Study of Faculty Workload

October 1996

Respectfully Submitted to the University Committee by the Members of the Senate Planning and Budget Committee 1995-96
Anthony Galt, Chair; Donald Larmouth; Marilyn Sagrillo; Denise Sheberle; Robert Howe; Kurt Heuer


During the 1995-96 academic year the Senate Planning and Budget Committee (hereafter SPBC), with encouragement from the University Committee, resolved to devote most of its time to the examination of faculty workload issues at UWGB. Upon consultation with Assistant Chancellor Dean Rodeheaver and Provost Howard Cohen, along with Richard Logan, Chair of the University Committee, the SPBC decided to conduct research about the question of workload equity within and among the various budgetary units. Throughout their careers members of the SPBC, like most other faculty members, have listened to colleagues complain about workload issues, either in the sense of general overwork, or in terms of perceived inequities across the campus. Provost Cohen suggested to Anthony Galt, chair of the SPBC, that it would be useful to try to identify workload problems at UWGB more precisely, and to try to understand their nature and causes. To that end Dean Rodeheaver supplied a binder of quantitative data showing workload statistics for the academic year 1994-95. These statistics provided the basis for the figures to be found throughout this report (click on figure numbers to see the graphs). After considerable discussion, the SPBC resolved that a set of interviews with Budget Unit chairs about a set of issues revolving around workload might yield some interesting insights alongside the workload accounting statistics that are already available. To some extent the statistics the committee had and the interview data do not accord. This is due, in great part, to the extensive budget cuts that occurred during the summer of 1995. These cuts altered the workload picture for various academic units. The committee's interviews reflect changed budgetary realities and perceptions for the future. The SPBC designed a schedule to be used by its members in such interviews (see Appendix). The interview focused upon three basic areas relevant to teaching workload: Although, the interview schedule did not focus specifically on the other activities that faculty members carry out, such as research and outreach activities, the committee felt that by addressing questions of everyday workload, overloads, and reassignments, some insights into the trade-offs that university faculty must make between their teaching activities and their other activities would emerge.

Members of the committee carried out their interviews during March of 1996. This report (note 1) is a detailed summary of the results of these interviews. In its conclusion we suggest three significant problem areas that might be explored in a dialog between faculty governance bodies and the administration to clarify policy.


The normal workload expectation at UWGB is 21 credits. This workload used to be spread between 2 semesters and the January interim period, such that, unless it was on a voluntary basis, no one taught four courses in a single semester. Now, with the demise of the January Interim program after 1993, there are some faculty members who are teaching 9 credits in one semester and 12 in the other, and some few who are teaching 3 credits during the new Spring Interim to lighten their loads during the 2 semesters. In addition to its 21 credit teaching load, UWGB has substantial expectations of its faculty in service and scholarship. Tenure does not come without demonstrated abilities at teaching, involvement in service, and at least the beginnings of a creative/scholarly record. Promotion to full professor requires evidence of quality teaching, institutional leadership, and a record of continued and substantial scholarly/creative work. Except for exceptional individuals, it is difficult to expect consistent records of excellence in all three areas given the relatively high teaching load at UWGB. In fact, the AAUPís guidelines for the balance between teaching load and other expectations suggest that research and service be expected of faculty with loads amounting to three sections a semester or less, and that those with higher loads not be subjected to such expectations, or be expected to participate in graduate programs (AAUP Redbook, pp. 16366)(Note 2). Our heavy teaching load (given expectations for advancement) is exaggerated by the fact that, for several years running, UWGB has the highest faculty/student ratio in the University of Wisconsin System.

One way of somewhat alleviating the burden of the 21 credit load is to limit the number of separate course preparations entailed in it. Although an individual instructor at UWGB teaches the equivalent of seven 3 credit course sections a year (assuming no reassignments), there is a considerable range among the budget units with respect to the number of distinct preparations s/he may be undertaking (See Figure 1). This may, in fact, be the most significant workload difference among the various units. In some units, some faculty members actually teach seven different courses a year, and in others they teach as few as three. The Social Work Program occupies one extreme. According to its chair, everyone teaches at least seven preparations a year (Note 3). The Business Administration program sits at the other end of the spectrum with an ideal expectation that its tenure track faculty take on three preparations a year, and its lecturers four. (Apparently, it is not always possible to meet this ideal.) Human Development has similar expectations.

