implemented by some universities, but the entire faculty of a determined department must become collectively involved. With the leadership of a visionary department chairman and support from the university president and the government, the entire department will be the unit of change.

The new methods will revolutionize our concept of teaching and research being separate activities into a joint and complementary function, with research as the principal criterion of faculty recruitment as practiced in leading universities abroad. With these changes, note that the questions and apprehensions raised will no longer be important.
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madgirl09
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« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2009, 05:04:52 PM »

Thank you, Ma'am florlaca for your suggestions and advice. I totally agree with your "formula for success".

I have just arrived home from accompanying our high school students listen to our Graduate school lectures on Surveys and Research. Here in Japan, as early as high school level, students are required to submit at least two theses prior to their graduation. When they reach college, more researches are expected. This is how the citizens are motivated and pushed to achieve more yearly.The business and industrial sectors' researches are partly funded by the government, especially if the targets could usher the country to further progress, energy saving or cleaner environment.

But, how the Philippines could start with this kind of attitude depends, I think, on many other factors apart from insufficient budget, gov't priorities, and poor education.There are a big number of Masters in our teaching pool in public elementary and high school now, especially that the public servants are evaluated yearly on professional development with emphasis on Masters education. The problem is, teachers are not required to arrive at further researches, and not encouraged or financially supported. Probably, teachers themselves are not motivated, are less-confident, or still bound by the "colonial mentality" that everything foreign is better.

I have met other nationalities and have known some Non-Filipino inventors, but I still believe that Filipinos have more potentials...Yes, if only we have guts and gold  Cry.......

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renzphotography
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« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2009, 08:07:47 AM »

Research per se is the best way to advance knowlege and wisdom in any field. The main issue here lies in the faculty hiring process recommended to pursue the so-called research university ideal by florlaca.

By going through previous posts in this forum I sense that florlaca is espousing a simplification of the recruitment and/or screening process for the academic position of professor with bias towards research output.

I disagree with this because I think there are members of the academe who are good at teaching but not in research, and vise versa. Of course, I am not counting out the possibility that there are people who are gifted in both teaching and research and these people should very well function as both. However, to institutionalize a distorted screening process would do more harm than good.

In short, the qualifications to be evaluated should match the qualifications required by the role applied for. Hence, research qualifications for a research position, teaching qualifications for a teaching position, and a combination for functions that require multiple qualifications.

To illustrate my point allow me to quote the general description of academic positions in universities in the US from a link below:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professor


Main article: Professors in the United States

The term "professors" in the United States refers to a group of educators at the college and university level, while in Canada it is generally restricted to those at universities. In colloquial language, usage of the term may refer to any educator at the post-secondary level, yet a considerable percentage of post-secondary educators do not hold the formal title of "professor," but are instead lecturers, instructors, and teaching assistants.

Educators who hold a formal title of "professor" (referred to as tenured/tenure-track faculty) typically begin their careers as assistant professors, with subsequent promotions to the ranks of associate professor and finally professor. There is usually a strict timeline for application for promotion from assistant to associate professor - usually 5 or 6 years following the initial appointment.

Applicants are evaluated based on their contributions to research, teaching, and administration. The relative weighting of these contributions differ by institution, with PhD-granting universities usually placing more emphasis on research than the other two and with liberal arts colleges placing more emphasis on teaching. In many universities, the decision to grant tenure and promotion from assistant to associate levels is made at numerous levels, with a common sequence being:

1) External reviewers—several high-profile researchers will be asked to review the candidate's application for promotion and will submit a confidential report;

2) based on this report and letters provided by members of the university, a subcommittee of members from the candidate's department will make a recommendation for tenure/promotion or denial of such;

3) the department will vote;

4) the department decision is communicated to a university panel of individuals from outside of the department who evaluate the application and decide whether they agree or disagree with the departmental recommendation;

5) the dean;

6) the board of governors/president or other upper level governing body.

A decision to reject a candidate for tenure normally requires that the individual leave the institution within a year.

Otherwise, tenure is granted along with promotion from assistant to associate professor. Although tenure and promotion are usually separate decisions, they are often highly correlated such that a decision to grant a promotion coincides with a decision in favor of tenure, and vice versa.

Assistant professors who are granted tenure and promotion move to the rank of associate professor. This usually results in an increased administrative load and membership on committees that are restricted to tenured faculty. Some people remain at the level of associate professor throughout their careers. However, most will apply for the final promotion to full professor; the timeline for making this application is more flexible than that for assistant to associate positions and the associate professor does not normally lose his/her job if the application is rejected.

