wildcatIDEAS

Moving from a 5-course teaching load to a 2-2+ (Two-Two-Plus) teaching load

Full-time faculty at Davidson currently teach five courses per year, three courses in one semester and two in the other. The faculty and I are very interested in learning whether we can move to a co-called "two-two-plus" workload, in which faculty would teach two courses each semester and also contribute something else to teaching (the "plus.") The "plus" could be a specified number of independent study courses, supervision of a set number of honors or senior theses, and additional full course (a fifth course) etc. Currently, some of the "plus" categories are covered by the Teaching Rewards Program, aka "Clark Points."

 

Why this proposal? Two reasons:

(1) I posit that faculty teach better (and we would further interpret this as students learn more) when they focus only on preparing for and teaching two courses rather than three. But I have no direct evidence of this claim. If the Innovation project could investigate this hypothesis (e.g., student feedback on courses or measured learning is higher when a professor teaches two courses rather than when the professor teaches three), that would be of great interest. What is clear is that faculty are less stressed when they teach two compared to three courses. Faculty stress levels directly impact student (and staff) stress levels. We aim to develop faculty's capacities to serve as models of healthy balance for students, and this proposal would be one way to move in that direction.

(2) The Teaching Rewards Program costs the college approximately $150,000 a year and this work comes in addition to the five courses per year. These responsibilities are distributed unevenly across the faculty. Moving them into a fully accounted category that is part of the required teaching load would allow for advance, thoughtful panning of independent studies courses (which is common but not universal currently, both on the part of students and faculty) and a more thoughtful holistic assessment of why we are teaching so many independent studies courses (is it good? bad? for the curriculum? Do we need to add faculty staffing in some areas and how shall we best do that?)

 

An outcome of such a proposal, assuming (as I do, and as I insist) that it not be attained by a 20% increase in the size of the faculty, is that many majors and assumptions about instruction would need to be re-thought. Perhaps the number of courses required for a major would decrease from 10 to 9. Maybe some unusually high-enrollment courses would be taught (something that more established faculty members like Clark Ross remember fondly and think were done with very high quality). Maybe enrollments per course would be allowed to increase across many courses. In other words, in order for such a proposal not to require a ~20% increase in the number of faculty, various strategies would be deployed.

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Idea No. 25