Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Teaching assignments of new hires

  • How does your department handle teaching loads for the first semester of a new t-t hire's employment?
  • If they do teach something, how is the course assignment made? Does it matter whether the decision of who to hire is made before or after the main pulse of registration?
  • If the new hire's course didn't meet the minimum enrollment, what would happen?
  • How far in advance of the semester start date would that decision be made?

I'm trying to get a sense for the range of normal...any help would be appreciated!


sheepish said...

One semester teaching relief is pretty common in my branch of science. Some people choose to take it in their second semester when their research programs are a little more established.

New hires are generally given specially tailored assignments in the first year or two to minimize the pain and anguish of new preps - like easier labs, seminar courses, and courses in their specialty.

Generally the hiring takes so long that our teaching assignments are already set by the time someone accepts. That requires either some embittered shuffling or foresight to reserve a course for the new hire. This doesn't always happen *ahem*. (We never have courses not make for various reasons.)

hypatia said...

I'm in a behavioral science and the standard full time load is 2-2. (My contract says...)

My first year in (starting in Jan) I taught 1 in Spring. The next year I taught 1 in Fall and 1 in Spring (should have been 2 but a class didn't make; each course up until now was a new prep). This year I taught 1 in Fall and 2 in Spring (all repeat preps) and that seems to be the load they will try to keep me at until I go up for Tenure, although the repeatedness of preps may vary. This seems to hold for anyone who doesn't go begging to teach more. In general we all try to minimize changing courses around and mixing up the course preps.

There's a faculty shortage in my discipline, so we actually end up with adjuncts instead of full faculty - thus shuffling around is minimal.

DancingFish said...

In my department, new hires only teach one semester their first year and they can pick which one. Field work or how long it will take to set up a lab are some of the factors going into when they choose.
What they teach just depends on when they want to teach. Usually the courses new hires teach are required either by undergrads or grads so they must be taught regardless of enrollment.

Anonymous said...

Caveat first: I'm a cell biologist teaching at a small liberal arts college, so my professional responsibilities are decided skewed toward teaching. A "full load" for me usually involves teaching 2 courses each semester...3 of the courses will have 2 lab sections each, and the last will only have 1 lab section. Alternatively, I can teach a greater number of courses and teach fewer labs (which I'll be doing this next year, because like you I'm a new mom of a 3-week-old mitosis machine, and non-lab classes have fewer contact hours).

-A new hire gets one course release during the first year. The semester that the release is given is usually based on department scheduling needs rather than the new hire's preference.
-When we begin the process of looking for new faculty, we plan a (tentative) 2-year load for that person before the hiring process begins. So, when a person comes to campus as a candidate, we can give them a very good idea of what they'll be doing in the classroom for the next 2 years.
-Our administration usually gives us a guarantee that a new hire's courses will run even if they don't meet enrollment minimums, which they occasionally don't given that many students choose professors based on their reputations, and nobody likes to be the proverbial guinea pig.
-If a course is canceled, that decision is usually made 6-8 weeks before the start of the next term. This rarely happens in our department, as we could hire 1-2 additional tt faculty, leave the course schedule as-is, and everyone would still have a full-time teaching load.

Good luck with the move, the new position, and of course sleep and productivity.

Flicka Mawa said...

I'm only a grad student so I've never seen any of the contracts exactly, but I know from talking to the junior faculty members that the standard in my department is one semester of teaching relief, either fall or spring, and then for the following years are 1-2 or 2-1 teaching load. I don't think the professors have much choice in what they teach though. Usually two of the classes are of a core nature and thus held regardless of enrollment, the third is often an intro grad class that could theoretically be cancelled if not enough enrollment. But we don't have that many different options for graduate electives, so I don't think enrollment in these was ever a problem.

hypatia said...

I should add if you're asking because you're negotiating a contract with a job that another thing to ask for is leave in your 4th year (to get things submitted for in time for them to be reviewed and accepted pre-tenure). Usually these leaves don't allow you to leave campus but do allow you to limit your teaching for 1 semester.

sheepish said...

Another comment is that in my experience, much like salary, departments don't have much negotiating room with teaching loads. Specific courses, yes, but teaching loads are set by university-wide or at least faculty-wide (e.g. Fac. of Science) policies that are rather inflexible.

Anonymous said...

This probably won't be useful to you, but at our R1 medical school, the standard is 1 year off, and reduced teaching load for the next year. But, then, our teaching load is probably approximately 1 course/year.

Now, we generally generate 70% of our salaries through grants, so maybe it balances out.

It's worth knowing if you're in a field where you "compete" research wise with people at medical schools. You're really playing a different game.


PhD Mom said...

We are giving teaching release the first semester. Almost all the schools I interviewed at did this as well. I get to choose the classes that I teach, but in consultation with the faculty, i.e., I didn't get my first choice but my second and I have to teach an UG core class. Both of my classes made enrollments (and the core would have at any rate), but if my elective didn't make enrollment I guess we would have tried to scrounge enrollment from other departments and in the worst case I might have been asked to teach a different class. We would have made this decision at least 1 mo before the start of the term.

Holly said...

As a newly minted PhD who is on the market, it amazes me to hear the range of teaching loads. I can't imagine a one course per year load. On the other hand, a 4-4 load was also unimiginable to me until I found out during an interview that was the load... needless to say, as much as I love teaching, I didn't sign up for that!

I have a few questions about letters of reference over on my blog. If any of you have the time to fill me in on the protocol for them I'd be very interested!

Karen said...

I'm a grad student (MS) at a teaching-oriented university. Our department has one new hire coming in this fall, and he's teaching (among other things) a graduate seminar on advanced numerical techniques. At my school, students are involved in the candidate interview process, and many of us suggested to him that we'd like to learn this.

Rob Knop said...

We have two new hires in astronomy coming to the Vanderbilt department of Physics & Astronomy next year. Their teaching schedule is already set, and has been for a month or two.

When they interviewed, we already knew that they would primarily be teaching graduate classes their first year. We didn't promise, but hoped that we'd give each of them one semester of teaching release. As we have two coming, one has a release the first semester, the other has a release the second semester. The first semester course is the one we knew we wanted offered even before the interview happened. As such, I hope that the two new people coming to our department view their assignments with a minimum of surprise.

(I was surprised by the one of the two who was teaching the first-semester course, as I would have guessed it went the other way, but what the heck.)


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