A tough schedule one Minnesota instructor might face

An underwhelming experience for all involved

Marvin Taylor, a University of Minnesota Ph.D. student who teaches geography, told legislators this week what kind of schedule he’d have to keep if higher-ed budget cuts affected a teaching-and-research job he has applied for at a MnSCU school.

To me the 4/4 appointment — four classes in the fall semester, four in the spring — sounds like a grind.

He lays it out (and gives some eye results at the end):

“Here are some numbers:

The scheduled time for the courses totals slightly over 10 hours per week.

With the courses meeting at nine different times, nearly  two hours would be needed each week to be prepared to start class on time and transition to new tasks or classes afterward.

With 118 students enrolled in the four courses, allotting two hours per student for grading for the whole semester would equate to 15 hours per week. If the courses fill to capacity, a realistic scenario, this would jump to 17. 5 hours per week. With only two hours of grading per student, I would need to rely upon multiple-choice exams. The number of assignments, especially written assignments, would need to be kept at a minimum.

For office hours and email with students, I would try to allot three hours per week. This would amount to one-and-a-half minutes per student per week.

Teaching three different courses each week, I would need to prepare for 7.5 hours of “new material” each week. This is a daunting task for junior faculty. With two hours of prep for each hour of new material, I would need 15 hours per week. This is far less than what I am currently devoting to my lectures at the University of Minnesota.

General administrative duties would take up at least two hours per week.

While teaching is important, I would also be expected to continue researching, writing and reading academic literature. Since much of this would need to be done over “breaks,” I will use the modest amount of 10 hours per week during the semester.

There is more to teaching, but we need not go further here.

With the assumptions I have outlined, I would already be working (at least) 55 hours per week.

He talks about what kind of work such a schedule would produce:

“What troubles me is not the fact that I might be working 55 hours per week, but that this would be an underwhelming experience for all involved. Working hard for mediocre results is not a sustainable path.

I know I can be an effective teacher. I am not sure the state is willing to support institutions that enable effective teaching.”