As with promotion from assistant to associate professor, promotion from associate to full professor involves review at multiple levels, similar to the earlier tenure/promotion review. This includes external reviews, decisions by the department, recommendations by members of other departments, and high-ranking university officials. Usually, this final promotion requires that the individual has maintained an active research program, and excellent teaching, in addition to taking a leadership role in important departmental and extra-departmental administrative tasks. Full professor is the highest rank that a professor can achieve (other than in a named position) and is seldom achieved before a person reaches their mid-40s. The rank of full professor carries additional administrative responsibilities associated with membership on committees that are restricted to full professors.


Non-Tenure-Track Positions

Individuals in these positions typically focus on teaching undergraduate courses, do not engage in research (except in the case of "Research Professors"), do not engage in departmental decision-making, and are not eligible for tenure.

Teaching assistant (TA) or teaching fellow (TF):  Positions typically held by graduate students. TAs play a supportive role involving grading, review sessions, and labs. Teaching fellows (and at some universities, TAs) teach entire courses.

Adjunct instructor / Adjunct professor / Adjunct lecturer / Faculty Associate: Typically part-time non-salaried, non-tenure track faculty members who are paid for each class they teach. This position does not always require a completed Ph.D.

Instructor or Lecturer: A full-time position at a University that does not involve tenure or a research program in the classical sense. This position does not necessarily require a Ph.D. and usually involves teaching undergraduate introductory courses.

Visiting assistant professor: A temporary assistant professor position (see below), e.g. to cover the teaching load of a faculty member on sabbatical.

Research Professor: A position that usually carries only research duties with no obligation for teaching. Research Professors typically must secure most or all of their salary from external funding sources such as grants and contracts. Although Research Professor positions usually are non-tenure track their ranks parallel those of tenure-track positions; i.e., Research Assistant Professor, Research Associate Professor, and Research Professor.

Tenured and Tenure-Track Positions 

These full-time faculty members engage in both undergraduate and graduate teaching, mentoring, research, and service.  Only faculty in these positions are eligible for tenure.

Assistant professor: an introductory level professor.  A position generally taken after receiving Ph.D. and/or completing a post doctoral fellowship.  After 4–8 years, assistant professors will be either tenured or dismissed from the university.

Associate professor: a mid-level, usually tenured, professor.

Professor (sometimes referred to as "full professor"): a senior, tenured professor.

Distinguished professor / Endowed chair (e.g., "the John Q. Smith Professor of Physics"): An honorary position in which a full professor's salary is increased by being tied to an endowment derived from the university, private individuals, firms, or foundations.

Professor emeritus/emerita: is an honorary title bestowed on retired faculty members who have attained the rank of Professor.


Let us bear in mind that most American research universities follow these strict faculty screening guidelines and at the same time maintain their prestige in the field of research. Thus, the argument that a bias towards research in faculty selection could propel a university to a so-called research university status is highly questionable.

« Last Edit: September 25, 2009, 08:18:29 AM by renzphotography » Logged
florlaca
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« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2009, 10:45:03 PM »

Let me try again.

First, as mentioned in the forum “Avoiding Wikipedia,” this is not a reliable source of information because the reference has been changed by different people with different background.

Second, the example Wikipedia article is a composite, generalized reference. Just like a typical cell, it does not exist. You don’t find the described processes in one university or the pictured parts of a typical cell, in one organism. They are only used to explain things better.   

Third, the information I have shared are from studies done by scientists and social scientists. And they are being practiced by leading research universities abroad whose faculty are all published (valid publications); so that they can evaluate performance by subjective judgment. In our situation, we also use personal judgment even most of the faculty are unpublished or have published only gray literature. 

Fourth, as I mentioned in one post, we need to develop research universities, and UP can be the first in the country. Here, research should be the principal criterion of faculty recruitment. Of course, we have no university yet that is ready for such practice (for example, over-loaded teaching). Hence, many will naturally disagree.     

Finally, there is no longer a debate about the importance of research in teaching and teaching in research to improve education. It will be good for us to have this as an objective, concurrent with developing research universities.
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renzphotography
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« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2009, 12:16:07 AM »


Why don't we give it a rest and drink beer instead, what do you say?  Grin
« Last Edit: October 02, 2009, 07:58:03 AM by renzphotography » Logged
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