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<ul><li><p>Empiricism and the Art of Teaching</p><p>Josef M. Broder*</p><p>Teaching is a messy, indeterminate, inscrutable, often intimidating, and highlyuncertain task. </p><p>Richard Elmore</p><p>Introduction</p><p>Effective teaching is a recurring topic offaculty discussion and disagreement. The title ofmy address suggests that effective teaching has twocomponents. First and increasingly important,teaching has an empiricaJ component. Theempiricism of teaching asserts that there areidentifiable traits of effective teaching that can beused to improve ones teaching experience. I wantto share with you some insights we have gainedfrom recent empiricaJ studies on teaching and theteaching evaluation process. Second, there is the artof teaching or the intangible and creative componentof teaching. I will speak on how the art of teachingcan be refined. This I will do by way of offeringsome personal teaching tips that have at least mademy teaching experience more enjoyable, Mypresentation will proceed M follows. I will beginwith one of my more disheartening experiences asa graduate teaching assistant. Next, I will discusssome basic assumptions about teaching at researchinstitutions, Here, I discuss the unique role ofteaching, its critics, its limitations, and sources ofimprovement. Next, I will review some of themajor findings of empirical studies. Last, I willoffer personal and professional recommendations forteaching effectiveness,</p><p>On this reluctant occasion I am remindedof my early teaching experiences in graduate school.I volunteered to be a teaching assistant in amarketing class for Michigan State Universitys</p><p>two-year AG TECH Program. I remember thesestudents as being rather atypical college students bytheir willingness to express their opinions ofclassroom affairs, In this particular class I hadassigned a term project. Students were asked toresearch a topic, write a report and make formalclass presentations. These tasks proved ratherdifficult for one of my more outspoken students,Tim, I believe was his name. At first he resistedthe assignment and later had a penchant of askingsome off the wall questions. I encouraged himto do his best, despite my lack of teaching</p><p>experience. The day came for Tim to give hisformal class presentation. A hectic day I recall. Istayed late for one of my own classes and came tenminutes late for class. When I arrived, the classwas waiting patiently. Tims presentation was thelast of four that day. Time expired and Timspresentation had to be cut short. His presentationwas good, but the bell rang before class discussion.I thought nothing more about it until I received myend-of-term evaluations. My teacher ratings weregood with one rather startling exception. Onestudent rated me poor on alt categories, andprovided one of the most discouraging assessmentsof my teaching career. The evaluation read,</p><p>This is the worst teacher I haveever had in my entire life. Infact, this teacher is so bad 1wouldn t even recommend him tomy dog!</p><p>*Josef M. Broder is professor, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Umversity of Georgia, Athens.Presidential address to the Southern Agricultural Economics Association Meeturg, Nashville, Tennessee, Februaw 6-9, 1994. The author would like to thank Bob Shulstad, Steve Turner, Fred Wh]te, Helen Fosgate, Ralph Christy,Oral Capps, and Sandra Batie for their helpful comments and suggestions.</p><p>.J. Agr. and Applied &amp;on. 26 (l), July, 1994: 1-18Copyright 1993 Southern Agricultural Economics Association</p></li><li><p>. thder Elnpmcwn and t)le AM OJTeackingL</p><p>With these comments one wonders why I havespent the better part of my professional career inteaching, Curiosity, embarrassment, guilt,frustration, or revenge, I am at a loss to say, Irmvcr got to thank that particular student for his</p><p>mslghts, It may not even have been Tim. Adversilyis truly one of lifes greatest teachers, Todayspresentation is motivated by the spirit ofovercoming the frustrations of teaching.</p><p>Basic Assumptions About Instruction</p><p>The environment m which teaching isconducted at research r.tmversitics ignites the crmx</p><p>of higher education and provides a setting for itslimitations and source of improvement. Some basic</p><p>assumptions about this environment are presented.</p><p>Teaching is the only non-proprietaryactivity of higher education, William Prokasy, ourVice President for Academic Affairs, argues that[post-secondary] teaching is the exclusive domain ofuniversities and colleges. As monopolists, wc havedone little to improve the quality of our teachingproduct, Research and service activities areconducted by other public and private institutions.Because of competition from other institutions, wehave been far more aggressive and innovative in ourresearch and service activities than in our teachingaetlvmes.</p><p>Public scrutiny of public institutions, ingeneral, and universities, in particular, hasintensi$ed. The assessment arena for highereducation is no longer the exclusive domain offaculty members. The universities monopoly onteaching is being challenged. Here are someexamples. 