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Friday, July 21, 2006

Teaching vs. Scholarship: This time, with data!

Those of you interested in the perennial discussion about the relationship between teaching and scholarship probably whetted your appetite with last week's colloquy among Stuart Buck, Orin Kerr, and Larry Solum.  However, Ben Barton (law, UTenn), who served as my "new scholars" mentor at SEALS, has actually done an empirical survey of the matter. (H/t to Lisa Fairfax at the Glom.)  His study concludes:

The study correlates each of these five different research measures against the teaching evaluation index for all 623 professors, and each individual law school. The results are counter-intuitive: there is no correlation between teaching effectiveness and any of the five measures of research productivity. Given the breadth of the study, this finding is quite robust.

I don't know whether to confess relief or despair over these results.  But I wonder if either Larry or Stuart might be sensitive to the dataAge of empiricism, anyone?

Btw, if you haven't already, check out and weigh in on Larry's new beta version of the Legal Theory Blog.

Posted by Administrators on July 21, 2006 at 12:47 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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» http://lsolum.typepad.com/legaltheory/2006/07/barton_on_teach.html from Legal Theory Blog
Barton on Teaching Scholarship--and some comments! If you are a legal academic, you should probably read this. Benjamin Barton (University of Tennessee, Knoxville - College of Law) has posted Is There a Correlation Between Scholarly Productivity, Schol... [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 21, 2006 8:53:33 AM

» Barton on Teaching from Legal Theory Blog
If you are a legal academic, you should probably read this. Benjamin Barton (University of Tennessee, Knoxville - College of Law) has posted Is There a Correlation Between Scholarly Productivity, Scholarly Influence and Teaching Effectiveness in Americ... [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 21, 2006 8:55:38 AM

» Can We Measure the Relationship Between Teaching and Scholarship in Law Schools from Empirical Legal Studies
Today, the ELS Blog is pleased to host a one-day forum on the relationship (or lack of relationship) between teaching and scholarship in law schools. The forum is prompted by a recent empirical study by Benjamin Barton of University of [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 2, 2006 8:46:14 AM


I stand corrected! I'm doubly glad I gave you what for in the evaluations then. I still don't think that there's any relationship between the two and I generally think that the reason that law professors are generally not as good as their counterparts in other disciplines is because of the way law professors are selected and the fact that they do not have practice teaching the way that graduate assistants do enroute to a Ph.D. But in full disclosure, I wrote the above after an all you can eat and drink session with about 20 people in a Japanese restaurant. So perhaps my critical judgement was a bit off.

Posted by: Bart Motes | Jul 25, 2006 11:28:14 PM

Bart, suprisingly or not, many of the raw prawfs worry about getting good teaching evaluations because the deans read the evaluations (or purport to at least) and some of them are loose-lipped among faculty. That means it's just another way to be assessed. Moreover, in many law schools at least, incompetent teaching poses a stumbling block toward tenure, if not an insurmountable one.

Posted by: Dan Markel | Jul 25, 2006 12:52:47 PM

Er....why is it counterintuitive? Teaching effectiveness is not valued in the slightest by law schools. A rare few law professors do not view students as occupational hazards. What component does teaching have in tenure review, lateral hires, etc? Research is much more important, and the only question is why are there any good "teaching" law professors, not why does it not correlate to research performance.

Posted by: Bart Motes | Jul 25, 2006 11:29:56 AM

I wonder also about selection bias (not sure if the same as Alec). Suppose those who are both good teachers and scholars in fact are highly valued in the legal profession. Suppose also that these types of teacher/scholars tend to migrate to higher ranked schools (top 10 schools). This would mean that looking at primarily non-top 10 schools (which I think the study does) would systematically understate any positive correlation between good teaching and good scholarship.

Of course, I might be wrong (or I might be right). But the point is that the study does not seem to control for this possible bias. So it's a lingering possibility (actually I think probability) that is not ruled out in the study.

Posted by: Anon | Jul 22, 2006 9:11:57 PM

Thanks for the tip, Dan! I respond here.

Posted by: Stuart Buck | Jul 21, 2006 3:15:16 PM

Isn't there a massive potential for selection bias at work in this study. I only skimmed through it, but it seems like that should be a pretty prominent thing for the author to try to control.

Posted by: Alec | Jul 21, 2006 8:46:10 AM

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