Balancing Teaching and Research

Updated: Sep 27, 2019

Hold on while I get my magic wand...

As academics I'm sure you'll agree that there is an expectation to be excellent at both teaching and research and sometimes both at the same time. So how can we make it manageable? Today's posts condenses some of my own research looking at academic productivity and how you can begin to have the best of both worlds. None of this is rocket science but perhaps there are one or two suggestions in here that you can implement tomorrow to work towards a better balance.

Reality check

The UK higher education landscape is evolving and this is becoming all the more apparent in the metrics used to assess quality in institutional teaching and research. From speaking with academic friends from all levels of the HE career spectrum there is consensus that being an academic is now a very different job to what it used to be. The one thing I have observed in these conversations is that everyone says, "if only I had more time!" That's not being an academic sadly, that's just life!

However, I am a firm believer that there are always better ways of doing things, it's just a case of finding out how to do it better. If you are embarking in an academic career or, like me, you have switched into HE later on in your career here are my thoughts on how to maximise your productivity and keep the balance between your research and teaching in check.

Setting a weekly plan

In my later marketing roles some days I would literally go from one meeting to another to the point that I needed to be ruthless with my time in order to get anything done. Perhaps I lost my edge a little in academia where things became more fluid and the pace was different to what I was used to. So putting my industry hat back on - any time that's fixed week to week you need to bolt down in your diary - lectures, seminars, lecture prep time, team meetings things that occur regularly without fail. Setting aside time for emails too. This gives you a realistic view of the amount of time you actually have to play with for work and play. You can find a great post of this here.

When do you work best ?

We all have different energy levels, for some we work best in the morning and for others late night is when your your thoughts are at the most creative. When scheduling in your time for writing, whether it's one hour or three, try and fit it into your daily schedule when you are at your most optimum pace. You need to work little and often on research, you need to build it into your daily routine so you switch into it automatically.

Connect your teaching to your research

Ensure your teaching connects to your research in some way - merge the two aspects of your role, This depends on which modules you are teaching. But regardless of this there is always at least one way you can do this, such e.g. a lecture session, case study, critique of a journal paper, ideas on a topic you are exploring, data collection, using your research to inform the design of a new programme, presenting your research or as a class exercise. Check out the tips from Vincens and Bourne (2009).

Don't over-commit

If you over-commit then you are going to run into even more issues with time management, so commit to activities and events consciously - is it worth your time? is it going to help you develop? is it helping you achieve one of the goals you set out whether professional or personal? If you lead a team you still need to be considerate of those that work alongside you, support and value their contribution, so again conscious decision making here - just try and commit to the right things.

I'm sure there will be a few more posts on this in the upcoming months. There are so many other ways to enhance your productivity, but start with a routine and go from there. Right, I'm off to tennis...

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