HSE researchers have analysed teaching load data at the HSE campus in St Petersburg to investigate the potential impact of teaching on faculty research output. They found that factors such as teaching primarily masters' courses, conducting 20% of lectures in English, and supervising only one doctoral student per year were associated with a greater likelihood of producing more high-quality academic papers. The study has been published in Higher Education Quarterly.
A teacher's work extends beyond the confines of the classroom. In addition to preparing lectures and seminars, grading homework, and completing administrative tasks, teachers must allocate time for academic research. According to the law, a teacher's workload must not exceed 900 hours per year. However, the precise number of hours and their distribution throughout the year are determined individually by the dean's office, taking into account the teacher's position and qualifications. It would be reasonable to assume that a more efficient allocation of teaching hours could create more opportunities for teachers to engage in research.
Previously, surveys have been conducted among teachers to gain insights into how teaching responsibilities impact their research output. These surveys have generally confirmed that reducing the teaching load may result in more and better academic publications. However, this finding is subjective, as it is based on perceptions of the teachers themselves.
The authors of the current paper analysed data on the teaching load and academic publications of 800 teachers at the HSE campus in St Petersburg. The researchers constructed two mathematical models and used data from the past seven years to determine the impact of teaching responsibilities on the quality and quantity of published research. In particular, the authors examined the correlation between two types of data: the classes and hours taught by an individual faculty member and the number of their publications that have received recognition through citations by the academic community. The researchers also tested the hypothesis that a higher concentration of teaching in one semester can have a positive effect by leaving the teacher more time for research and writing during the remaining part of the year.
An interesting aspect of analysing Russian data is that the total number of hours contributes to the teaching load, unlike universities in America and Europe where only classroom hours are taken into account. Our work, for the first time, considered the distribution of a teacher's workload across teaching bachelor's and master's courses, supervising students' academic papers, and conducting lectures and seminars in both English and Russian.
The findings indicate that while conducting lectures and seminars generally reduces a teacher's research output, focusing solely on teaching master's courses helps mitigate the negative impact. Additionally, it has been discovered that supervising more than one doctoral student within a year is detrimental to a teacher's research output, and supervising more than six doctoral students has a substantial negative impact on academic productivity. Teachers who deliver a portion (up to 20%) of their lectures in English tend to publish a greater number of papers in prestigious academic journals.
Interestingly, the findings contradict the hypothesis that concentrating the workload in a specific semester leaves the teacher more time for research. Teachers who opt to concentrate their teaching hours in one semester, aiming to have more uninterrupted time for research, do not achieve a higher publication rate compared to teachers whose teaching hours are distributed throughout the academic year.
When a university adopts a policy aimed at encouraging academic publications, it is crucial to understand what works. Our models highlight situations where teachers either attempted to publish a paper, but their research lacked significance, or did not even make any such attempt due to a lack of time and motivation. These findings can assist universities in developing more effective policies.
According to the researchers, studies of this kind can help universities create a better environment for teachers' academic growth while enhancing the overall quality of education. In the future, the authors plan to examine whether gender and age play a role in teachers' academic output and performance. The researchers also suggest that the comparative analysis they used at HSE could be applied by other Russian universities to examine their data.