©Marva A. Barnett

My teaching and research are both conceptually and pragmatically synergistic.

Conceptual Synergies
Research is, of course, learning. And both true, long-term learning and research are inquiries provoked by intellectual curiosity. So teachers must support, challenge, and focus inquiry in curious students and provoke intellectual curiosity in students who have not yet realized what they are missing. Many professors do this by modeling their thought processes for students; I also figure out ways to teach students how to engage in such processes (see the Hugo research project Précision de sujet activity, for example).

Similarly, in pursuing both research and learning, one works in an academically rigorous and honest way, aiming for clarity of thought and expression, as well as for accuracy. As I actively pursue a research agenda, then, I inherently model many qualities of academic rigor for my students and, on a practical level, keep up to date with the research tools I teach them to use. For my recognition of this overarching sort of synergy and mutual value of research and teaching, I credit my colleague Bob Cook and his articulation of some whys and hows of research and teaching.

Practical Synergies
Teaching is a manifestation of inquiry rather than of doctrine. And research is prolonged and focused inquiry. Thus a good teacher must frequently think in ways similar to those of a researcher, considering what, how, and why students are learning and figuring out how to improve the process. My classroom research includes a variety of techniques, such as the one-minute paper to see how well students grasp recently discussed material; mid-semester comments to gather their ongoing impressions of and suggestions to improve the course (sample comments); a Teaching Analysis Poll to enable them to share their ideas about the course and to provide me a majority, overall perspective; analysis of final student evaluations to improve future courses (sample evaluations).

Since long-term learning comes from one's deep engagement with information and ideas, and since people most easily and deeply engage with ideas they find inherently interesting, I incorporate research projects for students into some courses in order to promote better learning and to develop skills of inquiry. In this way, each student can, and does, become an expert in some aspect of the course. I believe that some of them also learn more about the value of pursuing research to new understandings. In all courses, I also engage students' sense of inquiry through assignments and class activities (see Strategies and Strengths).

Beginning with my experiences as a graduate student teaching assistant, most of my research projects have been inspired by something that happened in a course. My interest in investigating how American students read and understand in French grew initially from questions my Harvard students asked when reading with me during office hours. Sometimes their questions made little sense until I had probed further, discovering underlying misconceptions that had impelled them down a garden path of interpretation. Students thus provoked me to think more deeply about how we can ascertain what happens inside a reader's brain.

What I have discovered when conducting experiments with American students reading French (research summary) has furthered my respect for students as independent thinkers and as individuals. I find myself forever acknowledging the remarkably individual nature of the reading process, despite my concurrent recognition that statistical studies can help us to define general levels of reading competence and to elucidate trends among a group of students. Recognizing and analyzing the unending variety of reading styles that encompass a multiplicity of strategies, techniques, and approaches requires the same flexibility of mind that I try to engineer into my teaching.

Furthermore, through my research, I have discerned many of the ways in which people understand and (misunderstand) what they read. Thus I am intrigued to discover how each student tackles a text, and on what understandings each bases her or his interpretations. Frequently, I explore my own students' thinking processes by asking them to write a recall protocol, a flowing statement of what they remember from an assigned text. My analysis of these remembrances (typically used in reading research) shows me a great deal about how individual students read: whether they look for details or make sweeping generalizations, are careful or lax, note syntax or ignore it, and so on.

The desire to keep and develop an open, flexible mind, together with an ongoing curiosity about how people learn, drives my teaching and research. Thus I have branched out beyond reading research, first to delve into the writing process in a foreign language. That study led me to appreciate individual writing processes and styles, as well as the difficulty of learning to write persuasive essays. One of my top priorities in my courses is teaching students how to create solid thesis statements and valid supporting arguments (see Strategies and Strengths). My study of what cultural differences there might be in terms of reflective thinking in the humanities is an expansion of my interest in writing in a foreign language. The integration of my thinking on teaching and research has resulted in articles that have been recognized by several awards from outside agencies, including awards for articles on foreign language reading and writing.

Most recently, the revitalization of my interest in the works and life of Victor Hugo that led me to create FREN 355 has also energized me to write an anthology targeted toward French-speaking readers outside of France. The research involved in creating an anthology feeds directly into the knowledge and understanding necessary to teach the course.

I find myself lucky to work in a discipline that is inherently interdisciplinary: that includes work on language, culture, history, politics, sociology, literature, critical-thinking skills, and so on. Moreover, French studies, together with my work in faculty development and pedagogy, have led me to explore in several different directions, an interaction that keeps my research and teaching equally alive and in balance.