TORONTO, Nov. 11 /OUSA/ – Nearly three-quarters of university professors surveyed believe research has a bigger payoff than teaching, according to a report to be released tomorrow by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) and available at www.heqco.ca. The report, entitled University Faculty Engagement in Teaching Development Activities, reaffirms the need for greater government and institutional leadership in promoting teaching and learning on Ontario’s campuses. While 95 per cent of professors at six Ontario universities indicated that teaching is important or very important to their professional practice, only 61 per cent believe that teaching is important or very important to their institution.

“Ontario’s professors clearly want to do more to enhance the quality of their teaching, but they are discouraged by a system that is driven by research dollars and institutional prestige rather than learning outcomes for students,” said Meaghan Coker, President of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA). “This report should be on the desk of anyone concerned about the quality of a post-secondary education in Ontario.”

In addition to a general lack of emphasis on teaching, the report identifies a number of common barriers professors face in improving their teaching techniques. These include an overemphasis on research funding, a lack of incentives for the scholarship of teaching and learning, a flawed expectation of how professors divide their time between research and teaching, an abrupt transition from graduate student to faculty positions with little or no support for learning how to teach, and a tendency to forget about the needs of sessional and contract lecturers.

To drive institutional change, students are asking that the provincial government provide additional funding for teaching and learning that would be conditional upon each institution:

• Requiring new professors and all graduate students to undergo formal instruction in teaching, learning, and assessment;
• Increasing the capacity of their Centre for Teaching and Learning;
• Offering at least one small class experience to all first-year students;
• Appointing a teaching and learning leader in each department; and
• Establishing a taskforce on teaching and learning to recommend improvements on how to reward and measure teaching quality.

OUSA also calls on the province to lead by example and to establish chairs in teaching, similar to the research chairs already in existence.

“With a multi-year quality plan for post-secondary education under development, students are hopeful that we will see this research translate into the leadership and direction necessary to bring about a shift in the institutional culture around teaching and learning,” added Coker.