Number of preparations is somewhat difficult to reckon in some cases, however. For instance, our two cultural anthropologists teach Anthropology 100 to 120 students each by offering two large lectures each week and then four discussion sections containing 30 students each. For this they are credited with the equivalent of two sections, or six hours in the classroom. Both feel that this model has considerable pedagogical value because it allows for smaller group interaction -- something that has become rarer in the first two years of the UWGB student experience. However, since lectures and sections coincide, it is difficult to consider the combination of the two lectures and the discussion sections each week as two preparations, although the time and energy involved is certainly worth six hoursí teaching credit. Similarly one might ask whether the combination of a science lecture course and its lab constitute more than one preparation.

Two factors seem to be behind the number of preparations expected of instructors in our budget units. First, programs that are rich in students usually have larger faculties and can afford to offer multiple sections of courses, thus reducing the number of preparations individuals teach. Second, programs that streamline their curricula to cover their subject areas with a minimum number of courses and/or limit the range of what they offer, can better afford lighter loads with respect to number of preparations. Our Business Administration program has many students and has also followed the latter strategy. Our Social Work program has a limited number of students, but, since it must meet accreditation standards, and since it has a propensity to become involved with new initiatives initially supported by grant funding but then left to the unit to staff, its faculty members are stretched to a high degree.

Large lecture sections have become the norm for students during their freshman/sophomore years at UWGB, and without discussion sections this is arguably detrimental from a pedagogical standpoint. Most units field at least some large lecture sections. (See Figure 2.) Social Change and Development, in fact, has an explicit policy that every member should teach at least one large course a year to evenly distribute the load. Only two programs provide compensation for class size by counting a large course toward a greater proportion of load than one 3 credit section. Business Administration rewards the instructor of its biggest class (175-220 students) by counting it as 6 credits for the instructor, and Natural and Applied Science considers that those teaching courses over 125 students should receive 4.5 credits towards load (although this often does not work out in practice because of staffing problems and curriculum demand). As noted above, Social Change and Development, for certain courses, counts a large lecture plus four discussion sections as two courses. Humanistic Studies follows a similar policy with respect to its very large general education requirement satisfying course. Other programs do not compensate for large classes, although some express their appreciation during merit reviews, or at least do not penalize instructors for the lowered teaching evaluations that can result in very large courses. Many faculty members at UWGB have colleagues at the other UW campuses and are aware that the strategy of double counting large sections is fairly commonly followed around the system.

A few efforts at team teaching continue in certain units at UWGB, but, of course, not with the frequency common during the uryears of the campus when the team-taught course was a hallmark of our innovative identity. There is widespread recognition that because of coordinating and planning chores, team teaching requires more outside of class effort than single instructor courses. In the first years, perhaps out of appreciation of this, participation in a team taught course counted as one seventh of an instructorís load. Information Sciences, Natural and Applied Sciences, Human Biology, Education, and Social Work still field team taught courses. None of these units compensates team teaching at the old rate and team teaching can lead therefore to overloads. Natural and Applied Scienceís written policy is that each instructor receive 2 credits for team teaching in a 3 credit team taught course, but according to their chair, staffing pressures mean that faculty are usually compensated at a rate of only 1.5 credits. Team teaching, or at least inclusion of guest lecturers is common in the graduate program, particularly in Environmental Science and Policy.

Individualized instruction and laboratory teaching assignments further complicate faculty loads. Lab and studio courses require extensive preparation work and involve more scheduled contact hours with students. (See Figure 3.) The lab technicianís job is to get materials together and to deliver them to the lab, but the instructor must design all the experiments, make sure the equipment is working, provide the procedural instructions, and supervise the students as they carry out their work. Graduate lab assistants are used in some instances, depending on the expertise available, but they do not retain full responsibility. A similar argument can be made for the art studios, where again the professor is responsible for all materials, demonstrations and presentations, plus supervision of student work.