1 worry when legislators learn that Imin the classroom only two hours each day; whenlegislators oppose sabbatical leaves on the groundsthat the ~axpayer should not pay university facultyto take vacations; when Susie has to buy a sectionenrollment card from another student to enroll in arequired course; when Tim cotnplains about hisclass of 300 students and his TA who has troublespeaking English; when transfer students strugglethrough our basic courses, despite having had theprerequisites; when business schools dontrecognize agricultural economics courses as meetingthe necessary business requirements; and when</p><p>agribusiness employers recruit from businessschools instead of from our department.</p><p>The documentation of teaching quality inagricultwal economics departments is inadequatefor the promotion and tenure process at mostuniversities (Kahl and Williams). The problemsand limitations of documenting teaching quality inour departments result from the following. First,tcachmg performance receives much poorerdocumentation than does research in promotion andtenure dosslcrs (Louis). Second, the process ofusing student evahmtions for measuring teachingperformance is highly subjective and controversial(Machina). Third, the teaching evaltmtions used inagricultural economics and related departments arebetter suited for personnel decisions than forimproving teaching performance of individualfaculty members, Fourth, the methods and rigoragricultural economists have applied to problems ofagriculture, food, and rcsourccs have not beenapplied to their teaching evaluation process.</p><p>Good classes are distinguished from poorones not by instructional magic, but by a set ofidentifiable practices (Garvin, p. xxii). While theelements of good classes and good teaching cannotbe completely codified, certain practices andtechniques seem to be more effective than others.Knowing how various techniques affect teachingquality is the motivation for the empiricism ofteaching. This assertion does not dismiss the artisticpart of teaching, but suggests that the ant andscience of teaching are interdependent.</p><p>The Southern Agricultural EconomicsAssociation (SAEA) should take an active role inpromoting teaching qua/ity. In recent years theSAEA has taken an active role in promotingteaching quality. Yet, the proportion of theAssociations resources devoted to teachingactivities is small relative to faculty appointments inteaching. With the recent change in the name ofour journal, the SA13A is in a unique position totake a more aggressive role in promotmgprofessional dialogue on teaching.</p><p>The Origins of Poor Teaching</p><p>Richard Elmore of Harvards GraduateSchool of Education writes that universities seek</p></li><li><p>J. Agr. and Applied Econ,, July, 1994 3</p><p>shelter from public scrutiny of teaching quality byconstructing the following defenses (p, x),</p><p>1. Professors are hired to profess, not reallyto teach. Unlike primary and secondaryschool teachers, we are trained almostexclusively in subject matter and notmethods of teaching. Since we know somuch, our task is to tell students everything we know. Of course, we assume thatstudents want to learn everything theprofessor knows or has to say.</p><p>2, College studenti are motivated more by adesire to master the subject matter andless by how the subject matter ispresented. We assume that students whoattend college are motivated by anappreciation and respect for knowledge.While bells and whistles are needed tomotivate students in primary and secondaryschools, our students are only interested inthe subject matter.</p><p>3. Teaching is a g~t that descends fromheaven onto the shoulders of a fewamong us. That is, good teaching is suchan integral part of ones personality that itcarmot be taught. Consequently, as long asa department has its share of goodteachers, other faculty shouldnt be overlyconcerned with teaching quality. Granted,while some faculty are better teachers thanothers, there is no reason why all facultycant be good teachers,</p><p>4. D~ferences in teaching are matters oftaste and style. That is, differences inopinion on teaching quality are highlysubjective and matters of personalpreference. When teaching performance isdefined in this context, faculty are reluctantto criticize a colleagues style of teaching,even when that particular style is thesource of poor teaching performance.</p><p>The origins of poor teaching can be tracedto periods of prosperity and expansion in highereducation. A period when students and fundingwere plentiful, A period when there was littlepublic scrutiny of higher education. Times have</p><p>changed. Universities have become big business.Robert Hemenway, Chancellor of the University ofKentucky, has argued that modem researchuniversities are at risk of losing their intellectual,political, and moral authority. Increasingly, wehave to compete with pollsters, celebrities, and talkshow hosts in the intellectual marketplace.Politically, we compete with prisons and highwaysfor public monies. Much of the publics knowledgeof Universities is limited to football statistics. Welost the moral high ground when we purged ourstudies of ethical and normative questions in thename of scientific rigor. The political correctnessthat has filled this moral void has garnered littlesupport from the public. Universities have passedinto a new age of accountability, an agc in whichpoor teaching cannot be defended.