TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Northwestern Study: Excellent Teaching Is Unrelated To Excellent Research (And Vice Versa)

NorthwesternBrookings Institution: Are Great Teachers Poor Scholars?, by David Figlio (Northwestern) & Morton O. Schapiro (Northwestern):

Colleges and universities must balance many goals, and research universities in particular aspire to excellence in both teaching and research. University administrators and policymakers alike are interested in ensuring that publicly-supported private and public universities operate at high levels of instructional and scholarly quality, but to date we know little about whether scholarly excellence comes at a cost in terms of teaching quality, or vice versa.

We bring to bear unique matched student-faculty data from Northwestern University, a midsized research university that is one of the 26 private universities among the 62 members of the Association of American Universities, to investigate the relationship between teaching and scholarly quality. Using the full population of all first-year undergraduates enrolled at Northwestern between fall 2001 and fall 2008 (over 15,000 students in all), we empirically generate two new measures of teaching quality—one an indicator of inspiration (the rate of “conversion” of non-majors to majors) and the other an indicator of deep learning (the degree to which a professor adds lasting value to students’ learning that is reflected in success in future classes). We also investigate two measures of research quality—one based on a measure of the relative importance of a scholar’s research in the field, and the other a measure of national or international prominence as reflected by major awards.

We find that, regardless of our measure of teaching quality or our measure of research quality employed, there is no relationship between the teaching quality and research quality of tenured Northwestern faculty. Our estimates are “precise zeroes,” indicating that it’s unlikely that mismeasurement of teaching or research quality explains the lack of a relationship between the two. Therefore, while Northwestern admittedly occupies a rarefied space in the hierarchy of American universities, our results suggest that excellent teaching and excellent research are not substitutes (though neither are they apparently complements).


Legal Education, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink


Excellent teaching is hard work. Excellent research is hard work. Expecting someone to do both is insanity, and the result is less than excellent.

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Jan 28, 2017 9:48:03 AM

No sh

Posted by: Sherlock Holmes | Jan 28, 2017 1:19:02 PM

Can you spell "rationalization"? It's really not that hard. NOW add "service" to the equation. Yes, it is hard work, but to assert that it is not doable is absurd. Reasoning backward from "not doing it" and deciding that the reason is because it is "too hard" or that the research being demonstrated by legal scholars is so brilliant, substantive, intellectually deep in terms of how it approaches tax, civil procedure, already decided judicial decisions, contracts, torts and the like to the point that no human being could possibly achieve anything of substance in the teaching and research dimensions simultaneously is pathetic. Who are we kidding? For those who want to demonstrate the incredible substantive brilliance of legal scholars please provide a list of the most critical recent publications in the above areas and explain why they matter in the slightest.

Posted by: David | Jan 28, 2017 6:25:26 PM

was this written by a teacher or a scholar?

Posted by: mike livingston | Jan 29, 2017 3:35:35 AM

David, perhaps you misunderstand my point. Say someone is an excellent teacher, but a bust at publishing scholarly papers. Why force this teacher to produce mediocre papers in order to get tenure? Similarly, there may be somebody who has brilliant insights, but for whom English is a second language. Why force the poor students to endure his or her painful efforts at teaching? The scholarly teacher model may work well in physics, but not so much in law or business. We do not deal with an empirical world. Our world is made up of myths.

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Jan 29, 2017 7:08:30 AM