Teaching Schools vs. Research Schools

<p>So as an undergraduate if you had the ability to choose between two schools one of which hired professors to teach and didn't allow TA's or Grad Students to teach and the other hired professors primarily to research and allowed TA's and Grad Students to teach both being of equal difficulty which would you pick and why. </p>

<p>My thoughts on this are that for undergrad education I would take the teaching school as I feel the quality of the baseline education you would get would be better.</p>

<p>My D chose a teaching university for her undergrad in order to get the most from her classes. Many of the professors are alumni of Brown, Stanford, Penn, and other top schools so I think her choice allows her the best of all worlds. AND, when and if she decides to apply to top tier grad schools, she will have alumna professors to ask for recommendations.</p>

<p>Your premise is incorrect. There is no such thing as research schools (excluding a few unique places with no undergrads). People can do both and in many areas, research is not that big an issue (foreign languages, many liberal arts areas, education etc). Most time intensive research is in the sciences and in that case it can help to be at a place doing lots of it as there are many projects to get involved with. Most teaching loads are not that heavy at research heavy schools-- 2 or 3 classes per semester.</p>

<p>For most good students I'd lean toward a LAC or small university that is focused on undergraduates. If however you are very advanced in a specialized area then you would benefit from a school with graduate programs in that area.</p>

<p>The best universities strike a balance between teaching and research. Most of the Ivies, Stanford, Duke, Rice, Chicago, Hopkins, etc., all offer small classes and strong undergraduate focus in addition to robust research programs. </p>

<p>Another important factor, I think, is whether a school has a clear sense of its undergraduate teaching mission, as reflected in its curriculum plan, graduation requirements, and grading policies. Does it have specific instructional and administrative mechanisms in place to advance that mission? Examples: the Yale and Rice University residential college systems, the Chicago and Columbia Core curriculum, the Brown University Open Curriculum plan, the St. John's College "Don Rag", the Reed College oral comprehensive exams, the Williams College tutorial system. There is no single plan that works best for everyone, but it is good to see evidence that the faculty and administration have thought through some approaches that work for their school.</p>

<p>Brown allows undergraduate students to be TAs.</p>

<p>I have mixed feelings with the whole "teaching schools vs. research schools" discussion. From my experience, "research universities" (schools with 6000+ students) provide more academic options for students AND have more diverse student populations. For instance, I majored in an interdisciplinary field that combines education, public policy and the social sciences at a medium-sized university. My major is nearly non-existent in a LAC/teaching school.</p>

I like the question and think it deserves a lot more attention from prospective students. Still, research and teaching excellence need not be mutually exclusive. You can find plenty of good teachers at colleges most renown for their research. Likewise, you can find research opportunities even at small LACs that are known for their teaching. </p>

<p>I am a huge proponent of checking out what current students and very recent grads are saying about the teaching at their colleges. There are lots of sources for this and I suggest that you look at several. My experience is that patterns repeat and schools that provide the most effective classroom learning are consistently recognized for this. Proximity/access to profs is a recurring theme as is the benefit derived from learning in a small classroom with able peers. </p>

<p>One exercise that I recently did for the USNWR Top 50 national universities involved combining two datapoints—the USNWR PA score for research accomplishment and the CP grade for teaching excellence. I summed these two scores and came up with the following scores and “ranking” for the best blends of research and teaching. Pretty crude stuff, I acknowledge, but maybe it will prompt you to investigate further into some of these colleges.</p>

<p>(CP grade scale was 5.0 for A+, 4.5 for A, 4.0 for A-, 3.5 for B+, 3.0 for B)</p>

<p>Rank , Combined Research/Teaching Score , College</p>

<p>1 , 9.9 , MIT
1 , 9.9 , Princeton
1 , 9.9 , Stanford
4 , 9.6 , Caltech
4 , 9.6 , U Chicago
6 , 9.4 , Harvard
7 , 9.3 , Dartmouth
7 , 9.3 , Yale
9 , 9.1 , Columbia
10 , 9.0 , U Penn
11 , 8.9 , Brown
11 , 8.9 , Duke
13 , 8.8 , Northwestern
14 , 8.7 , Carnegie Mellon
14 , 8.7 , UC BERKELEY
16 , 8.5 , Cornell
16 , 8.5 , Emory
16 , 8.5 , Johns Hopkins
16 , 8.5 , Rice
16 , 8.5 , Vanderbilt
21 , 8.3 , U VIRGINIA
22 , 8.2 , UCLA
23 , 8.1 , Tufts
23 , 8.1 , Wash U
25 , 8.0 , Georgetown
25 , 8.0 , GEORGIA TECH
27 , 7.9 , U MICHIGAN
27 , 7.9 , U Rochester
27 , 7.9 , USC
30 , 7.8 , Notre Dame
30 , 7.8 , WILLIAM & MARY
32 , 7.6 , U N CAROLINA
32 , 7.6 , U WISCONSIN
34 , 7.5 , Brandeis
34 , 7.5 , U ILLINOIS
36 , 7.4 , U TEXAS
37 , 7.3 , NYU
37 , 7.3 , Tulane
37 , 7.3 , UC SAN DIEGO
40 , 7.2 , Lehigh
41 , 7.1 , U Miami
42 , 7.0 , Boston College
42 , 7.0 , Case Western
42 , 7.0 , Rensselaer
42 , 7.0 , UC S BARBARA
42 , 7.0 , Wake Forest
47 , 6.8 , PENN STATE
47 , 6.8 , U WASHINGTON
47 , 6.8 , UC DAVIS
50 , 6.6 , U FLORIDA
50 , 6.6 , UC IRVINE</p>

<p>To date, I have taken undergraduate coursework at:
1 highly selective LAC
1 non-selective LAC
1 large public university
1 famous-name "research" university
2 community colleges (two different states)</p>

<p>I had excellent instructors at each of these places. The only place I didn't encounter at least one less than excellent instructor was at the non-selective LAC. But then again, I was enrolled there for only one summer course.</p>

<p>There are good instructors everywhere, and bad ones too. A lot of your experience will just be luck-of-the-draw.</p>