CRA Memo on Best Practices for Engaging Teaching Faculty in Research Computing Departments

August 17, 2018 at 7:00 am 6 comments

I’m excited to see this memo from the Computing Research Association on the status of teaching faculty in computing departments. Computing departments are increasingly relying on teaching faculty, and it’s important to give them fair and equitable treatment.

I wrote in 2016 that “CS Teaching Faculty are like Tenant Farmers.” This memo addresses some of the issues I raised, though some are buried in the text of the memo.  I argued that teaching faculty should be involved in hiring for both traditional and teaching faculty, and that teaching faculty should serve in upper-level leadership positions.  The report does state halfway down the report, “Similarly, teaching faculty should be broadly included in faculty governance on matters related to their roles in the department, including participation in faculty meetings, voting rights on matters impacting the education mission, inclusion in evaluation of the teaching performance of other faculty, and input on hiring decisions.”  This memo is a step in the right direction.

To achieve their educational mission, computing departments at research universities increasingly depend on full-time teaching faculty who choose teaching as a long-term career. This memo discusses the need for teaching faculty, explores the impact of teaching faculty, and recommends best practices.

Essential best practices for departments include:

  • Departments should provide teaching faculty with equitable rights and resources, except in limited areas where differing job responsibilities make that inappropriate.

  • Departments should encourage teaching faculty to be equal and active partners on projects and committees with the goal of contributing to the department’s educational mission.

  • Departments should set course, preparation, student, and service loads of teaching faculty at a level that allows for innovation and quality instruction.

    ….

Source: Laying a Foundation: Best Practices for Engaging Teaching Faculty in Research Computing Departments

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How computing education researchers and learning scientists might better collaborate High school students learning programming do better with block-based languages, and the impact is greatest for female and minority students

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. BKM  |  August 17, 2018 at 8:30 am

    This statement sounds nice, but I remain very disconcerted by the move to delegate undergraduate education to “teaching faculty” instead of tenure track faculty. Besides being a CS professor, I am also the mom of a kid about to go off to college to major in computer science. During the process of choosing which school to attend, we realized that at many of the schools, he would probably never get to experience a course taught by a researcher until his junior year. I think this is not a good thing. Getting students involved in undergraduate research projects is considered to be a best practice for student engagement. I involve my undergraduates in research projects, and have learned over time that it is important to get to know potential participants as early as possible. Many students come in not even realizing they could do a research project. It often takes time to convince students that this is a possibility, and to work with them to take the right courses and do background preparation. If they don’t meet professors who can work with them on projects until their junior year, it may be too late for the students to get involved in any sort of significant project. I actually start advertising the idea of working on a research project when I teach introductory courses, and try to build relationships with students who seem interested. While I realize that some teaching faculty do research, it isn’t that common, especially at schools where teaching faculty have 4/4 loads. Until I started looking at CS programs with my kid, I had no idea how pervasive the practice is of offloading undergraduate education to teaching faculty. I do not think this is a good thing for the students, or for our discipline.

    Reply
  • 2. Thomas Morley  |  August 17, 2018 at 9:06 am

    Why not just faculty? Not everyone has to do exactly the same thing. The very term “teaching faculty” already produces a two tiered system

    Reply
    • 3. cycomachead  |  August 22, 2018 at 5:09 am

      There’s only tiers if we presume “research” to be “better” than “teaching”. There’s a billion ways to define all three of those quoted terms, but I don’t know if it’s necessarily bad to use the term as someone’s focus.

      Reply
  • 4. Karen North  |  August 17, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Time … “service loads of teaching faculty at a level that allows for innovation and quality instruction” … this goes for all teachers including K-12 who builds the computational thinking mindset and interest in research.

    Reply
  • 5. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  August 17, 2018 at 11:44 am

    I agree with BKM that involving students in research is valuable for their education, though that gets difficult to do when student/faculty ratios are large. If you count just tenure-track faculty at UCSC, the ratio is about 100:1 in computer science. One partial solution is to make the teaching faculty a more stable and permanent part of the faculty by giving them tenure. Another is to have tenured teaching faculty running research capstone courses, so that you don’t have to rely solely on the apprentice model for undergraduate research.

    Reply
  • 6. cycomachead  |  August 22, 2018 at 5:07 am

    I have (in part) delayed getting a CS PhD because I don’t see a teaching job I want that’s attainable. There are IMO quite a few great CS teaching positions, but the competition usually seems pretty intense. And some of the positions that sound interesting, well, I feel like I’ve heard too many horror stories over the years at SIGCSE. (Maybe, that’s too strong, but certainly it makes you wonder about the cost/benefits.)

    Reply

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