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Academics - what is a 'normal' teaching load for first year?

(21 Posts)
octopussysfourthleg Thu 27-Sep-12 11:10:16

Hi all! Just wondered if there are any seasoned academics on here who can give me some insight into this thorny topic?

I'm in my first year teaching (social sciences). I was promised a reduced teaching load for the first year in order to keep momentum on research going, and currently have six hours of lectures/seminars plus the PGCHE.

The whole system of work allocation is incredibly confusing but I do think that other more experienced academics appear to have a very similar amount of teaching - certainly not twice as much. Admitttedly some have greater administrative duties, but I still don't feel that I have received a significantly reduced load overall.

Am I just being a bit of a moaner? It's so difficult to work out what's fair, and how the f**k I get any research done this year! And if six hours really does represent 50% it's going to even worse next year. Scream!

Thanks in advance!

rhetorician Thu 27-Sep-12 11:18:03

it varies hugely from place to place and lots of depts would operate a quid pro quo system - e.g. reduced teaching load for administrative responsibilities etc, but normally only to the tune of one or 2 hours per week (unless head of dept etc). Does you dept have a workloads model? If so, you could get some idea from that. I'd say that most places would have contact hours of around 6-10 hours per week, and you have probably been given normal allocation less 2-3 hours. I'm afraid that academia involves very long working hours (not necessarily formally) - 50-60 hours per week is not uncommon. FWIW I am senior, in the humanities and my teaching load is usually about 7-8 hours (lectures, seminars, tutorials) - I am not in the UK however.

rhetorician Thu 27-Sep-12 11:19:22

also ask your Head of Dept how it's been done (say that you want to get a sense of how to organise your research over the next couple of years if you don't want to see like you are moaning!!), or your mentor, if you have one (and if you don't, you should)

Good luck!

octopussysfourthleg Thu 27-Sep-12 11:21:38

Thanks rhetorician - sounds like this is pretty average then. I do accept the long hours, as it comes with a lot of flexibility, which is good re: the kids, but perhaps I took the 50% teaching load reduction a little too seriously.

Someone mentioned to me that the more prestigious the university the less the teaching load, and the higher emphasis on research ... but I'm not sure if that's true!

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 27-Sep-12 11:25:21

Hmm, I am .6 and have 6 hours teaching plus have to hold 2 'office hours' and supervise 2 dissertions, and offer tutorials intermittently. And PCAP. I don't think you're doing too badly!

rhetorician Thu 27-Sep-12 11:45:36

my hours stated don't include office hours, any admin or any supervision; nor does it include time for running modules, tutor meetings etc etc etc - it's just pure teaching contact

octopussysfourthleg Thu 27-Sep-12 12:08:11

Yes, my six hours is just contact time with students, I also have 2 x 2 hours of office hours, a load of tutees, and various other admin duties as well.

reshetima Sat 29-Sep-12 20:47:02

Is this undergrad or postgrad? How many students does this involve? Even without knowing the answer from my (non-science academic experience), the teaching hours are on the heavy side for a genuinely 50% load, but it also depends on how much coursework tutoring and marking you'll be needing to do at the end of each module you're responsible for. I second the comment about a mentor. If you don't have one, you should and s/he will be able to advise better on what local custom is workload-wise.

It will also seem like more at the start with the added load of the PGCHE plus you're probably writing lectures from scratch at this stage. Next year will hopefully be easier simply because you'll be refreshing this year's lectures, rather than writing from scratch.

TheCollieDog Sun 30-Sep-12 11:20:07

6 hours with few admin duties is very light. Your Department is treating you well. As a Head of Dep't, I used to teach 8 hours, plus supervise several PGRs, plus run the Department. As well as run an external research grant.

TheCollieDog Sun 30-Sep-12 11:23:01

And PS it's rare that a probationer will get a 50% reduction on teaching load! You need to look at the whole picture: what admin roles do you have? How many PhDs do you supervise? What Faculty/University committees do you sit on?

A lot of senior staff will be doing these things -- which, because they aren't immediately visible within a department in the way that teaching UGs is -- can be forgotten about.

When I was HoD I used to make public -- well, within the Dp't -- everyone's workloads, including admin roles, hours of teaching, and numbers of PG supervsions.

rhetorician Sun 30-Sep-12 13:49:08

collie we do this too - perception and reality are 2 very different things as the people who were constantly moaning about their workloads quickly discovered when the forms were actually put on the table!

octopussysfourthleg Wed 03-Oct-12 11:49:32

Hi all. Thanks so much for your responses. TheCollieDog, when you say that it's rare that a probationer will get a 50% reduction on teaching load, I'm confused! I was sold the job partly on that basis - but is is partially a fabrication? People's workloads are sort of transparent here thorugh a WAM system, but that only underlines to me that my admin duties are similar to most other staff as is my teaching load - so I don't entirely understand where the 50% bit comes into it. Curious and confused rather than moaning I hope.

On a slightly different note, are you aware of any sort of on-line forums for early career academics? I do have a mentor, but am in a small campus with very few others at my stage, and there is not much time for general chat. My mentor is also very senior and I don't feel that I can be entirely honest with her where I am struggling. In particular, I feel as though I am spread very thinly between work and life at the moment. I don't know how to get through this stage and still be a good mother to my kids. I would massively value talking to other people who have done it and survived, with kids the right side of not totally mentally unbalanced. But where? Is it here?

TheCollieDog Wed 03-Oct-12 21:12:59

>> I am spread very thinly between work and life at the moment <<

Welcome to academia. That is normal. Work/life balance just doesn't exist, I'm afraid.

rhetorician Wed 03-Oct-12 21:56:36

collie has it, I'm afraid

TheCollieDog Thu 04-Oct-12 08:17:14

Thinking further about this, as you seem baffled. It depends on the kind of university/department you're in.

