Faculty Association Response to the Teaching Faculty Workload Joint Working Groups

We would like to thank all of our members who participated in this process to date. The FA has objected from the outset to the interpretation of the LOU as requiring an excessive and unwarranted focus on “individual concerns”, through individual appearances before committees, while simultaneously excluding “individuals’ workload assignments”. This process has created an assumption that the exercise is simply one of normalization of an increased workload, which the FA rejects as contrary to the spirit of the LOU.

The following 5 major areas of concern in the workload reports are highlighted with a list of best practices at the end.

  1. Student Failure and Attrition Rates as Factors in Determining Workload

Only one of the reports addresses the relationship between workload and student under-performance. As noted by FEAS and FESNS, the learning demands of students who require extensive forms of academic remediation raises the question of how it is possible to ‘maintain a high level of quality’ given the conflict between such demands, heavy teaching loads and meeting accreditation requirements. This situation is not entirely unique to these faculties and is generally applicable across the institution (for instance, accreditation is an issue for FHSc). Workload calculations need to explicitly account for extensive consultations with teaching and learning, communications with advising, and other numerous events around management of student remediation and misconduct. Such issues are not explicitly addressed in the definition of teaching in CA 16.02 c), for instance, xvii counseling students, as they exceed such a relationship which is normally positive. The relationship between high levels of student failure and attrition for other reasons should not remain in the shadows, but needs to be brought into the open and connected with the provostial initiative to address our high level of student attrition. But I would also add that attrition of faculty needs some attention as well.

The solution offered by the FEAS and FESNS is to reconfigure the distribution of assignment types that balances classes with service and preparation for accreditation. First of all, within the existing definition of Service 16.03 c) xiv already speaks to activities devoted to accreditation. However, it is noted that the CA permits only a 15% deviation in 16.04 a) and not 20% as suggested. In the FHSc report the problem is expressed slightly differently in terms of “[re]mediating students in the summer, re-dos of clinical projects and tutoring” of those students falling behind that go unrecognized yet extend workload well beyond the assigned amounts and time periods. This unaccounted for dimension of workload manifests itself in different ways across the faculties depending on program design and management of the academic year.

  1. False Linear Equation Between TTTF and TF Course Loads

Additionally, the FEAS and FESNS report takes a critical view of the false linear relation between TTTF and TF course loads as this is currently expressed in an oversimplistic doubling of 4 to 8. The FA concurs with this argument about the lack of fairness expressed in the aforementioned report and adds that the linear relation does not account for the many reductions of load that most reports note. Local faculty practices reflect the variations that the 2 different CAs permit. Contradictions persist, for instance, if one looks at the FSSH report where it is asserted that the so-called ‘consistency’ between TF and TTTF courses assignments neither take into account actual practices of course release for new TFs (a practice in use in FEd as well) nor aspirational notions like double counting large lectures (250 in FSSH but 120-80 in FEd, the later acknowledging there are no such courses of this size), and ‘discretionary’ reassignments without reference to any CA clauses; noted as well in FEd). In short, there is no account of how many TFs are affected and over how long a period and for which reasons (uniformity of usage of course reductions for new hires). The lack of data is holding us back because we do not have a picture of actual TTTF loads.

We cannot presuppose that one course – one instructor is a norm. As the FHSc report indicates, in MedLab “team taught’ courses are the majority; indeed, “coordination” between course and lab instructors, mentioned in the FBIT report, is also a factor, and FHSc recommends that “coordination duties” be factored into workload. “Coordination” is mentioned in the CA under teaching (16.02 c) i) and service re: accreditation, but it is restricted (16.03 c) xv) and its application needs to be expanded.

  1. Denial of the Academic Freedom of TFs

While article 16.01 b) states that “there is no expectation that a Teaching Faculty Member will engage in research as part of his/her employment,” many of the workload reports point out the problems that this diminishment of such contributions have on the respective units and individual careers of TFs. FSc put it succinctly: “there is no time for course improvement or professional development.” The FA considers this to be a clear case of the diminishment of the academic freedom of TFs. The findings of a number of workload committees points out that current conditions for TFs contradict article 14 which protects academic freedom of TFs and their right “to engage in research.” FEd has recourse to individual bargaining: “TF members may negotiate course release per year with the dean in order to pursue research.” It is the duty of the FA to protect the academic freedom of inquiry of its members. When I read the observation in the FHSc report that “research activities go unrecognized” I see how the current construction of workload reduces the ability of TFs to participate fully in their profession and remain current in their fields and thus enhance their practices. The consequence of this inadequacy is that the de-linking of research and professional development with teaching produces a situation in which a segment of the overall faculty at UOIT are excluded from participating in the university’s mission of research intensity and, most importantly, that this mission has an uneven distribution. This is also a reason why the FA does not advise using a linear 4-8 relation between TTTF and TF course loads. It is the contradiction in the promotion of academic freedom in Article 14 and the inability of TFs to exercise it under current workload conditions that is one of the most egregious findings in these reports. It exacerbates in my estimation the failure and attrition problems at UOIT by framing TFs as college professors but within a university environment the many benefits of which neither they nor their students can access. This shows students that the contrast between college and university programs is not great enough at UOIT and for a segment of the student population, this certainly contributes to students questioning their choice of UOIT.

