Tuesday, January 20, 2015


From 4:27 to 5:23 pm (Eastern time) we ran a simple survey for proffies who teach 3 or more classes per term.

We simply asked, "How many hours a week do you work?'

Our stat program says we had (approximately) 226 views during that hour, and the survey stopped collecting data when we hit 100 responses - the limits of a free account.

Here is a graph and a chart with the results.



  1. I voted 38 times. Was that wrong?

  2. from Yona in Yavapi:

    I don't believe that chart for one minute. I've been teaching for ten years and I don't know any professor who spends less than 40 hours a week. You've been duped or simply have too many arrogant silverbacks and deadwoods with nothing but time to fill out stupid surveys.

  3. I didn't answer because I'm honestly not sure; there's no question that I don't have a regular, 9-5/5-day-a-week work schedule. There's also no question that, while I sometimes take a walk (or do something considerably less productive, like surfing the 'net) during my mid-afternoon energy slump on non-teaching days, I'm also quite often to be found doing school work of one kind or another well before 8 a.m., or (worse, since I'm very, very slow at that hour) well after 9 p.m. How much time I spend also varies from week to week throughout the semester, and from semester to semester, depending on whether I'm repeating a course, or doing something new (in terms of content, delivery platform, etc., etc.).

    Here's what I *do* know: I'll be on campus two days a week from c. 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. this semester, and I expect to be working (in the classroom, walking to or from the classroom, or holding office hours, which may include lunch, but will also include answering emails and/or brief prep/feedback tasks) during all that time. So, assuming that I get to count the occasional bathroom break as part of my work time (I believe even call center workers get some breaks, though admittedly I have a lot more control over when I take mine), that's at least 17 hours right there. Given the tip-of-the-iceberg nature of teaching -- students require more and more guidance/scaffolding at every stage, and even if one has all the materials prepared, there's always a good deal of clerical/logistical-type work to be done (updating dates, links to resources, exact requirements, etc., etc., posting things to the LMS or requesting that they be copied and picking up the results, etc., etc.), and then there's the need to grade/give feedback, which is a huge task, at least for those of us in English -- I find it hard to believe that I don't spend at least the same amount of time outside the classroom, and I strongly suspect I spend considerably more during at least half the weeks of the semester. The student (and administrative) email burden also varies, but does anybody manage to get away with fewer than 15-20 minutes a day, averaged over the week? I can't imagine how. That's a few more hours -- certainly enough to get to 40 every week. And we haven't even gotten into the need for literature proffies to re-read the works they're teaching (and those in non-text fields to do equivalent activities, e.g. prepare lectures and the associated "visual aids" or do dry runs of labs and other exercises, or, or . . . .). And then there's keeping up with the field in some way (necessary even for non-research proffies). And we haven't even mentioned teaching-related meetings. . . .

    Seriously, Hiram, I trust you (and strongly suspect, from what you've written here, that you're a good teacher), but either you're shirking, or (more likely, I suspect) a good deal of your teaching work has become routine enough that even you don't notice you're doing it (maybe you should ask your wife how often you're doing work of some sort during your supposedly "off" hours?). Or maybe you're just really efficient -- if so, good for you; if you're actually managing to do your job in 20 hours a week, I don't see anything wrong with that (see below; by the same token, I'd argue that the fact that you can accomplish a certain amount of work in 20 hours does *not* mean you could accomplish twice the amount of work if you worked for 40 hours, which is the most important fallacy underlying time-motion studies and similar reasoning about work).

    1. Mind you, I'm not really complaining about my hours. I could definitely be more efficient (and suspect I *would* be more efficient, though I'd probably work even more hours, if my work had more variety; part of the problem in my case is definitely some combination of decision and repetition fatigue). If I didn't value other aspects of my job -- especially the degree of autonomy it offers -- I'd look for a different one (and if it stops offering that, I would). I'm much unhappier about other aspects of my job (the lack of variety in my work, the lack of tenure and the full participation in the life of the department/faculty governance it offers, the much-lower salary than my tenured colleagues) than about the sheer number of hours it requires.

      Finally, I wonder whether it's really useful to measure either effort or success in a job by the number of hours spent on some job-related task. Different work is tiring (exhausting) in different ways, and most of us have a pretty good idea of when we stop being as efficient and effective as we can be. Most people who've tried it agree that teaching (just the standing-in-front-of-the-classroom part) is exhausting, and many knowledge workers/producers (e.g. writers) find that they can work at their best for a maximum of 3-5 hours a day (with a few more hours available for lower-energy administrative-type tasks, as long as they also get some exercise, and sleep and eat well). A lot of what we do (certainly constructing assignments and responding to the ones that elicit more complex responses) is that kind of work. Should be be trying to do it for 8 or more hours a day? Are those the conditions under which we do our best work?

      Once upon a time, our dream-futures involved things like the 4-hour workday, with the belief that work organized that way would maximize human potential, inside and outside of our official work. Where did that dream go?

  4. One more note (and then I'll shut up): most people who teach 3/3 (and many who teach 4/4 or 5/5) also have research and service/administrative duties. If those people are recording only the work time they spend on teaching, their overall work schedules could still come out to 40 hours or more (possibly much more) a week.

  5. from Hugo in Huntsville.

    I'm a longtime reader, but I've always stayed out of the fray. But this issue really annoys me. Anyone working a full time teaching position and working less than 40 hours a week is shirking duties. I don't care how casual Hiram is with his Netflix office hours, he does not deserve a teaching post when there are thousands of people who'd kill for that work and do it longer and better than he.

  6. Er ... I'm required to be in a particular place at a particular time about 30 hours a week (18 teaching this term, 10 office hours, a couple for meetings), which is very convenient and allows considerable flexibility. But I'm pretty sure I work nearly twice that all told.

  7. I didn't see it in time to vote, but I work about 20 hours a week on a 2/2 schedule, and that includes committee stuff and my own work.

  8. I didn't see it in time to vote either. At the start of the semester, as I am getting things rolling, I'm on campus from 7-5 four days a week, and I work a few hours on Fridays. I prefer a set schedule, and I am able to get quite a lot done in the early morning before everyone shows up. Afternoons tend to be when my colleagues drop by to talk or bring my problems to solve. I teach a 4/4 load of mostly comp, so I'm in class 12 hours per week. Then I chair several committees, so my mileage varies. Office hours (6), during which I have been known to watch Netflix if I happen to be caught up on grading. I have struggled mightily with the work-life balance over the years, and finally put my foot down about working on Sundays. If I have a lot of essays to get through, I will work on Saturday mornings, but Sundays are right out. As for the suggestion that Hiram doesn't deserve a teaching post, I disagree. Those of us who have been doing this long enough don't need to reinvent the wheel every semester--not that we are on autopilot reading from the same lecture notes, but that the tweaks we need to do are far less time consuming that the initial prep for any course we teach. And if we want to watch a half hour of Netflix while wolfing down a sandwich during office hours THAT STUDENTS DON'T BOTHER TO ATTEND, then who is Hugo in Huntsville to judge?

  9. Hmmm...I bet I work 30+ and I am a part-time adjunct. *sighs*


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