Saturday, April 7, 2012

FAQ on the AWM: How can this possibly work?

How can this possibly work?

It works in one form right now -- you just have to write it down.  A good exercise would be to have everyone on a tenure/tenure track line or term line in your department write down what percentage of their time they spend on teaching, research, and service.  Look to your 7.12 statement to find out what is encompassed in each category.  For instance, teaching may include advising, assessment of student learning outcomes, class prep, and grading (and may vary depending on the size of the class, TA assistance, lab or studio sections, etc). This becomes the baseline for your department and should cover everything the department is doing now.

From there, the Department Head can work with the faculty to decide different distributions if desired.  The most simplistic way to think of this is by trading the red teaching blocks I have on the draft AWM.  In reality, you can compress or expand the total number of teaching blocks for the department by understanding that the blocks don't represent only credits or in-class contact hours, but rather all that is encompassed in your 7.12 section on teaching.  The same course taught by someone for the first time (or in a new delivery method) will take a different amount of time than it would for someone who has taught the same course many times. The flexibility could extend beyond course related activities into areas such as advising (IF your college and dept is comfortable with doing so).  Some faculty members who are excellent advisers and enjoy it could take more advisees and this would be represented in their AWM.

Once the teaching responsibilities are covered, then service needs and research should be incorporated as appropriate for the individual.  If the department has a very large service commitment at the University level or is producing a large amount of research, there are opportunities for the Department Heads to request additional course access from the Deans (who in turn ask the EVCAA).  From the economic side, if a large amount of sustainable funded research is being generated in the department, there is an ICR return that can potentially go to fund additional faculty lines from the EVCAA.  This is the same concept as the "course buyout model" used at some of the large research universities that enables very research active faculty to have smaller teaching loads.  At those universities, this may be taken to the extreme with the faculty member doing very little teaching.  At UMD, our faculty would still have a strong focus on teaching, so the teaching blocks should not disappear for even the most active researchers.

It's important to understand that the AWM can provide flexibility, but there are constraints.  For instance, all of the faculty in a department could not decide that they want minimum teaching and service and have the majority of their blocks in research.  The department as a whole must still meet the educational demands.  There is potential in the future for departments (and even colleges) to move out of their strict silos to meet the overall education demands in the same way (making cross listing of courses and other interdisciplinary ideas potentially easier to handle).



  1. ...but the standards for increased research and/or increased teaching are fairly well defined in those contexts. And still the system is slightly divisive.


  2. I think these percentage breakdowns of time are possibly useful in terms of personal analysis and introspection, but I'm a bit worried about them when applied across a department or college. The problem, I think, is with the idea of a percentage when you don't define what the percentage is of...

    A 10% discount on something that costs a dollar is an entirely different matter than a 10% discount on something that costs a million. The same is true of time - 60% of what? Are we talking about a 40 hour week or a 60 hour week or a 30 hour week or ... ?

    I think for quite a few faculty we have a general idea of the percentage of time we'd like to spend on a particular area (research, for example) and we often simply work as many hours in a week as it takes to reach that percentage. And of course the goal isn't to just work a certain number of hours per week or reach a percentage, but rather to accomplish something. And significant teaching or significant research or significant service does require a very large investment of time. And I think the problem with percentage breakdowns like 60-30-10 is that they mask the actual amount of time a faculty member may be contributing, and that seems like it could be a problem.

    For example, suppose Professor Smith works 50 hours a week to achieve a balance in teaching, research, service she is happy with. Let's further suppose that Professor Jones works 30 hours a week and is unhappy with their balance and requests or even expects adjustments based on this kind of percentage scheme. Does the department head tell Professor Smith to work less, or tell Professor Jones to work more, or ... ? Somehow this seems like it isn't going to end well.

    And of course this kind of imbalance exists now, but I guess with our current system we perhaps don't really see it so clearly as there isn't so much emphasis on time and percentages of time. But, I think if there is a shift towards looking at percentages of time then I think the potentially uncomfortable issue of hours per week or month needs to get factored into those discussions, and department heads and deans probably ought to be considering not only percentages but also raw totals of time. As I say that I realized I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea, but it seems like it might be necessary in order to deal with percentages fairly.

    So, let me close with a specific question - for the default 60-30-10 percentages, is there some number of hours per week that this is based upon?


  3. Should there be some minimum teaching or minimum research standards for this to work? You mentioned that teaching block should not disappear for the most active researchers, essentially saying that there must be a minimum teaching requirement for tenure or promotion decisions. Similarly, there should be a minimum research expectation, that would be needed for most popular and brilliant teachers. My concern is that we must ensure that there are some minimum teaching and research achievements demonstrated as per 7.12 statement before tenure and/or promotion decisions are made. If we keep it totally open, a person could claim to get tenure or promotion based upon his extraordinarily large service obligations or unparalleled teaching performance with a minimal research component.


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