Saturday, August 09, 2014

Day 32 - Workload (part 2)

Having started off yesterday talking about teaching workload, I thought that I would finish it today.

The remainder of teaching allocations include things like module leadership, personal development tutorials, and things like programme leadership, and school-wide roles.

Module leadership and personal development tutorials come with a specific allocation – you get 15 units, and 0.1 unit per student on the module for module leadership, and 2 units per student for tutorials.

I try to see all of my tutees twice every term, and I allow half an hour for each meeting, so that works out as fine, and I’m quite happy with how that all matches up.

Module leadership involves weekly tasks like collating registers, monitoring attendance, communicating with teaching teams (where relevant), updating the VLE, and making sure that everything is in place for the next week. I think that 30 minutes a week is probably enough for most modules. There’s quite a lot of admin to put in place to ensure that modules run smoothly during the trimester, and quite a lot afterwards (assessment organisation, mark collation, writing module reports), so that doesn’t leave all that much time… Let’s suggest a class-size of twenty for a hypothetical module. That gives us a total of 17 units. If we spend 0.5 units every week of the teaching term (12 weeks), that leaves us with 11 units. Allocating 1 unit to organising assessment, 2 to collating marks, and 2 for writing the module report leaves us with a total of 6 units for preparation. That’s not bad.

We have a scholarship entitlement, which I suppose charges us to keep up to date with the latest publications in our area. That comes to 65 units for the year. If we treat this as being spread out over our entire working year, that comes to around about one hour and fifteen minutes every week. That’s not a lot, but what would you say if I proposed that you spend one hour a week in the library reading journals? I’m not sure that’s something that many of us really feel that we have enough time to do in the course of our weekly routine, but I think that we really should take this seriously. Work out when the journals you read have a new issue, and plan to spend the time reading it. And if your job involves performance, I think that it’s worth considering concert attendance, if correctly planned, as scholarship. One hour a week during teaching terms comes to around 30 hours for me, so leaves 35 hours during the summer. Not a huge allocation, but one to be sensibly applied.

Much of the rest of the teaching budget appears to be up for negotiation between the line manager and the staff member concerned. There are set allocations for specific roles such as programme leader and director of student experience, but no real transparency with the hoi polloi regarding what those set allocations actually are. The official documentation says that ‘Schools differ in their organisation structures and allowances for roles such as…’ so it’s a shame that the school doesn’t see fit to issue further documentation.

And that’s our teaching allocation covered.

You’ve probably gathered by now that I enjoy this sort of thing, and that I’m planning to apply it to my own weekly workload. This isn’t an approach that will work for everyone, but for me, it’s the beginnings of a manageable implementation of my integrated academic framework.

We’ve been told that the workload allocation model is going to change, and the final tweaks are being made to it, so, to some extent, this is all a waste of time in terms of my actual institutionally supported process, but quite aside of that, this is a useful model for me to look at how I manage my workload on a weekly basis and provides the opportunity in looking at the division into different tasks in some detail.

I’ve also been thinking about the ‘missing’ 205 hours per annum unaccounted for by the WAM, and concluded that we should see them as contingency time. I don’t think that we’re really all that familiar with the idea of contingency in HE. We allocate time and resources like bus timetables are written. You work out how long the process optimally takes, and then fill your schedule to match this. If something goes wrong, we find time from our own schedule to make this up.

What if we were all going to plan our weeks but allow around 1 hour a day for which we have no plan? How much of a luxury would that be?

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