This predicament is further exacerbated by the mention in the CA of research under service/other clauses (16.03 d) which defined ambiguously puts the onus on the individual TF to request a right that is already apparently protected in Article 14.

  1. Production, Maintenance and Upgrading of Media Objects

The FBIT report raises an important consideration around audio-visual development and maintenance of media objects. Original faculty creations and their “continuous updating” in a networked environment applies specifically to online and hybrid courses but also to the use of Blackboard in general. Article 16.04 d) does not explicitly mention the production components of heavily mediated teaching environments, nor the workload implications of exploiting Blackboard. The FSc report underlines the FBIT concerns about the online and hybrid teaching environment with “higher than normal … monitoring and maintenance” requirements. It may be added here that other forms of “technical work not related to lab instructional assignments” of the sort noted in the FEAS and FESNS report require acknowledgement for workload assignment. Calculation of lab workload also needs to account for extracurricular events (competitions and any promotional appearances such as University Fairs, weekend recruitment during Open House) and training of TAs and other factors. In short, the insight that such production of media requires sufficient time and resources and some training, not to mention trial and error, is not yet part of the conversation but needs to be. Article 16.04 d) xv speaks to the “extent of support provided for designing, setting up and preparing for teaching” as a factor in assigning workload, and this would be an appropriate place to address preparation of media such as videos, podcasts, animations, etc.

  1. Interpretation of Other CAs and Management of TAs

The management of TAs elicited mixed observations (the most poignant is the statement in FHSc). The managerial dimension of TF workload – supervision, training, evaluation, quality assurance measures, etc. – cannot be underestimated. The overall direction of these comments suggests that TF service load include a greater role in the process involved in the selection and distribution of TAs, moving TFs into decision-making roles and making better use of their direct knowledge of TA performances and skill-sets and helping to build a genuine graduate culture in which they play a more central role as mentors, in some cases initiating students into the profession and interpreting the CA that governs members of other bargaining units, for example, PSAC members.

In conclusion, the problem areas discussed above reflect an overall failure in the reports to use the resources of the CA to define problems and find solutions to workload issues.

  1. Summary of Best Practices

Despite the serious problems I have noted in the reports, they reveal several best practices. Providing continued support for these practices, and encouraging their use across faculites, modified for each faculty context, will put us on a better path towards more fully recognizing and appreciating the contributions of TF members. This can lead to a more reasonable workload, addressing some of the concerns I have explained above.

The best practices are as follows:

– guaranteed course buyout for new TFs in their first and second years

– no increase in existing course loads

– rejection of the linear 4:8 course load between TTTFs and TFs as a justification for course load “normalizations”

– implementation of realistic enrollment numbers for double counting of courses, and move to create a ceiling for the total number of students taught for TF course assignments per term; this requires a shift from the overreliance upon enrollment numbers where TA support kicks in to a more holistic approach, acknowledging the implications of TA supervision as a factor that can increase workload, especially in the absence of TF input to TA assignments

– creative use of the 15% flexibility in the CA re workload to address negative workload impacts of student failure, attrition, and production of media issues

– bring workload implications into the discussion about the consequences of student failure and attrition and the goal of retention at the provostial level

– together with the FA actively pursue ways of securing the academic freedom of TFs to conduct research and professional development and to refresh their careers in keeping with university-wide goals, in the process making them full citizens of this research intensive institution

– establish ongoing working groups in each faculty to trouble shoot workload issues until the CA reopens

– that service is not a simply matter of the number of faculty/university/professional committees a TF sits on, but should take a more integrated approach to understanding managerial responsibilities with regard to TA and other assistants, accreditation preparations, coordination tasks among course and lab instructors, gaining broader recognition for existing, diverse tasks irreducible to committee memberships; FHSc states that “service activities often exceed the 20% guideline”

– TF preferences, training expertise, continuity of course delivery over time should be up-front factors in workload assignment

– discontinue punitive and unproductive on-campus requirements during both teaching and non-teaching periods for instructional and technical TFs

Gary Genosko
President, UOITFA

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