Flexibility in Instruction of Statistical Curriculum

We currently have too few faculty to teach our courses. We have 14.25 faculty FTE, but our teaching load is consistently over 60 courses a year. Faculty rarely teach an introductory course (224, 301, 324, 371), and recently we have needed lecturers to teach mathematical statistics (311-312) and some other intermediate level courses. We hope in the coming 5-10 years to build back up to 20 faculty FTE, with an expected teaching load of 3 courses per FTE. We will continue to need lecturers, as we rebuild, and to a lesser but continual degree, when we (hopefully) have a stable faculty number.

Right now, faculty members teach about 50% undergraduate, 50% graduate courses. As we grow, faculty will be expected, on average, to teach closer to 65% undergraduate, 35% graduate, or 2 UG and 1 grad course per FTE.

During our decline in faculty numbers, we have made deals with the L&S deans to increase classroom size, from 72 to 96 to 120 to 144 for introductory courses. We also allowed our undergraduate mathematical statistics sequences (309-310, 311-312) to grow from 48 to 72, but we recently were successful in arguing that a cap of 48 is needed particularly for competent teaching of 311-312. [This argument was based on an informal survey of other statistics departments nationwide.] In Spring 2012, we will have one experimental Stat 301 lecture with 296 students as a double assignment.

Currently, we pay lecturers based on the number of discussions they have (1 dis = 24 students). 4 discussions (96 students) pays 33%, while 6 discussions (144 students) pays 40%. The unique double class of 8 discussions (296 students) pays 80% for now, but the L&S deans may expect us to teach such a class for slightly less pay (65%?). We certainly want to lobby for better pay for lecturers so that we can maintain a devoted team that will want to teach for multiple years.

We can also learn from this model about how we might introduce flexibility into teaching loads for faculty. How will we count these introductory courses, as well as larger intermediate undergraduate courses, as we rebuild and have faculty teaching them more frequently? How do we make it attractive for a faculty member to teach an introductory course? If a larger class (120-144 students) counted as 1.5 courses, would that be attractive? Would we need to also count a class of 72-96 as 1.25 courses? Would it be important to down-weight small classes (those under 20) to compensate, or should we view our teaching load as that much larger. How complicated should we make this?

Another way to view this is that 1 FTE corresponds to the L&S deans as 80% instructional commitment. We have in the past had a 4-course teaching load (20% per course), and we are moving toward a 3-course load (26.7% per course). What if we gave each faculty member 80 percentage “points” to allot to courses. We could extend this concept to include mentoring of graduate students (MS and PhD) and to advising of undergraduates in our major (say another 5-10 points for mentoring and advising). In order to make any system like this workable, we should be thinking in terms of scheduling 1-2 years, rather than 1-2 semesters. Such flexibility might also allow for faculty to double up some semesters so they could have other semesters free of teaching. Such a system would also require some careful attention to how it is monitored and administered, as we need to be internally consistent, and we need to be transparent about the process with L&S deans.

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