Teaching & Learning

 



SUFFICIENT TIME FOR RESEARCH

"Faculty need more time, and I'm not sure how to solve that problem. It would be a major step if I could clear off everybody's calendars somehow and give them more time for scholarship.
(Robert Sterner, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior)

How Do Faculty in These Departments Maximize Their Research Time?

"Maintaining the balance between teaching and research is one of the great challenges in a research university," noted Gladfelter (Chemistry). In our study, the most frequently cited strategies for optimizing the quantity and quality of faculty members' research time were as follows:

Yellow bullet Make the most of summers.

Yellow bullet Buy additional research time.

Yellow bullet Stack courses.

Yellow bullet Take advantage of protected time (new faculty).

Yellow bullet Take advantage of sabbaticals and semester leaves (midcareer and senior faculty).

Make the most of summers:
In many of the departments in our study, faculty hold nine-month appointments. Consequently, their faculty tend to take advantage of the summer months to heavily engage themselves in research pursuits. "Faculty don't get paid in the summer, but I expect them to be doing research," said Bates (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science). "Some go away and continue to do work elsewhere, but not too commonly. Most of us take summer salary out of our grants, so we're still paid. Not everyone can manage all of that, the whole summer, but certainly many do." In Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, very few faculty members teach in the summer. "There's some financial sacrifice here," acknowledged Leppert, "but as soon as people get enough ahead, they use the summer to write." The Law School has a competitive grant program for faculty to help fund their summer research. These awards specifically cannot be used for course development and are preferentially awarded to! projects that will ultimately result in publication.

Buy additional research time:
Many (though not all) departments have formulas for determining how faculty who acquire external grants can buy out of teaching and/or service. For example in Psychology (Twin Cities campus), it takes 12.5% of a faculty member's nine-month salary to buy out of a typical course. In the biology department, they ask faculty to replace what it would cost to hire an instructor to teach their course, which usually turns out to be less than what a month's salary would be. Leupker (Epidomology) reported that his department has "a very explicit system" for determining funding based on the time faculty devote to particular tasks:

You get paid 7.5% for every credit you teach And I pay people 5% to be a director of graduate studies, to be major chair, to run the seminars, things like that. That's how I divide up the state money and tuition. The rest has to come from research.

Stack courses:
Collins (General College) used the term "stacking courses," whereby faculty can condense their teaching load in order to free up a future semester exclusively for research. Many faculty members go this route, teaching their eight courses over four semesters in blocks of three, two, three, and zero. Faculty in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature often try to cluster their teaching into two days a week. Although this can make room scheduling a challenge, the Chair said his faculty find it well worth the effort to have uninterrupted time to focus on teaching and other days specifically allocated to research.

Take advantage of protected time (new faculty):
Nearly all the departments in our study make special time arrangements to help new faculty successfully kick off their research programs. Here are some examples that emerged from our interviews:

* "In the first couple of years new [Psychology, Twin Cities] faculty are not given any committee assignments. Then it is modest up until they get tenure."

* "In General College, the tenure-track faculty have the equivalent of a year's release from teaching during the probation period."

* "It's been a tradition in this department [Biology], especially with new assistant professors, that we give them a reduced teaching load in the first year they are here. We also reduce their service loads; We don't have them advise any undergraduate students during enrollment periods for their first year, and then we give them a reduced number of undergraduates to advise for the next two years."

The largest proportion of teaching release time is given to Nursing faculty in their last year. This is helpful, but "off-timed," according to Bearinger: "In the first year, you are so worried about walking into a class and embarrassing yourself if you are unprepared. You are working on getting together your syllabi, your lectures, and everything."

Take advantage of sabbaticals and leaves (midcareer and senior faculty):
Among the most traditional strategies for facilitating the research productivity of midcareer and senior faculty are sabbaticals and leaves. Not surprisingly, faculty in these highly research-productive departments are often encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities for intense research activity. Leppert (Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature) said, "We spend a lot of time helping one another to develop research proposals. Consequently, we have a very high success rate on both the single-quarter leave and on the sabbatical supplement."

Gladfelter (Chemistry) said that he advocates as many people going on sabbaticals and leaves as possible. "We can do that because there's a reasonable community of people around the Twin Cities who make their living by working at these temporary teaching positions in chemistry," he explained. Of course, not all disciplines have this luxury. The heads and chairs of particularly small departments noted that while sabbaticals and leaves can increase the research productivity and vitality of the faculty member taking the leave, the effects of such a leave can be hard on the faculty who remain. The inherent benefits and challenges regarding sabbaticals and other career development practices are described more fully in Chapter 12.

In Today's Academic Climate, Do Faculty Have Enough Time for Their Scholarly Pursuits?

"There is always too little time," said Ben-Ner (Industrial Relations), echoing a common lament of the interviewed department heads. This lack of time applies to the full range of faculty roles, but particularly to for research-related activities. Consider the following representative comments from our interviews:

* "The one major barrier for most of us is time. The pressure of teaching and the pressure of committee work and administration is simply greater than it ought to be." (Psychology, Morris)

* Most people's perception is they don't have any periods of uninterrupted time [to do research], much less significant amounts of time." (Ecology, Evolution, and Human Behavior)

* I never have 40% of my time for research. Part of it is my fault, because I let teaching go overboard. Teaching is interesting and very dangerous in some ways, because it can be so rewarding that you end up spending most of your time doing that; There is never a time I feel I am ready. Still, [sometimes] you need to say, 'okay, this is my research time." (Philosophy)

Sterner (Ecology, Evolution, and Human Behavior) shared his view of how the faculty time crunch affects not only the quantity of research that is conducted, but also the quality:

I sense a slippage in the care that people are taking with their research under the pressure to keep publishing and getting grants and cranking out students. If I'm facing the decision to go back and do this experiment again because I have this little nagging doubt, but it's going to take three months, I better not do that. More and more, people are making the decision just to keep blasting ahead at full speed-for their own productivity and reputations to get their next grant or another paper on the record, whatever. Just to crank out lots of stuff is pretty intense. The faculty aren't always able to devote the time needed to get the job done right. They're stretched to the limit.

In summary, it is essential that faculty have significant uninterrupted time to be highly research productive and, perhaps more important, to produce high-quality research. Getting this time is seen as increasingly difficult. As a result, department have become very creative in helping faculty optimally arrange their obligations and in differentiating faculty roles to allow faculty to focus on the job tasks at which they most excel and that they most enjoy. These strategies are helpful. But, as the roles of faculty become less similar and faculty have less in common due to their differentiated roles, leaders will need to increase their efforts to maintain a cohesive community, a research-conducive culture, and a positive climate.

Taken from,
THE STANFORD UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING
http://ctl.stanford.edu


 

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