News & Insights

If you look hard enough, there seems to be research available about every aspect of higher education — most of it concerned with determining what contributes to successful educational outcomes. Inside Higher Ed recently posted an article about some research being done around the emotional lives of professors and how their emotional response to the demands on their time and energies contribute, ultimately, to their ability to teach.

Professors Have Feelings, Too” considers new research around the pretenure faculty experience. (The paper in question is titled “The Emotions of Pretenure Faculty: Implications for Teaching and Research Success.”) The paper hopes to address seemingly conflicting studies:

There’s a divide between qualitative research that consistently identifies certain factors ? namely clear expectations for promotion and tenure, collegiality and balance between work and home ? as important to faculty success, the paper says, and other quantitative research suggesting that those factors actually have limited influence.

After looking at faculty emotions related to teaching and research, it seems clear that professors have more positive emotions associated with teaching than they do with research:

A survey of 102 pretenure faculty members found more enjoyment, happiness, pride, satisfaction and relaxation regarding teaching. There was more frustration, anxiety, worry, fear, envy, shame, loneliness and hopelessness in research.

You can read all about the research and the correlations between the various emotions faculty feel and the effects those emotions have on performance in the article.

For those who play a role in faculty development, the article highlights a couple takeaways for institutions:

  • “Collegiality was also a significant, direct predictor of control and value and an indirect predictor of success in both the teaching and research domains via faculty emotions.”
  • “[E]ncouraging greater discussion of and emphasis on emotions in faculty in general could benefit faculty development.”
  • “Efforts to increase how professors value teaching, or bolster faculty perceptions of control and value concerning research, for instance, should result in improved faculty well-being.”
  • “And value for teaching may be improved by ‘providing faculty more choice in what, when or how they teach, by creating awards for outstanding teaching, or by ensuring suitable recognition of high-quality instruction in tenure and promotion deliberations.’"

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