TEACHING / RESEARCH / SERVICE...WHAT THEY MEAN AT KNOX

The college has some official language in the Faculty Handbook on what each of these three areas of faculty responsibility mean, and the importance of each in one's work at Knox, and it's helpful to look at this from time to time. (See in Section III-B, "Criteria for Evaluation of Faculty.") Here are a few more thoughts about what these three areas of faculty work--common to almost every type of institution of higher education--mean at Knox.

At Knox teaching is at the center of what we do. This is what we're here for--to help students learn, to guide them to key ideas and methods, to encourage, prod, provoke and correct as they gain understanding, critical judgment, and ultimately engage in original thinking in our fields. We each are grounded in the particular discipline and subject area of our training, and our own teaching is centered there. But part of our mission is to see that students are educated "liberally," across the disciplines and mindful of interconnections between fields. And one of the pleasures of a college like Knox is that we have opportunities to extend our own learning and teaching as well.

There is no one model of excellent teaching. The great lecturer is alive and well at Knox--as is the workshop leader, the facilitator of discussions, the co-learner. The main thing is to think about the kind of teaching we're doing, to reflect on methods and subject matter taught, to experiment, and evaluate. Part of the process for contract renewal, tenure, or promotion involves us writing about our teaching--our goals, our methods, and how we may have changed these over time.

Engagement in scholarship or creative/artistic work is also crucial to one's development as a faculty member. Our high priority on teaching is closely connected to this emphasis on scholarship, since effective, exciting teaching depends on us being current in our fields and in making active contributions to them. We're not expected to produce the quantity of scholarship/artistic work that is often expected at a major university (though some do). But active involvement in one's field is of high importance. As for teaching, a description of one's research/artistic agenda is part of the review process--a chance for us to present a review of what we've done and a preview of what's on the horizon, and to discuss in what ways our research relates to our teaching.

The college provides enormous freedom in how we define our scholarly/artistic agenda--how broadly defined, how focused. Sometimes that flexibility is at odds with the academic marketplace, and there may be times when it seems impossible to establish an agenda that makes us comfortable both with institutional expectations and external pressures. Colleagues and the dean can help one sort out what makes sense. It's often a matter of thinking about a long-term agenda and figuring out priorities, and talking to someone else about it can help a lot.

Finally, the college depends on us to participate in institutional service for its governance and well-being. Our educational mission generates lots of supporting tasks that need to be done--both for the maintenance and for the creative changing of the institution. The small size of our faculty insures that we're called on a lot. But the small size of the institution also means that it is easy for one individual to have an impact, which can be enormously gratifying.

There's not just one way to combine and balance activities in the three areas of teaching, research, and service. Teaching is always at the center, but there may be some years one does major changes in the subjects and/or methods of teaching and other years when one is in more of a "steady state." There may be similar variations in the areas of research and service. A sure route to burn out is to introduce three totally new courses, launch a large new research project, and chair a major committee with a big change agenda all in one year! How the areas get balanced out may differ from faculty member to faculty member, or at different points in a single faculty member's career. The challenge is to find a balance at any given point that is personally satisfying, is serving well the students who are the reason for us being here, and can be done while still staying sane.

The Faculty Development Program provides various opportunities to talk with others--individually or in groups--about issues of professional development. Another resource is the faculty development bookshelf in the library, where you can find in one place an array of books on many aspects of an academic career. The bookshelf is on the first floor of the Library. A map of its location is here.