Changing Faculty Workload without New Resources

The Creative Use of Curricular Planning, AAC&U Meeting (January 24, 2004)

Jill Reich, Elizabeth Tobin and Pamela Baker
Bates College

Challenge One: Faculty excellence cannot be compromised.
Demands on faculty time was the most serious threat to maintaining the academic quality of the institution. Excellence requires strong teachers, scholars and engaged citizens. Yet, faculty at Bates College complained regularly about too many classes, too many students, too much service, too little time for research or personal life.

Responses:

 

  • let people know we took their complaints seriously. To understand the problem, began by gathering data on course loads, enrollments, contact hours, thesis supervisions. Faculty worried numbers wouldn’t capture their experience, so we invited a consultant on workload issues, Linda McMillin, to meet with faculty.
  • researched faculty course loads at comparable colleges, found national data on faculty work weeks, attended ANAC conference on workload, thus preparing ourselves to identify real needs and construct a plan for change.
  • found that Curricular Organization did not effectively use faculty resources.
  • stage lasted from fall 2000 through spring 2001.


Challenge Two: How to use curricular planning to improve morale, lower workload, retain good education, and gain approval of outside audiences
Our faculty taught higher course loads than many comparable colleges, and did not feel their work was appreciated. “Counting” of faculty workloads varied by department and individuals. Data gathering showed we sometimes used faculty resources inefficiently, with very small classes, many new courses, and courses offered at the wrong times. There were no funds for adding additional faculty.

Responses:

  • tied reduction in instructional workload to curricular planning, requiring each department to explain how it could reduce the number of courses, maintain good curriculum, and operate fairly.
  • established parameters for each department to meet with their three-year plans.
  • conceptualized change as “reorganization” in workload: faculty teach fewer courses, still work hard, have more time for work with individual students and for research.
  • gained approval of trustees because curriculum, efficiency, and faculty recruiting improve.
  • developed plan from spring 2001 through December 2001; approved most plans in January and February 2002, to go into effect in fall 2003.

Challenge Three: Coping with Change
Even positive change is hard. Some faculty resented planning and central oversight of their curriculum; those who benefited from variations in “counting” opposed change; some departments had difficulty thinking in terms of college-wide needs, and some promised more than they delivered.

  • asked elected division chairs to evaluate and approve workload plans, allowing parameters for change to come from peers.
  • listened to faculty criticisms of our process and decisions, changing them when appropriate.
  • recognized that we can’t achieve absolute equity in faculty workload, but that our parameters moved us in the right direction.
  • continued to keep track of data and faculty adjustments to workload plans; reminded departments of their promises.
  • asked yearly for updated three-year curricular plans.