LINGUIST List 6.1350

Wed Oct 4 1995

Disc: Teaching Stress, Teaching as a Prestigious Occupation?

Editor for this issue: Ljuba Veselinova <>


  1. John E Limber, Re: 6.1333, Sum: Teaching Stress
  2. Alex Monaghan, Re: 6.1328, Disc: Teaching as a prestigious occupation?

Message 1: Re: 6.1333, Sum: Teaching Stress

Date: Mon, 02 Oct 1995 06:51:27 Re: 6.1333, Sum: Teaching Stress
From: John E Limber <>
Subject: Re: 6.1333, Sum: Teaching Stress

I was surprised that among the many interesting suggestions for "teaching
stress" there was no mention of getting students to digitally record and
view their resulting waveforms on a Macintosh or other machine equipped
with a sound board . Students who can't introspect differences in
"ob'ject" vs "object'" can generally see the intensity and duration
differences. Sentence intonation (question vs statement) can also be
observed; even without a sophisticated program like Signalize most
students can measure the duration of, say, ten glottal cycles and estimate
their fundamental frequency on a key vowel. On occasions when the visual
displays do not accord with expectations, useful discussion may follow!

John Limber
Department of Psychology
University of New Hampshire, Durham NH 03824, USA
FAX (603)-862-4986
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Message 2: Re: 6.1328, Disc: Teaching as a prestigious occupation?

Date: Mon, 02 Oct 1995 12:03:13 Re: 6.1328, Disc: Teaching as a prestigious occupation?
From: Alex Monaghan <alexCompApp.DCU.IE>
Subject: Re: 6.1328, Disc: Teaching as a prestigious occupation?

okay, here's my neck for people to chop at!

the original posting seemed to me to be asking if teaching at universities
was lacking in status, and if so why this was and what could/should be done
about it. most replies to date have stated that some of their colleagues
look down on teaching, but that teaching is valuable and enjoyable. i would
agree, but it seems to me that there is a much more serious issue here which
has surfaced in my own department: do those empowered to hire, fire and
overtire us respect teaching?

my own experience, in dublin and edinburgh, is that they do not. promotion,
continued employment and so forth don't depend on the teaching (quality or
quantity) done, but rather on the research/politics/admin output of academics.
for instance, an individual who publishes a couple of papers while teaching
4 courses is more likely to be given grants, sabbaticals, or fewer courses
than one who teaches 5 courses and publishes no papers. the effect of
publication records on job prospects is well known.

this situation is ironic in many ways. first, it gives more research
opportunities to those who may already have the most. it is assumed that
we all wish to do research, and that the reward for a good academic is more
research time. it further assumes that research performance is the best index
of academic goodness. the logical conclusion is that the good guys do research
and the bad guys teach. is this what our masters really think?

second, the fact that the majority of a university's income comes from
teaching does not seem to matter. in the UK, the push for more publications
before a government assessment is enormous, but there is no similar push
for better teaching materials or more contact hours. granted, teaching is
harder to measure objectively and publication counts are easy, but which tells
us more about the university's output?

third, it is rare indeed for academics to be given training in how to teach,
and even rarer for them to have a pedagogic qualification. why is the PhD so
valued, but the teaching certificate not?

more and more academics seem to end up teaching courses which do not interest
them, or which are outside their competence, because institutions are obliged
to offer these courses but will not hire more teaching staff. how often is an
academic forced to do research in an irrelevant or unknown area? moreover, the
more one teaches the more one is expected to teach - "you taught this last
year, you can do it again" is much more common than "you taught this last
year, go and do some research while we find someone else to do the teaching"!

don't get me wrong. i enjoy teaching my subjects to interested students. i
even find teaching useful in my research. however, i do not enjoy spouting
unfamiliar facts at large classes of relatively unmotivated undergraduates,
just because it's in the course document and there's nobody else to teach it.

universities used to be places where things were DONE, and the teaching was
incidental. this still seems to be the ideal model - motivated students,
interesting research, enthusiastic teachers - but it is clearly not practical
in these days of degrees in domestic waste management (graduate dustmen).
the worrying thing is that the powers that be seem to think it is more
important to turn out graduates for every trade and industry imaginable
than to take their staff of proven researchers (not proven teachers) and
get them to do some worthwhile research.

from the heart more than the head, perhaps!
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