Miguel Panao | Professor and Author

Finding ways to improve scientific writing and academic productivity.

So much done for your students and for what?

What is our “why” as a professor? Teach and Research, although not necessarily in this order. For 14 weeks I’ve shared with my students several tips to increase their productivity and thrive at any discipline. But after the results in the first evaluation of my discipline… I wondered what’s wrong …

Academic productivity is like a bridge built by professors and students. Each has to do his part. Building something takes time and effort. I felt that every time I prepared a class, exercises, speech, and weekly emails, I was building my part of the bridge. But the results in the first evaluation were typical of unmotivated persons. Not all, obviously.

I remember the time I was a student, and in all the disciplines I liked, studying them was always rewarding, no matter how hard it was to understand the concepts. Those I didn’t like, well… studying them was a necessary hard thing to do.

I understand my students. If it matters to you, you’ll work on the topic, study to learn it (not just to pass the exam) and you thrive. But if it doesn’t matter to you, you have find motivation elsewhere, otherwise, you fail and flunk.

When I saw that, I thought about giving up all the work and just do whatever is required of me. But this isn’t right. I have to thrive as well. And in this sense, I thought about three leitmotifs that might help us – professors – thrive.

1. The Power of Why

Always remember your WHY. When I started investing in developing this personal project dedicated to academic productivity, my hypothesis was this: students’ success depends more on what they do outside class, and how they manage time, health, daily habits, than anything else. 

My purpose is to teach a certain discipline and help students discover how learning is rewarding, not just getting a good grade. Focusing on my WHY is powerful because it detaches me from the result, which often depends on unforeseen events. It takes time before new ideas thrive, which is why you need the second leitmotif.

2. The Virtue of Persistence

If you give up, students give up. If you motivate them to persist no matter what, you must set the example. New ideas thrive as long as you persist in systematically shaping your methods in response to your WHY. 

However, it is important to discern whether some method is simply not working. Persisting with wrong methods won’t get you, or your students, to experience a rewarding learning process. Persisting means constantly updating your methods because the world changes at a fast pace and students 10 years ago are not the same as today. Thus, if the world changes and your methods can also become obsolete, where can we find the motivation to keep persisting? This is where the third leitmotif might help.

3. The Beauty of Belief

Every success story I’ve heard starts with “I believe”. The beauty of belief is what keeps us persisting in developing the methods to improve students academic productivity.

I believe a good university is not the one making the best students better, but is able to turn a low grade student into an excellent, highly motivated one. I believe we can develop a system where personal development has a strong influence on students performance. More than teaching them what they must know, I believe we can show them, through teaching, what they can become. In this way I’m also making sure they learn what they must know.

And this is the beauty of belief in the virtue of persistence guided by the power of WHY.

QUESTION: Have you ever experienced delusion at your students results despite the work you’ve done? How did you overcome it? Share your experience in the comments below.

About Miguel Panao

I am a Professor at the University of Coimbra in Mechanical Engineering. I am also author of books in the fields of environmental ethics and Science and Religion. From the several research projects, this site is personal and dedicated to the search for the best approaches, tools, techniques to improve scientific productivity.

Leave a Reply