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Becoming a Physics Teacher

  • #51
BiGyElLoWhAt
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I would like to better understand university teaching versus university research. Do faculty come to the position as professor and really view teaching as an annoying distraction to research? Does the department put higher priority on research than on teaching? Do professors really want a research job but hope to do as little teaching as possible? Maybe the class laboratory sections are too few hours per week and a big increase in class-time devoted to laboratory work or lab exercises could make students into better researchers.
I think some do. Some, however, view research as a nuisance as well. At my school we have professors and continuing lecturers. Everyone is encouraged to do research, but only professors are required to have a research project. I think the idea is that after you get to know the teacher from class, then you do research with them, and you start to learn how to work with the big dogs.

Me personally, I am not necessarily planning on it, per se, but what I can see myself doing is working at a university to get research funding. I don't have a problem with teaching, though. I hang out here a good amount, I tutor, and the like.
 
  • #52
WWGD
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I think it may be a good idea to break things down into teacher vs professor. A teacher may most likely not be subject to the pressure of publish -and-perish ;), but without a PHD, you are less likely to get tenure. I think this is an important difference.
 
  • #53
BiGyElLoWhAt
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I think it may be a good idea to break things down into teacher vs professor. A teacher may most likely not be subject to the pressure of publish -and-perish ;), but without a PHD, you are less likely to get tenure. I think this is an important difference.
PhD does not equal professor. We have a continuing lecturer (I'm assuming that's what you mean by teacher?) whom did their doctoral thesis on a nanotech project. He's been there for longer than I've attended. So he has a PhD, but will probably never get tenure as a continuing lecturer (actually I'm almost 100% sure of this).
 
  • #54
WWGD
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PhD does not equal professor. We have a continuing lecturer (I'm assuming that's what you mean by teacher?) whom did their doctoral thesis on a nanotech project. He's been there for longer than I've attended. So he has a PhD, but will probably never get tenure as a continuing lecturer (actually I'm almost 100% sure of this).
I was referring to the OPs' use of teacher, by which I assume is anyone teaching below college level,
or teaching at college level without a PHD. Maybe the OP could clarify what s/he meant by this.

I meant a PHD is , AFAIK, very often necessary ( though, like you said, not sufficient) for a tenured position, at least at college or university level *.

* I admit I still don't know the difference between the two.
 
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  • #55
BiGyElLoWhAt
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I meant a PHD is , AFAIK, very often necessary ( though, like you said, not sufficient) for a tenured position.
Although I don't know, I would not refute that fact.
 
  • #56
Andy Resnick
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I would like to better understand university teaching versus university research. Do faculty come to the position as professor and really view teaching as an annoying distraction to research? Does the department put higher priority on research than on teaching? Do professors really want a research job but hope to do as little teaching as possible?
I can only speak from my limited experience (public 4-year university): tenure-track faculty are expected to spend approximately 60% of their time teaching classes, 60% of their time doing productive research, and 10% of their time doing 'service' (running programs, sitting on committees, etc.). Non-tenure track faculty, and there are many flavors, are either expected to spend 100% of their time teaching (instructors, lecturers, <insert title here>), or 100% of their time doing research ('research faculty'). Note that research faculty generally are paid through 'soft money' = grant dollars, so if they can't pay their own salary, they have no salary. Or lab.

Now: institutions with only undergraduate programs will have different tenure requirements than so-called "RU/VH" institutions (I postdoc'ed at a RU/VH institution, am tenured at an RU/H institution).

As far as what individuals like to do, it varies according to the individual. However, when going up for tenure, the review panels typically recommend tenure based on research activities, not teaching activities. Similarly for promotion to full professor: it's often based on how much money the candidate has generated. As far as department/college/administrative pressure, it varies even within an institution.
 
  • #57
jtbell
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* I admit I still don't know the difference between the two.
Do you mean between "college or university"?
 
  • #58
WWGD
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Do you mean between "college or university"?
No, between college _and_ university. And would you also please chime in on whether a PHD is necessary (though of course, not sufficient) for tenure?
 
  • #59
jtbell
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Back in my student days (1970s and early 1980s): a "university" was a (usually) large institution that offered both undergraduate degrees and graduate degrees through the Ph.D., and performed a significant amount of research; whereas a "college" was a small institution (1000-2000 students) that offered only or mainly undergraduate degrees, possibly with a few masters degree programs, and focused on teaching.

(I did my bachelor's degree at a college with about 1000 students total, all undergraduates; then did my Ph.D. at U of Michigan with over 40000 students, including graduate students. Big difference!)

Nowadays the lines are a bit blurred, because many of those small schools have added masters-level programs, usually specialized ones such as business or nursing or other health-related areas, and have "upgraded" their names. Over the past 30 years, many of the nearby competitors of the college where I work have changed their names from "xxx College" to "xxx University." However, their main focus is still teaching, not research. I still think of these as "colleges" even with their new names.

At either kind of school, a Ph.D. (or other terminal degree, in certain fields) is normally required for a tenure-track position. My college has sometimes hired people for tenure-track positions who were "ABD" (all but dissertation), with the expectation that they would finish their dissertation and Ph.D. within a couple of years. At least a couple of them had to leave when they didn't actually finish their Ph.D.

University professors are usually evaluated for tenure and promotion mainly on the basis of their research. College professors are evaluated more on the basis of their teaching; their research has gotten more important than it used to be, but mainly as a way to provide research experience for students. The exact balance between teaching and research varies from one school to another, though. Some elite colleges (e.g. Williams or Swarthmore) have fairly high expectations for research.
 
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  • #60
WWGD
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Thanks, jtbell, that was helpful.
 
  • #61
jtbell
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I'd better add that a "college" as described in my preceding post should not be confused with a "community college", which is a very different kind of beast that doesn't even offer bachelor's degrees.

And that both of these are basically American institutions. I think colleges of the American type are pretty much unknown elsewhere in the world. Community colleges might have equivalents (sort of) in some kinds of vocational schools, or some kind of intermediate school between secondary school and university.
 
  • #62
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Back in my student days (1970s and early 1980s): a "university" was a (usually) large institution that offered both undergraduate degrees and graduate degrees through the Ph.D., and performed a significant amount of research; whereas a "college" was a small institution (1000-2000 students) that offered only or mainly undergraduate degrees, possibly with a few masters degree programs, and focused on teaching.

(I did my bachelor's degree at a college with about 1000 students total, all undergraduates; then did my Ph.D. at U of Michigan with over 40000 students, including graduate students. Big difference!)

Nowadays the lines are a bit blurred, because many of those small schools have added masters-level programs, usually specialized ones such as business or nursing or other health-related areas, and have "upgraded" their names. Over the past 30 years, many of the nearby competitors of the college where I work have changed their names from "xxx College" to "xxx University." However, their main focus is still teaching, not research. I still think of these as "colleges" even with their new names.

At either kind of school, a Ph.D. (or other terminal degree, in certain fields) is normally required for a tenure-track position. My college has sometimes hired people for tenure-track positions who were "ABD" (all but dissertation), with the expectation that they would finish their dissertation and Ph.D. within a couple of years. At least a couple of them had to leave when they didn't actually finish their Ph.D.

University professors are usually evaluated for tenure and promotion mainly on the basis of their research. College professors are evaluated more on the basis of their teaching; their research has gotten more important than it used to be, but mainly as a way to provide research experience for students. The exact balance between teaching and research varies from one school to another, though. Some elite colleges (e.g. Williams or Swarthmore) have fairly high expectations for research.
Nice explanation. Just to make it complete, what are the criteria in evaluating one's research? I mean, is it # of papers? # of citations? h-index? or what?
 

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