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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Faculty Teaching Loads

This semester I am serving on an Ad Hoc Committee to consider the University of Kentucky's teaching loads.  Specifically, we are looking at whether there is a disparity in how much each of us teach.

To that end, it would be helpful to hear what other schools do to allocate teaching resource.  In the comments, would you be kind enough to share whether your teaching loads are based on:

-Courses taught

-Credit hours taught

-Student contact hours (credit hours times number of students)

-Something else

I'll start:  at the University of Kentucky, each faculty member generally teaches two courses per semester, regardless of credit hours or student contact hours.


Posted by Josh Douglas on December 9, 2014 at 10:44 AM in Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink


At Wisconsin the standard teaching load pre-tenure is 10 credits; the standard teaching load post-tenure is 12 credits. This roughly corresponds to a 2-1 and a 2-2 load, respectively. However, you can apply post-tenure to be put on a temporary "research track" that reduces your teaching obligation to 10 credits for each of two years. As I understand it, the research track requires us to publish one law review article per year.

Because most of our courses are 3 credit-hours, and because not everyone teaches four-credit courses (typically, those are 1L courses, and not everyone is assigned to IL courses) in practice some people end up teaching 9 credits and some 10 per year when on the reduced load. We've never to my knowledge addressed this issue as one of fairness, but I suppose it could be examined as such.

I think the only way to ensure fairness in these matters is to regularly distribute a list of how many credit-hours (and probably how many student-credit-hours) all faculty members have taught over, say, the last three years, on a rolling basis. This should be very easy for an administrator to put together. The list could indicate briefly the source of any credit reduction (e.g. administrative post; buy-out). Otherwise, your colleagues are stuck monitoring each semester's class list on the website to see who is teaching how much--pretty much an impossible task. On the other hand, this kind of transparency may cause governance problems by revealing special deals that are institutionally desirable but difficult to defend publicly against charges of unfairness.

Posted by: jason yackee | Dec 13, 2014 3:35:20 AM

As I understand it (and happy for my colleagues to correct the record) at Harvard Law School we typically teach a total of 10 credit hours over the whole year (1 credit = 1 hour of instruction in a typical semester).

By typical semester I mean "fall and spring." We have an intensive J-term semester in January where the same class is taught every day for multiple hours, but the regular faculty do not teach in that semester all that often (we have visiting professors, judges, government) unless it is one of our more experiential classes (like negotiation, trial advocacy workshop, etc). My understanding is that the credit hours for classes taught in J-term are calculated the same way as those taught in the typical semester (so 12 x 2 hour sessions would be 2 credit hours).

The number of students, etc, is typically handled by the registrar and our academic dean, but the informal norm at least (not sure if it is codified) is that everyone who wants to is entitled to teach one smaller seminar style class (typically two credits) and most people teach at least on erather large class (a first year class of 82 students or an upper year basic class like corporations or con law that has that many students or more).

Posted by: I. Glenn Cohen | Dec 12, 2014 2:07:22 PM

Thanks for the question Matt. At Belmont we do not have TAs to assist in grading. Some professors have moved entirely to multiple choice tests to cut down on the workload, and I use a fair bit of multiple choice myself, but I draft my own questions (instead of using test banks) which also takes time and I have short answer sections on my exams. I also usually have a presentation and/or an essay.

But we are primarily a teaching school. I understand at larger, R-1 schools they do have TAs, but some of them have 100s of students in each class. I was just at our regional conference and a professor at University of South Carolina said he had a class of 500.

Posted by: Haskell Murray | Dec 11, 2014 9:39:51 AM

At the University of Oregon, a full teaching load for full-time faculty, post-tenure, is 11-12 semester credits. A full load for pre-tenure is 9-10 semester credits.

Posted by: Mohsen Manesh | Dec 11, 2014 1:30:01 AM

From The University of Tennessee College of law bylaws: "The normal teaching load for a full-time tenure-track or tenured Law Faculty member is 12 credit hours per academic year, usually comprised of two courses in each semester or an aggregate of four courses during the nine-month academic year. . . . Teaching loads for Law Faculty who also serve as college administrators shall be set at the time of appointment to the position and may thereafter be modified by mutual agreement between the college administrator and the Dean. . . . A Law Faculty member may be assigned to teach more or less than a normal teaching load during an academic year when the Dean deems such increase or reduction appropriate." There also are specific provisions for reduced teaching loads for new faculty and untenured faculty. Extra credit-hours taught can be "banked" to use for a reduced teaching load in a later semester. Nothing specific is included in the bylaws on student contact hours, although they typically are considered in annual reviews and at tenure and promotion as part of "teaching" or "service," as applicable (although that's not an express provision in the bylaws).

Posted by: joanheminway | Dec 10, 2014 10:50:20 AM

SUNY Buffalo: three courses per year, typically nine hours, with no specification as to contact hours.

Posted by: James Milles | Dec 9, 2014 12:36:18 PM


Thanks for that detailed breakdown. One question I have about B-school and undergraduate grading -- are you permitted or encouraged to use TAs for your courses? It sounds like you are doing the grading yourself. I suppose this relates more to whether there is a pool of grad students who could serve as TAs in the first place.


Posted by: Matt Bodie | Dec 9, 2014 12:16:31 PM

My appointment is at Belmont University's business school, but I occasionally teach in Belmont's law school as well and know they have a 2/2 load (usually 11-13 hours). I don't know the specifics about student-contact hours.

At the business school, we teach 3/3 (~18 hours) if we teach at least one MBA class and 4/4 (~24 hours) if we teach only undergraduate classes. Most of the rest of the professors across campus teach 4/4 regardless. That said, our classes outside of the law school are usually relatively small.

Despite the differences in course loads across campus, the student contact hours seem to be similar because the law professors usually have at least one ~70-80 person course each semester, while other professors usually do not have classes over 35 students (and sometimes much smaller). I would guess that our average student contact hours are around 480-600 per year. Roughly 160-200 students taught with 3-credit courses being the norm. There does not seem to be an official student contact hour requirement here, though I am sure someone tracks it.

The real workload difference, however, comes down to the number of student assessments. The law school profs. typically have only one, while the business professors usually have 3-6 assessments a semester. The business school assessments are usually shorter, but I usually spend 2-3x more time grading for my business school classes than for my law school classes.

Posted by: Haskell Murray | Dec 9, 2014 11:46:47 AM

FIU: 2/2 load, typically 11-14 total hours (depending on whether it includes a seminar and/or a 1L class). No requirements as to student-contact hours, although it is something noted in annual evaluations.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Dec 9, 2014 10:53:35 AM

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