Less Is More: Data-driven Strategies for Reducing Faculty Workload


Thursday, January 25, 2018, 10:30am


Washington, DC

View presentation slides: coache.net/aacu18slides

View presentation handout: coache.net/aacu18handout


Each year, the AAC&U Annual Meeting exposes academic leaders to countless opportunities of the new: new programs to implement, new curricula to design, new students to welcome, new technologies to introduce. These solutions usually have something in common: in order to succeed and be sustained, such “change initiatives” require the attention, time, and energy of faculty at a moment when these resources are exceedingly scarce.

Indeed, research in higher education provides evidence of the ratcheting expectations on faculty to be ever more “productive.” They are asked to publish more research, seek more grants, teach and advise more students, serve on more committees, and attend to many other competing cognitive demands hardly known by past generations of the professoriate.

The result is a Catch-22: higher education cannot change without the faculty’s ideas and their genuine, sustained engagement, but faculty are already consumed with everything else expected of them. How can institutions provide reflective space for faculty to be the authors and agents of the academy’s future?

This session features three academic leaders who are creating that space. Bucking the trend to “pile on,” they have used comparative data and collaborative leadership to improve the lives of their faculty and the sustainability of their institutions. They will share how they made the case—to faculty, boards, and foundations—and executed plans that create time for faculty to advance not more work, but their best work as scholars, teachers, and campus citizens.

Harvey Mudd College’s Dean Lisa Sullivan will discuss her use of indicators about students and faculty to take a holistic, human, and data-driven approach to change the campus narrative not just to relieve pressures on faculty—especially concerning the research expectations on them—but to foster a more manageable workload for students, too.

Beau Breslin, the Dean at Skidmore College, will describe how he used survey data and a cross-consortium analysis of faculty handbooks to persuade the Faculty Senate to eliminate second-year review of pre-tenure faculty—and the extensive work required to do it.

Finally, Scripps College’s Dean Amy Marcus-Newhall will share how her college is reducing teaching loads, from making the evidence-based case for foundation support, to winning approval from the Board of Trustees for investment in course reduction, to executing a multi-year plan with many moving parts.

Following remarks by the panelists, attendees will be engaged to offer examples from their own institutions and to test how the panelists’ advice might be adapted and improved for diverse contexts.