Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ask the Blogosphere, the Teaching Overload Edition

So I am back to teaching in September, and am scheduled to teach a large undergrad course (sophomore-junior level). Normally, this course keeps me plenty busy in addition to  my research and service duties;
at R1 universities the teaching load for research-active faculty in the physical sciences is 1 course per semester, and in my understanding this is fairly typical.

However, this fall I have a bunch of new graduate students coming in and have received  two new grants so  we should really get cracking on those projects. My graduate students need to take a whole bunch of courses in order to be productive, and two course of mine, which I teach occasionally, are critical for their research. I haven't taught these courses in a lecture format in a few years (did offer them as independent study), so when I do offer the first one in the series, I'm likely to have upward of 30 people.

So I am contemplating whether to bite the bullet and offer the first graduate course in the two-course series this semester (fall). It would be a teaching overload for me, as I still have to teach my undergrad course.   A  downside of offering this additional course is that teaching would dominate my semester, especially when combined with advising and committees and other service, so my research would likely take a hit. Also, very importantly, I would be overcommitted and grumpy, so this schedule might then take a toll on my mood and consequently on my family life. However, I have received two new grants this year, so I could afford to sit it out this fall and not submit any new proposals (or maybe just a "little" one, to the NSF in October). I will have submitted all the pending papers by the end of this summer, so the time available in the fall should be sufficient for dealing with the new manuscripts. On the upside, offering the course would enable the whole batch of new students to get up to speed sooner rather than later, which is important for getting a good momentum on new projects and early on, especially on the big grant where I was funded by an agency I am new to and where I really want to make a good impression...

This overload would not really help me in any way regarding my standing with the department (except perhaps that some people would think I am a fool for teaching more than I absolutely have to). The sole reason for me to do it would be to benefit my research students (and whoever else takes it in the fall)

I could also just wait till the next semester, so all this drama would be avoided. But then everything gets pushed back by a few months. Not too long a time, but then again, when your grants last 3 years, you want to be able to produce sooner rather than later (I have also been trying to recruit a postdoc, but pickings have been slim. Only one viable candidate so far...)

So what say you, blogosphere? 

To overload or not to overload this fall semester?






  
pollcode.com free polls 





12 comments:

Alex said...

I did an overload one quarter because I felt that the students really needed this one advanced course.

It did absolutely nothing to improve my outlook on life. And I'm not sure how much they actually learned.

Anonymous said...

Other: Wait for another semester and have your students study on their own what they need to know to succeed in research.

Anonymous said...

Can you get any teaching relief in spring semester (or even later) as a trade off for overloading in the upcoming fall semester?

pyrope said...

Second on the above comment - if this course is on your docket for the spring, then it seems pretty reasonable to ask for a spring release.

Anonymous said...

The old naive me would have taken this extra burden on the feeling that I am doing something good for students and this is my duty, but new mature me understands that it is stupid, and the overall impact of taking this burden is negative considering extra time, more stress, less family time. Anyway, listen to your heart. If you absolutely feel like doing it, do it otherwise you will have a nagging feeling.

Dr. Dad, PhD said...

To me it seems to make the most sense to not over-reach and keep your sanity. Over-committing just seems like a really bad idea to me....

Dr. Sneetch said...

I went with the no group on the vote. I'll add do what's right by your kids. If that's a yes, then go for it. Otherwise next semester.

NonUS FSP said...

Offer the course in seminar / guided-reading format, and only enroll your own students (or those you hope to collaborate with).

[This assumes that the department will not give you credit for this anyway.]

New prof in new India said...

I agree with most of the commenters above, especially Anonymous on July 16 at 8.36 am.

I am saying this from experience. I always end up taking more duties (including teaching) that I can handle and suffer through the semester.

OTOH, as my institute is very new and there are very few faculty members in my STEM field, teaching more than a course per semester has become a necessity, even though this is not really taken into account while evaluating performance :(

I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago:
http://academic-garden.blogspot.in/2012/07/two-in-one.html

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with nonUS FSP: offer the course for your students only in a seminar format

Anonymous said...

My old me would have taken the extra load.... I now see that it is not worth it at the price of your family and your sanity....we as academics do this type of safrifices all the time, we do this for the greater good-- sometimes not so true, if possible, avoid this.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. I'm laughing so hard I'm almost crying. I'm a department chair, teach a minimum of 8 courses per year (27 hours), am required to teach 12 months per year, and am EXPECTED to conduct research if I hope to attain the rank of full professor.