Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Higher education teaching loads are about economics, not valuing teaching

Posted 23 Nov 2015 / 0

The Chronicle of Higher EducationWhy We Should Teach Less, Not More

This is a great opinion piece that effectively captures my perspective on this issue. High-quality higher education requires really labor-intensive curriculum development and maintenance. In order for a professor to provide a course that is comprehensive and up-to-date, she must spend countless hours keeping up with developments in her field. A four-courses-per-semester load — especially when paired with no assistance with grading — pretty much precludes being able to maintain the content of any of those courses because teaching that many courses eats up all the labor we can reasonable expect out of our professors.

Personally I have a “one day per class” rule for my existing courses: I have found that I need to allocate one day per week to each class section I teach in order to prepare for class sessions, deliver lessons, and keep up with grading. I teach three courses per semester, and my general goal is to dedicate one day to my active research, one day to reading literature and doing service, and three days to my courses. If I were to have four courses per semester, something would have to give, and it would either be my reading of literature (in other words, I would stop staying current for my courses) or my active research (in other words, I would stop creating anything novel). That one extra course makes a lot of difference!

I am lucky because I have a full-time position that pays me enough for nine months such that I don’t have to work during intersessions. The three months of the summer are when I often complete my largest projects that are scholarly in nature. It is also when I spend most of the time required to develop new courses. But for adjuncts, high teaching loads are even more stifling: if you need to pick up summer courses in order to make ends meet, that four-courses-a-semester load basically guarantees that you either won’t be a good teacher or you won’t be a productive scholar… unless you are willing to work way more than a five-day work week. I suppose that’s now the expectation, but it is neither a fair nor healthy expectation.

A Minor Post, Articles, Higher Education, Teaching, Web

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