UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 9 | Sep.
Promoting Teaching, Promoting Teachers
By Cristina Calboreanu
A common theme in most Canadian universities is that teaching
and research rank equally and reinforce each other. But, as
Assoc. VP, Research Don Brooks explains, its a
lot easier to assess somebody, when theyre being promoted
or given tenure, on their research side than their teaching
side. Most universities havent really evolved a way
to encourage the faculty to expend more effort on their teaching.
As youre moving through the system as a professor,
says Brooks, theres a whole bunch of pressures,
and we need to find some way to not make teaching seem like
the least important one to respond to, as it seems to be in
According to Brooks, who is a professor of pathology and
chemistry, we [in the Faculty of Medicine] have promoted
or given tenure to people predominantly on the basis of their
teaching performance. They were innovative, and brought together
some new elements or started new courses. Theyve been
promoted and are moving through the ranks quite happily without
doing very much research at all.
Assoc. VP, Academic Programs Neil Guppy agrees that the Faculty
of Medicine has led the way in this area, but adds that at
UBC you can receive tenure or promotion based on teaching
in any faculty. He points to the new Guide to Promotion
and Tenure Procedures at UBC (http://www.facultyrelations.ubc.ca/forms/guideword.rtf),
which states that creative or professional work of distinction
(which includes the scholarship of teaching) ranks equally
with scholarly research. Among the criteria for evaluating
the scholarship of teaching are originality or innovation,
demonstrable impact in a particular field or discipline, and
substantial and sustained use by others.
Gary Poole, the director of the UBC Centre for Teaching and
Academic Growth (TAG), agrees that the challenge never
ends in a place this size where research is important -- and
so it should be. But, he adds, it would be really
wrong to give the impression that there was complacency on
the part of the university.
A wide range of resources are available to teachers through
TAG -- including support for new faculty, peer coaching for
faculty and teaching assistants, seminars and institutes,
and an annual two-day learning conference on the scholarship
of teaching. With a budget of $600,000 a year and the equivalent
of eight full-time positions, TAG is one of the largest
and most active instructional development centres in the country,
says Poole, who is also the President of the Society for Teaching
and Learning in Higher Education (Canadas national organization
dedicated to the enhancement of post-secondary teaching).
According to Poole, the Faculty Certificate Program on Teaching
and Learning in Higher Education is the most comprehensive
program of its kind in Canada.
TAG is also actively promoting problem-based learning (PBL),
through the PBL Network, and inquiry-driven learning, which
allow the students to take responsibility for their own learning
and help bridge the gap between teaching and research. We
must rise to the challenge to make it clear to our students
that attending a research-intensive university like UBC is
a great advantage, says Poole.
As part of these efforts, TAG is organizing the second Undergraduate
Multidisciplinary Research Conference in March 2004. At the
inaugural conference in September 2002, nearly 70 undergraduate
students from all disciplines presented their research work.
In a research university, where the students are surrounded
by faculty who learned by curiosity-based inquiry, says
Poole, wouldnt it be nice if that became contagious
and if what they learned from faculty members wasnt
just the knowledge of the subject area, but knowledge about
research processes -- how you go about learning about something,
without having to rely on sitting in a classroom and waiting
for someone to tell you?