Sunday, January 23, 2011

Teaching My Way to Words on Paper (or: Making a Teaching Assignment Work for Me, Rather Than Against Me)

God, how I hated this question in interviews: "How does your research affect your teaching?" Sure, maybe I should have been able to answer it, but as I was applying for generalist jobs most of the time, so I couldn't see what to say without making myself seem too narrow. Of course, now I have a good answer to that question, one that has to do more with keeping myself interested and excited, but at the time, it was a stumper.

I have, however, discovered something even more delightful: My teaching can actually help my research. And a semester like the one I've got coming up is a perfect test case. here's how it goes:
  • Monday: Graduate research seminar (3 hrs): 20-25-page paper
  • Wednesday: Undergraduate research methodology/intro to the discipline (4 hrs): 10-12-page paper
  • Thursday: Graduate capstone research seminar (4 hrs): 18-20-page paper
Anyone noticing a theme here? Yep, basically I'm doing the exact same thing in all three classes, though at three levels, and with three topics.** Most importantly for the purposes of my discussion here is this commonality: all three culminate in the students producing an original research paper (different lengths), and all three directly incorporate a lot of steps in the process of doing that.

Coincidentally, I have to write two things this semester: a conference paper (10-12 pages), and a presentation for the department research seminar (about 20 pages). Also, I am a person who does best with concrete deadlines: only fear of looking like an ass in front of other people really motivates me to actually getting something done.

So here's the deal: I write these papers right along with my students -- and I let them know I'm doing it. When they have to write a preliminary proposal, I make sure that I've written my conference abstract. When they have to do an outline, they get to look at mine. We keep each other honest, and keep each other working. At least, that's the plan.

Wish me luck!

**There is actually a reason why I don't use the same topic for all three, having to do with available sources and what the students are prepared to do at a particular level, but that's a whole 'nother post.

***image lifted from the "Hyperbole and a Half" store. Perfect gifts for the reluctant academic.


Comrade PhysioProf said...

Hyperbole and a Half is the funniest thing on earth! Did you read the last one, about poor Benny? AHAHAHAH!!!!!

Anthea said...

I love Hyperbole and a Half! Poor Benny in the latest one. I love your mug too!

But yes, I'd agree with you that teaching sometimes really does help one's research.

WorstProfEver said...

Great strategy, and good luck! In total agreement about Hyperbole and a Half.