* Objectively, whatever your level & contract, 6 hours per week is a pretty light load, and one I wouldn't feel bad about giving to a probationer. How many of the hours are repeats? For example, my first job as a Teaching Fellow, while I did my PhD (so I worked full-time throughout my PhD) was at one of the best universities in the ountry, and I taught between 8 and 10 hours a week. But short terms, and most of those hours were a repeat tutorial. Plus a lecture course. The marking was quite heavy though -- lots of long essays all the time.
* If you're at a post-92, then 6 hours per week is a very light load (so I'm told -- I've never had to work in a post-92 because in my area they're seldom research-led).

* What are your admin jobs? Are you Admissions Tutor or Exams Officer? These are big, lecturer level jobs, but ones I wouldn't give to a person in their first year of a job. But admin related to your teaching, personal tutor duties, and generally participating in admissions interviews, or open days etc is normal & collegial. For a person in their very first job, I'd be trying to keep them to pretty low level & light touch jobs such as Library rep, or Employability tutor, or Study Abroad, or PR/publicity. Pretty easy, low level jobs that give you an insight to the overall workings of a department, and get you engaged with the ways that admin jobs support research & teaching of all in the department/university.

*What's the expectation of your return to the REF? I am currently consciously repressing REF jargon, but forcing myself, I think as an ECR appointed for the 2012-13 academic year, you're only requited to have 1 item for return. At any of the RG places I've worked at, you wouldn't be appointed without at least one publication.

So my advice would be that if your REF publication/s is/are in place, you could relax a little about your research during this teaching year, and just get used to full time work as a lecturer.

You probably don't want to answer any of these questions as they'd be to revealing, but they may give you ways to think about your workload.

But objectively, it's not heavy. And I think it's hard to compare with others, unless your institution offers a completely open & transparent model where everything that everybody does is on the table. And even then, there may be confidential personal circumstances that you can't know about.

I'd love to have had just 6 hours a week when doing my PhD or in my first job!

TheCollieDog Thu 04-Oct-12 08:21:21

And another thought! I should be writing a book, so of course I give advice in here

Yes, the work/life balance in academia is crap. But, on the other hand, we have really extraordinary autonomy over large parts of our working lives. We get to do the thing above all that we love -- finding out new stuff, and passing it on. Research and teaching. Generally, we work with other similarly motivated people, and - at least in the departments I've been lucky enough to work in - we are all focussed on the work and its quality, rather than office politics (but I work in areas which are largely 50/50 men & women, and this makes a difference). We get to engage and stimulate really interesting, energetic and energising young people, who are endlessly optimistic and impressive. And we get to travel, exchange ideas, and - occasionally - feeling that we are having some sort of impact in the field we love.

rhetorician Thu 04-Oct-12 09:36:14

collie that's a great description. Am curious about your 50:50 gender ratio point - do you mean that depts that are either male-dominated or female-dominated are more prone to this stuff? I work in a female-dominated field (read: one whose cultural capital is in decline) and there's a big commitment to teaching (so far, so predictable), but I notice that my younger colleagues have been professionalised in a way that I wasn't. Nonetheless I am still massively more productive than they are! The autonomy over one's time has big upsides (you can pick up your children from preschool) and huge downsides (you are likely to find yourself working at midnight to compensate for the time you have spent with your children). The lack of boundaries around different parts of one's life can be unproductive: it can be hard to switch off. This year, for the first time in my entire career (e.g. from starting university at 18; I am now 46) I took July and August off. Completely (well I did a couple of conferences at the start of july...) This was a luxury I can afford - I am senior, I have a strong publication record, and I am on leave this semester. It was brilliant (DP was finishing her MA so I looked after kids mostly); I found myself doing things that normal people do - reading a novel once they'd gone to bed, rather than an academic article. It was fun. It's over now, alas.

kalidasa Thu 04-Oct-12 11:01:35

I think a 50% teaching load in year 1 would be unusual, unless that's calculated taking account of things like PhD/MA/third year dissertation supervision as well.

I am in my third year of my first permanent lectureship and I also had about six hours of lectures/seminars a week in my first year, plus the PGCAP (a monumentally pointless time-sink), some graduate supervision, responsibility for several third year dissertations and I was also a tutor for 30 first years (which was quite time consuming). It seemed reasonable to me but obviously it will all depend a bit on how much everyone else is doing. I was actually a bit underoccupied in the first term, but busier after that. (I'd had a temporary lectureship the year before with a much heavier work load, and I was single with no kids which helped!) Just about to go on maternity leave now, in a department made up almost without exception of men and women without children, so a bit daunted by that!

rhetorician Thu 04-Oct-12 12:28:40

my dept is a bit like that - very few people have children - slightly more than in recent years, but on balance, most people don't, or have grown up ones

octopussysfourthleg Thu 04-Oct-12 19:30:18

Thanks so much for these responses, really interesting and enlightening.

Colliedog, I am an ECR but with three four star publications - I only need one to be REFable.

If I let the research drift a bit this year, there would be no problem at all with time, but many junior academics at my institution seem to see their research fall off a cliff. I am not sure why but I don't want that to happen to me. And I guess I'm ambitious - I want to progress fast. So I think the pressure is slightly self created. But I do love this job, not just the research but also the autonomy, flexibility, etc., so although it sounds as though I am moaning (don't mean to!) I actually feel incredibly lucky!

Anyway - thanks again for your comments.

rhetorician Thu 04-Oct-12 23:24:21

it is actually quite a strange profession; very diverse, encompassing a lot of different jobs and skill-sets. It's very demanding and mostly completely misunderstood. It has a terrible image problem.

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