There is this excellent thread about teaching workloads across the world on Academia SE: Is 100 hours per year of teaching a heavy load for a lecturer?

I would now like to continue this discussion with respect to the actual workload teaching staff face. I know that teaching is not only blackboard/classroom hours, but of hours of preparation, grading, examinations etc. Since exams and grading usually happen during the semester break at universities, I am more interested in the workload teaching staff face during the semester. Of course, creating a new class from scratch consumes an enormous amount of work, so this is not what I would like to use as baseline. I'd much rather go for your typical class of well-established contents, maybe undergrad stuff, for which only occasionally a minor update of materials is required - and not a complete makeover every year. To formulate the question precisely: What is your actual workload during the semester per blackboard hour in classes that belong to your established portfolio?

  • Do you mean "teaching staff" as in staff on teaching-only contracts? Or perhaps academic staff, whose responsibilities include research, teaching and admin? – Dmitry Savostyanov Nov 15 '19 at 7:37
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    Since exams and grading usually happen during the semester break at universities --- FYI, this is rare in the U.S., in which many short quizzes, homework assignments, various longer homework projects, "major" tests (3 to 5 per class per semester), and final exams are all created and graded prior to semester breaks. The amount of time this involves will vary greatly, depending on how familiar one is with the assessment aspects of the course (e.g. from having taught it before, from being part of a team teaching several sections, etc.) and how much T.A./grader help is available (if any). – Dave L Renfro Nov 15 '19 at 9:18
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    I mention this because for me it seemed that well over 25% of my time in some positions (not all) was spent with grading student assignments. This was for mathematics. The amount of time is much higher for the people I've known who teach writing intensive courses (e.g. literature, philosophy, history, etc.). They often had several large stacks of student essays/papers on/around their desks in various stages of grading, no matter when I came by their office. – Dave L Renfro Nov 15 '19 at 9:29
  • @Dmitry Savostyanov: Does that really matter for my question? – Michael Nov 15 '19 at 21:23

In my opinion this is hugely course-dependent, and standards vary a lot between universities and disciplines.

If your task in the class is really almost only lecturing (e.g., you have assistants that run any class projects etc., and who answer most of the "standard" student questions), and you already have everything prepared, your actual effort for the course may be close to the "blackboard time" - but even in such cases, you probably want to count in at least half an hour before each class to refresh your memory on what material you plan to cover in a specific unit.

If you have any other tasks at all in the course, "blackboard time" quickly becomes a very bad proxy for your actual effort. In my experience, course planning, answering student questions, office hours, organizing and/or holding supervision sessions, giving feedback on in-class exercises, dealing with exceptions, preparing and grading exams, or dealing with teaching infrastructure can take a large, and highly variable, amount of time. These factors are also virtually independent of how often you actually speak in front of the class. Not all classes have all of those activities, but most classes have at least a few of the above elements.

In the course I recently wrapped up, I would estimate that a maximum of 1/5 of my actual work was done "in class", while 4/5 was preparing, grading/giving feedback, and organizing. However, in other classes I have spent close to 70% or 80% of my course work time "in class". It really depends on the course, your role in it, and how effective you personally are. Unless you have good reasons to believe this will not be the case I would assume that your workload outside of class will at least be as high as in-class (i.e., assume that if you are teaching one full day a week you will spend at least another day dealing with the various paraphernalia of teaching, even if you have everything set up and prepared - if this is not the case, I personally calculate that I will spend at the minimum one full day to prepare a two-hour session from scratch).

  • Already gave you thumbs up. But you could add something about the seniority and prestige of the lecturer/prof. A fresh-caught junior-assistant-associate type is going to be expected to teach a lot of classes. A senior-already-tenured-many-awards-and-grants type is going to get special treatment and be allowed to pick and choose the classes she teaches. I recall one guy in particular, wound up teaching three grad classes during his research associate term because he wanted to. And nearly the entire department wound up attending. And his homework assignments shut down the department. – puppetsock Nov 15 '19 at 14:28
  • A fresh-caught junior-assistant-associate type is going to be expected to teach a lot of classes — @puppetsock That really depends on your department. In some departments, assistant professors are deliberately given lighter teaching loads, with only small grad-level classes, so that they can better develop their research programs. – JeffE Nov 16 '19 at 21:07
  • @JeffE In my department, the highest teaching load tends to land on mid-career Associate Profs. Assistant Professors are shielded for the reasons you outline, and Full Profs often have enough gravitas (and high-profile other obligations) to get out of some of the more annoying teaching duties if they choose so. But the system is also different to the US, in that there typically are more Associate than Full Profs. – xLeitix Nov 16 '19 at 21:13

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