</p><p>Measuring Teaching Quality?</p><p>Despite a growing concern for teachingquality, there is a reluctance to ask the difficultquestions as to what makes up good and poorteaching. How does an individual or departmentadopt a strategy for effective teaching? Muchdispute arises over the qualifications of theevaluator or who is best qualified to judge teachingquality. Here, reasonable educatom will disagree.A few years ago, Bill Taylor and I took acomprehensive look at how agricultural economicsdepartments evaluate teaching (Broder and Taylor).Table 1 shows that student evaluations of teaching(SETS) are the primary method used to evaluateteaching in the Southern Region and the U.S. as awhole. Despite the wide-scale use of studentevaluations, the use of student evaluations formeasuring teaching performance is highly subjectiveand controversial (Machina). Critics of studentevaluations have argued that there is little evidencethat teaching evaluation forms and proceduresactually measure or contribute to teaching quality(Braskamp, et al.). One of our concerns was tobetter understand why student evaluations are metwith such skepticism. To answer this question, weexamined the larger incentive and reward structureof our universities. We believe that studentevaluations are discounted in the promotion andtenure process much like teaching is discounted inthat process. The tenuous role of teaching atresearch universities is explored in the followingconceptual discussion.</p></li><li><p>4 Broder Empiricism and the Art of Teaching</p><p>Table 1. Methodsof TeachingEvaIustionUsed by AgriculturalEconomics snd RelatedDepartments in the Southern Region</p><p>Frequency</p><p>Method Frequently Ckcusionally By Request Never</p><p>--------------------------- percent ---------------------------</p><p>Student 100.0 -- -- -.</p><p>Peer 7.7 23.1 46.2 23.1</p><p>Administrative 23.1 23.1 23.1 30.1</p><p>AtUnmi 0.0 23.1 7.7 61.5</p><p>Industry 0.0 15.4 15.4 61.5</p><p>Conceptual Framework</p><p>Teaching activities can be examined in thelarger context of allocating faculty resources.Faculty resources are allocated at the margin basedon the perceived costs and benefits of facultyactivities. Yet, the costs and benefits of facultyactivities cant be known with certainty.Uncertainties lead to market imperfections thatdistort the resource allocation process betweenteaching, rese~ch, and other faculty activities(Broder and Taylor), First, information costs ofdocumenting teaehing and research are different orasymmetrical. That is, research productivity iseasier to document than teaching productivity.Second, unlike research, the benefits of teachingactivities are not fully translated into departmentalrevenue accounts. That is, the benefits of teachingare undervalued compared with those of research.My earlier work with Rod Ziemer showed that theearnings of teachers are significantly less than thoseof researchers, ceteris paribus (Broder and Ziemer).This finding has puzzled me for most of my</p><p>professional career,</p><p>Many faculty members allocate their timeamong several activities, For example, assume afaculty member allocates his/her time betweenteaching and research activities as shown by thetransformation curves in figure 1. We assume thatfaculty members operate on the frontier of theirtransformation curves rather than at some interiorpoints such as point D. As faculty members move</p><p>through the professional ranks we assume theybecome more productive and move to highertransformation curves, Of course, we assume that[full] professors operate on the highest of thesetransformation curves (Pc -Pc). Teaching andresearch activities generate revenues or rewards thatare shown by the price or revenue line. Optimumallocation of faculty resources is defined by thepoint of tangency between the transformation curveand the price line. Here, the marginal rate oftransformation is equal to the inverse price ratio.</p><p>With perfect information and markets forfaculty resources, faculty activities shouldapproximate the theoretical optimum. Distortions ormisallocation of faculty resources occur when thebenefits of teaching are poorly documented or whendepartments and universities cannot capture thebenefits of their teaching activities. In both cases,these market distortions lead to a steeper price lineand a smaller allocation of faculty resources toteaching activities. That is, market distortions mayresult in an under-allocation of faculty resources toteaching. Improved documentation of teaching andits benefits rotates the price line clockwise andresults in more faculty resources devoted toteaching. In the long run, effective documentationof teaching can affect the faculty members caree...</p></li></ul>