Teaching to improve research skills? Thinking about Feldon et al. (2011)

When graduate students teach, they acquire important research skills, like generating testable hypotheses or designing research, more than their peers who “only” do research, according to Feldon et al. (2011), who compared methodolocical skills in research proposals written by graduate students.

This is quite interesting, because while many graduate students enjoy teaching, there are only 24 hours in a day (and 8 in a work day), and teaching is often seen as competing for time with research. But if teaching actually helps develop research skills (for example because the teaching graduate students are practicing those skills over and over again while advising students, whereas the “research only” graduate students are usually working on pre-defined projects without opportunities to practice those skills), this is a good argument to assign a higher status to teaching even in research training. This would not only lead to graduates that have more experience teaching, but that also have stronger research skills. Win-win!

Feldon, D. F., Peugh, J., Timmerman, B. E., Maher, M. A., Hurst, M., Strickland, D., … & Stiegelmeyer, C. (2011). Graduate students’ teaching experiences improve their methodological research skills. Science, 333(6045), 1037-1039.

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