Search the Lounge


« DC Circuit Voids Obama's NLRB "Recess" Appointments | Main | Empowering Words »

January 25, 2013


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


It would be interesting if he ABA required disclosure of teaching lads as part of law schools' consumer information.


Teaching loads, not lads.

Alfred Brophy

Interesting suggestion, Jim. How are you thinking consumers would use this information -- as an indicator of the efficiency of a law school in using resources/tuition dollars?

Jim Milles

Yes, that, and as an indicator of the law school's priorities as to teaching and scholarship.


You would think that potential students, if they cared at all, would want _lower_ teaching loads per professor. I would think that a professor that is teaching only one or two small classes would have more time to dedicate to the class and each student than if they were teaching several large classes at the same time.


I don't think a prospective student would prize either high loads/professor or low/professor -- the former suggests priorities (but also lack of attentiveness, and maybe cost savings resulting in higher profit margins), and the latter greater potential attentiveness (but only if the professors devoted the freed time to their classes and students). They should want to see something on class size (not just averages), ultimately trading off higher class sizes for lower tuition (if they could).


I hadn't heard before about student credit hours calculated by multiplying the number of credits for each course faculty teach by students enrolled, but it seems like it has some real benefits, including incentivizing professors to make their classes more appealing and more popular so they get more bang for their buck (i.e., the more energy I put into making my class interesting and my teaching reviews excellent, the more students I'll get, the less additional teaching burden I may have). On the other hand, it may also incentivize teachers to be "easy" instead of hard--less socratic, assign less material, etc.


There are a several issues here.

First, for financial reasons, many schools want to be able to "process" the same number of students with fewer total faculty. This could be accomplished by shrinking faculty rolls through attrition. Since students *have* to enroll in courses, teaching "loads" would automatically or naturally increase in the form of higher enrollments for the remaining profs' classes. But note here that "teaching load" only really matters at the institutional level: fewer total profs on payroll to teach a given # of student-credit-hours overall means more students are being processed by fewer profs _on average_.

Second, note that the focus on what _individual_ professors are teaching (or how many student-credit-hours they teach) is really more of a distributional issue of concern just in the sense of intra-faculty politics or intra-faculty equity. Once the law school has achieved the payroll it wants to achieve, whether one prof teaches 400 student-credit-hours per year and another teaches 200 student-credit-hours is perfectly equivalent to having two profs teach 300 student-credit-hours. This point is why putting profs in "competition" with each other for students is pretty silly. If one prof likes big classes and one likes small classes, who cares? Let them teach what they want, and let students sort themselves into the courses they want to take.

Third, many law schools will face space constraints in their push to get faculty to "teach more". This is especially so as to larger enrollment classes, where amphitheaters of sufficient size might not by available. This means that many pushes for faculty to "teach more" may just mean adding on a small-enrollment course or seminar, which will eat up faculty time for research but not really "process" many more students in a cost-effective way.

Fourth, implementing targeted course-load increases (through a two-track "research" or "teaching" plan, for example, or putting higher loads on non-research-active faculty) makes a lot of sense in theory, but can be difficult to implement. The law school administration needs to be able to actually keep track of who is teaching what, something that many law schools don't have the administrative systems or practices in place to do. I think this is true even though what faculty are teaching is readily available on the law school website, or from its registrar. The problem is that often there will be no one "in authority" who has been given the task of regularly monitoring what courses faculty sign up to teach, how many students enroll, who is on what "track", etc. To make a two-track system work, the administration also needs to have the backbone to tell faculty who think they are "productive" that they haven't been, and so need to teach more. That can be a difficult conversation. Absent workable standards as to what adequate research productivity actually is, or how it is measured, a differential system seems at risk of favoritism or arbitrariness in application, and may hurt faculty morale.


"The law school administration needs to be able to actually keep track of who is teaching what, something that many law schools don't have the administrative systems or practices in place to do."

Is this really true? How is a law school functioning if they don't know who teaches what, and how many students are enrolled.

Orin Kerr

At my school, at least, I don't think they have been trying to increase teaching loads, and there is a very wide range of student-credit-hours taught on the faculty. As someone who tends to teach a lot of student-credit-hours (over 1,000 this academic year), I wouldn't mind more equality, but I think it's somewhat hard to achieve given that the overwhelming number of classes are elective.


John- It is not that schools don't know what classes are going on in any given semester (I hope), it is that, at least at the two schools I have been at, there is no real long term tracking of who taught what class when in a systematic way. There is a general sense that "Oh, So and So teaches Civ Pro and IP" but what that person has taught, over time, cued to student credit hours is not tracked in a systematic way. That being said, there is no reason that the system couldn't be put in place, since all the data is there, just not aggregated.

Jim Milles

Decreasing course loads (say, from a 2-2 to a 1-2 schedule), it seems to me, can only be accomplished in three ways:

1) Increased class sizes. Larger classes may be a more efficient use of faculty resources, but it also means less faculty-student engagement and less feedback.

2) Fewer courses. Maybe we could do with fewer courses on Nietzsche and the Law, but it's hard to predict which classes will be eliminated. If the purpose of decreasing teaching loads is to encourage more scholarship, there is likely to be facultly resistance to offering fewer courses related to faculty interests and more skills-related instruction.

3) Increased reliance on adjuncts. From the faculty perspective, the often-expressed concern is that adjuncts are less skilled and less demanding teachers than tenured faculty. Students, on the other hand, often seem to prefer their adjunct instructors because of the practical knowledge they bring to the classroom. Shifting more of the teaching load to adjuncts would seem to undercut the faculty argument that tenured faculty are irreplaceable.


"It is not that schools don't know what classes are going on in any given semester (I hope), it is that, at least at the two schools I have been at, there is no real long term tracking of who taught what class when in a systematic way."

OK, that makes a lot more sense. But as you say, it shouldn't be too much of a burden to aggregate existing data.

Vishakha Bansal

Every institute wants to earn more and spend less. Many institutions appoint less teachers but work load is more so every teacher has to take more lectures in a day but i think its the QUALITY which matters not the QUANTITY. So if a institute hire less no. of faculties but they are talented enough then it is ok to increase their work load but only when they are provided salary according to their work.

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • StatCounter
Blog powered by Typepad