Monday, August 29, 2005

Quality vs. Quantity

Bruce G. Murphy has an article in Inside Higher Ed entitled "Beyond Busy" in which he argues that busy hands don't necessarily make for a good university education.

I have to admit that I am predisposed toward busy-ness. The hardest intellectual discipline for me to develop was the ability to sit for hours just thinking. Part of that is probably a result of a blue collar work ethic from my upbringing; if I could be paid a commission on thoughts, I'd take that over a salary. Even this blog works as a way for me to make use of little bits of time -- 10 minutes between classes, 5 minutes before an appointment, etc -- that aren't sizable enough to grade a paper or read a chapter or write an article.

But Murphy makes some good points. In theory, my school only requires me to be on campus 22 hours per week (12 in class, 10 in office hours), though in practice that works out to at least 30 hours per week (classes aren't always back-to-back, we have other meetings, etc). Office hours are only good for grading a few papers, since students interrupt too frequently for sustained thought [I've been interrupted once already writing this, and it's not even my posted hours]. Also, in that in-between time I am able to get my internal paperwork done, though I'm always behind schedule on that. I think I could work a 40 hour week if I did no service or research, and used the rest of the time to grade papers and prepare for classes. If I taught no composition classes, re-used the same syllabi in literature classes every semester, and only re-read about half the texts every semester, I could probably get it under 40 hours ... maybe down to 35.

Research, then, is only possible if I cut out time from doing something else, such as sleeping. In practice, my only way to research is to do it over the summers, on Saturdays, or laaaaate at night. Is this really serving the purpose of the University, both Troy University and the platonic ideal university? Perhaps Murphy is right, and my teaching, research, and service all suffer.

I'm going to give this some careful consideration.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, but the new Faculty Handbook no longer specifies a set number of office hours ;)

    Regardless, the teaching load we have does make research harder to accomplish. I need sustainted blocks of time to do serious writing, and frequently such blocks are hard to come by. Although I have contrived my schedule this semester to allow such blocks--which I need, given that I have a book manuscript due in April.