There seems to be considerable variation in the way labs are counted toward load. In some cases (Public and Environmental Administration, Urban and Regional Studies), laboratory supervision (in economics, and statistics) is reckoned using a one to one rule of thumb: a one credit lab equals one credit toward a personís load. In other cases labs count less. A 3 credit lab in Natural and Applied Sciences, or in Human Biology counts as 2 credits toward an instructorís teaching load. In studio art courses 5 hours in the classroom a week are reckoned as 4 credits toward teaching load (although in some cases there are hired assistants). Theater instructors receive 3 teaching load credits for a course with a 2 hour lecture and a 3 hour lab. Those involved in directing productions receive 3 credits of load for 2 productions, and this entails a very heavy time commitment. Only nursing seems to reward laboratory or clinical supervision by providing more compensation toward teaching load than actual hours spent in the classroom -- 4.25 credits toward teaching load for a 4 credit lab, and 4.5 credits for a 4 credit clinical course. Individualized instruction is particularly central to the music program where 5 individual half hour lessons, or a time commitment equivalent to 2.5 credits, is reckoned into load as 1 credit. Music faculty lament that the system average is three lessons per credit. Another major component of individualized instruction on campus is field placement supervision in Social Work and student teacher supervision in Education. Both can be very time consuming, especially as they involve travel to and from field sites. The Social Work program reckons one 5 credit field course with 15 students as 5 credits toward load. Figuring travel, field committee meetings, workshops, and site visits (2 per student per semester) the time commitment adds up to 107 hours a semester for course work that ought to consume 75 hours, and this excludes preparation time, and grading. Education instructors receive .5 credit per student being supervised, so six students add up to one course in load. Some students do shorter supervised teaching assignments because they are adding a certification and in these cases the instructor receives .25 credit toward load per student. Differences in credit assignments undoubtedly are at least partially responsible for wide variation in the makeup of individualized credits generated by different units (see Figure 4).

Independent study instruction is usually not considered part of official load at UWGB, and faculty members provide it out of dedication. Only Human Development has a banking system whereby an instructor who supervises 60 credits worth of independent studies may be compensated with 3 credits toward teaching load (always with the approval of the Dean). Several programs offer internships for undergraduates and provide administrative release (usually 3 credits) to an individual on the faculty who coordinates them. Service as major professor on graduate committees is recognized as part of load, but others serving on graduate committees receive no compensation and this is felt as a burden among those in programs with the heaviest commitment to the graduate program. In Public and Environmental Affairs 6 thesis supervisions is reckoned as equal to one course. It is the same in Natural and Applied Sciences, but faculty members complain that either because of pressures to offer the curriculum, or lack of expertise in the community to teach ad hoc sections, they can only rarely afford to take their compensation. Also thesis supervision duties may fall upon particular faculty members more than others, creating inequities internal to programs.

In conclusion, to compare the reckoning of teaching load across the university is a difficult problem given the many kinds of teaching that engage faculty members. Perhaps the most significant aspect of teaching load is number of distinct preparations faced during the week. The greater the number of preparations, the more fragmented a personís time becomes, and, in turn, the less energy s/he can focus upon quality teaching, research and other projects. As noted in the beginning of this section there is considerable variance in this measure, and perhaps the university should try to set some equitable standards to which we can aspire.


Although the normal faculty teaching load at UWGB is 21 credits, faculty members in various units often teach more than this expectation on a compensated or uncompensated basis. Here we will only consider the uncompensated variety of overload. The burden of overloads is not evenly distributed among the units. In some units instructors are never burdened with overloads, except perhaps in the case of a sudden illness or death of a colleague. Some units, such as Social Change and Development, have drawn a line in the sand about overloads and see them only as a form of self exploitation. Others may not have so strong an ideological stance against overloads, but have balanced instructor numbers with the necessities of their curricula such that they are not often, or ever, necessary. Business Administration, Education, and Human Development seem to fall into this category.

In other programs, faculty members take on uncompensated overloads to cover offerings that their units consider desirable or necessary. Again, our Social Work program seems to represent the extreme. Its chair noted that faculty in the program regularly take on between 22 and 23 credits of work a year. He explained that the programís faculty is dynamic and interested in undertaking new projects, and therefore has a tendency to overextend itself. Nursing faculty members teach similar loads, with 4 credit courses counted as if they were 3 credit courses. Communication and the Artís faculty members face a similar situation because of the regularization of their budget and their consequent inability to hire ad hoc instructors, upon which the program was heavily dependent before the 1995 cuts.

Faculty members in programs with heavy commitment to the graduate programs experience overload through serving on student committees. In some cases, there are reassignments for chairing committees, but in no case is there any consideration given to serving on them as a rank-and-file member, which, in some cases can be just as time consuming.

Overloads affect faculty productivity. During his interview, the chair of one program burdened both by overloads and by numerous preparations, complained that doing the scholarship he had wanted to accomplish had simply become impossible. Although, we gathered no hard evidence, one can imagine that participation in faculty governance is also lessened by the necessity of teaching more than our already fairly heavy 21 credit load.

Finally, as we will note below, because of perceived teaching necessities often various earned reassignments cannot be taken. Teaching when one is due a reassignment for some other activity -- whether administrative or otherwise -- must be counted as a form of overload.

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