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06/13/2019

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Michel

Thanks for the post, Peter! I've just started a position that's almost exactly like yours sounds, and it's reassuring to hear that others have and have faced the same struggles I'm only just learning about.

One of my particular frustrations has been not feeling like I have the time to finish up some of the research projects I started before getting this job, especially since research is where I find most of my professional rewards (so to speak). On the other hand, I know I just have to get through these first few summer courses, and then my preps are done for the forseeable future. Still, it's reassuring to hear other people saying as much, too! I need to learn to be OK with putting projects on hold.

Amanda

Interesting post, Peter. I am very impressed by anyone who teaches that kind of load and still manages to be at least somewhat active in research. I don't think I could manage that.

Since you directed your post at those at schools like yours, I would add that it is probably also relevant to those at different kind of institutions but that have teaching heavy positions. Permanent lecturers at my school teach a 4-4 officially, but the vas majority of them also teach extra classes over summer. And while you might think it would be easy for them to find people to work with, large institutions can be surprisingly isolating. I would imagine this is even more so when you work with TT persons who might not respect you as a researcher (I would like to think this isn't true, but reality can be harsh..)

A different question: once you have your prep done for a class, about how much time do you spend preparing. For instance, suppose you are teaching two courses of intro to ethics, and you have taught this many times before. How would you prep for a class like this? Just curious - as I know I am not very efficient with class prep myself.

Peter Furlong

Preps are an interesting thing. Although I teach only a few preps, I find myself repeatedly redesigning the courses to better fit the needs of the students (and in some cases, my needs as a teacher). Some of the readings I include in my intro class I have taught for a few years now. In such weeks, I don't prep at all. I know the readings like the back of my hand, have in-class activities that seem to work well, and find that additional preparation yields no results. With many of the other readings I use, things are a little more complicated. I might change the reading out to a different one, which involves lots of prep first trying to find a perfect reading, then (often, at least), writing up an introduction to go along with the reading and writing up a list of review questions (so they can self-assess) and what I call "questions for further reflection" to get them thinking beyond the reading. The introduction and the questions will then be added to the reading. Finally, I will need to spend some time thinking about how to approach the topic in class. All of this takes a while, but the amount of time varies so widely that I would be hesitant to put a number of hours on it.

Although all of this takes lots of time, there is flexibility in terms of when I choose to redesign parts of my courses. If things are not working at all, then I will need to change things now. What most often happens, however, is that I am less than fully satisfied with some aspect of my course. In those cases, I can redesign now, if I have time, or put this off until a future semester so that I can focus on some other area at the present.

At other places I taught, students were better prepared, so course preparation was easier. But, when I had new courses thrown my way, I needed to prep them immediately. In my current situation, more consistent and thoughtful redesign is needed, but if I don't have time to do it today, I can fall back on the methods of previous semesters. Moreover, if I ever find myself perfectly happy with my courses, preparation time will be virtually nonexistent.

DS

I think this discussion makes clear how important it is to really examine the 'faculty handbook' if it is available online before accepting a job at a teaching focused institution, or making sure one asks lots of questions in the interview, especially if one has the luxury of turning down a position. There are lots of things to consider:
How easy is it to get a course reduction?
How much travel money is there if any?
Are there sabbaticals?
What is the pay structure for teaching summer courses?
Are faculty overloads encouraged or discouraged at the institution?
Do you get a course reduction/extra money when you develop a new course?

At some CCs, one nominally has a 5/5 load, but it is very easy to get course reductions for other activities. E.g., I took on managing the philosophy adjuncts for a course reduction, and I am glad for it! At other schools, not so much. The only CCs I have heard of requiring summer teaching in one's contract is Florida, and one would hope that the pay reflects a year round contract.

That is a key question as well: is your salary enough for you to NOT teach a course during summer if you want to?

I teach at a CC where the pay is pretty good and it is easy to get a course reduction, so I have a 4/4 load and summer teaching is completely optional. Last summer I received 'course development money' to work on prepping a class that had never been offered at the institution before. I don't know how many institutions have something like this, but it was pretty nice. I have been pretty productive in my research, but I am also very organized when it comes to my course preps. The ability to teach one or two sections online also frees up time for research/administrative responsibilities, once you have really constructed your online course, which is a good bit of upfront work (but it really pays off, time wise). Pretty much every CC offers online classes as far as I know.

For me, the biggest drawback of my CC position are: lack of good library access; we don't have sabbaticals; no real colleagues (I'm the only full time philosophy faculty member). My old CC job had sabbaticals, but I was still the only full time faculty there. However, it was much harder at my old CC job to get a course reduction. So there are definitely trade offs!

Amanda

Thanks Peter. I would like to get to the point were at least 1/2 of my pre-taught classes involve no prep time. But I find I keep spending time adjusting group assignments because the class sizes change and so on. I also need to have better confidence that I can run a course without reviewing everything.

Peter Furlong

DS: Yeah, I think there really is a lot of variety on things like this, and only some of it is clear from the faculty handbook. To take just one example, you mention course reductions and overloads. Even if we know what the course load is at an institution, the standard practice at an institution is also telling. Sometimes, as you mention, it is relatively easy to get reduced course loads. At other institutions (including mine), this tends to happen less. To be honest, the norm is for tenure track and tenured faculty to teach overloads. I think 14 and 16 courses per year are probably the most common for full time faculty in Arts and Humanities at my campus. Most faculty try to teach four courses over the summer instead of the required two. This is for two reasons. First, if we need to be here anyway (and even with two courses we are required to be on campus at least four days a week), it seems worthwhile to throw a few more courses in. Second, if we teach four courses over the summer instead of the required two (together with full service requirements), our pay is boosted by something like 20% (the percentage is complicated, and changes based upon other factors). This is much better than overloads during the fall and spring, where the pay is around $2,200 or so.

I mentioned the travel funds in the more recent thread, but the long and short of it is that we can apply for up to $1500, but it isn't guaranteed, and more importantly, we often will not know until a month or so before the conference whether we will get funding (which makes committing to present difficult).

We do have sabbaticals; we do not get anything in return for developing new courses. As you mention, we also have the opportunity (sometimes the requirement) to teach online.

Peter Furlong

Amanda: I think getting to that point is key. If I could streamline preps a little bit more, that could really help me. Obviously, this is even more important when one has more preps.

One thing I didn't mention earlier about preps is that although we only teach a few different courses, we teach them in different modalities (face to face, online, and for some, as hybrids), and in different lengths (16 week, 10 week, and 6 week). Both modality and course length, at least in my experience, can really require pretty radical changes to a course. My intro course, for example, changes about half of its readings between the online and face to face modes. As DS noted, prepping online courses the first time takes a lot of time, but then most of the preparation disappears. I am redesigning an online course now, and I think the prep for it, even though I had already selected all the readings for it, is probably about 4-6 times as much as doing a face-to-face course for the first time, maybe more. I don't think this would be manageable with many different online courses, but at the moment I am only teaching a single course online. If I teach this online course 15 times before I completely overhaul it again, the prep time doesn't seem so bad.

Peter Furlong

DS: Sorry, you also mentioned salary. My school follows a salary schedule, which is publicly available here:

https://valenciacollege.edu/employees/human-resources/compensation.php

From what I can tell, salaries widely vary in this sort of institution, largely (but not entirely) due to cost of living. I had interviews at a few similar schools in southern California when I received my present offer. The pay was considerably higher (I think about $20,000 more), but I doubt they had anything close to the purchasing power that I have in central Florida.

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