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Canvassing Teaching Information for 2013–2014

Summary

I'm planning to ask all teaching staff to complete at least the first two sections of this form in order to assist with planning for teaching allocation for 2013/2014; specifically, to ensure we have identified lecturers for our compulsory undergraduate courses as early as possible.

Link: Form

Background

This year, as for several previous years, the allocation of teaching duties continued for many months before final resolution. This included our large undergraduate pre-honours courses, long identified as problematic in that until these are fixed other allocations cannot be certain.

This year, as every year, the Head of School plans to start teaching allocation early; this time before or during the sabbatical application round.

When this was last discussed at Teaching Committee, in February 2010, various recommendations were approved including "Compulsory courses in years 1–3 should always be resourced before any other courses" and "All teaching staff should contribute to lecturing in years UG1–UG3".

Process

I plan to circulate this form to all teaching staff, including those currently on sabbatical or fellowship, to gather information about subject-specific teaching competence and interest. For simplicity I would use the School's existing webmark system for staff authentication. Timing as follows:

  1. Mail to teaching staff, giving two weeks to complete the form.
  2. After two weeks, estimate preferences of unresponding staff and mail to them for correction, with a week to reply.
  3. After that week, consider results fixed for the year.

The form asks for preferences regarding compulsory UG1–UG3 courses; text about staff plans for teaching; and, optionally, preference for any other courses. This would replace the traditional "what would you like to teach" email from the ITO.

All of this is only informative: it doesn't commit staff to any particular courses, nor guarantee that particular teaching will be available.

If the response rate is reasonable, and the information is indeed useful in planning teaching, then I would propose to repeat the process each year. This would require adjusting the form to reflect which parts were useful, and arranging to have forms pre-populated with the previous year's response. I would expect that the answers to part 1, in particular, are likely to be very similar from year to year.

Request for Comments

  • If asked by email, would you complete this form?
  • Should the “estimate preferences of unresponding staff” be replaced by a default of “I can teach this course” and “I would like to teach the same course next year as I did this year”?
  • Should the form be pre-filled with these choices?
  • Question 3 is there for staff to express open-ended interest in courses. Should it be included? Would you suggest something else instead?
  • Should responses be visible only to those directly involved in teaching allocation; or, for transparency, visible to all other staff?

Beyond the compulsory UG1–UG3 courses are several others that, while in principle optional, are very desirable to run: those required for more than one MSc specialism; key to a particular degree programme; or simply attracting a very large number of students. I have not included these for now, firstly because they have not traditionally been so hard to staff, and secondly because I have no confidence that we can swiftly and uncontroversially identify them. Moreover, the form already asks for preferences among 18 courses: another dozen run the risk of killing it entirely.

However, were we to seek information about these courses too, then we would have to identify them. One possibility is to ask each of the four Degree Programme Coordinators (AI, CG, CS, SE) to identify up to five key courses across the Honours and MSc curriculum.

  • Should the form ask for information about higher-level key courses?
  • How many? How should these be identified? By asking Degree Programme Coordinators?