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Faculty Time Savers

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A panel presentation at recent workshop at Stanford University for beginning faculty in manufacturing education brought the following comments on saving faculty time. LET'S HEAR FROM OTHERS ON WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. 


Rick Reis 

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Professor Kyle Catani - University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 
Professor Wendell Gilland - University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 
Professor Sunuil Kumar - Stanford University 
Professor Lisa Pruet - University of California, Berkeley 

* Limit the number of different classes you teach (number of preparations) to one, or at most two per semester. Insist on this arrangement and trade-off almost anything else to get it! 

* Keep in mind that the time required to be a GREAT teacher is many times that required to be a GOOD teacher, and act accordingly. (Teaching preparation is more like a gas than a liquid or a solid, it consumes all the "space available.") 

* Teach a course that has been taught before and get (beg, borrow, or barter) the syllabus, notes, exams, and homework assignments from others who have taught the course. Do NOT worry that you will be seen as weak or lazy - you will NOT. You want to do a good job right from the start - you can be creative and innovative later. 

Better yet, teach a course in which other faculty are teaching other sections so you can leverage off the infrastructure already in place. 

* Arrange your teaching schedule so that all your classes meet on the same two, or at most three, days a week (T, Th, or M,W,F). This arrangement will free you for uninterrupted blocks of time for non-urgent but important matters. 

* Try and teach and undergraduate and a graduate course in the same field (supply chain management for example). Each contributes to the other and is a great way to leverage. 

* Try open blocks of office hours where students can come in an out at will. They catch up on what is going on as they come in, explain things to each other, and leave when they have seen and heard enough. This approach can be surprisingly efficient and effective, and it helps students learn from each other not just from you. 

* Use and reuse as much as possible. For example, try VIDEOTAPING YOUR OFFICE HOURS. That's right, video tape your discussions with students during open "free for all" office hours and make the tapes available to other students to watch. 

* Post answers to FAQ (frequently asked questions) on your course Web site. Every time you answer a question for a student find a way to share the question, and answer, with other students in the course AND with students taking your course in the future. More "use and reuse." 

* Reduce lecture time, invest in discussion and assessment time. Students read the book anyway, so do something complementary with your lecture time (you will be surprised at what this does for your attendance). Put another way, "Reduce the broadcast effort, amplify the feedback path." - L. Leifer, Stanford University. 

* Students learn from each other. Faculty need to realize this fact and leverage from it. Get students to capture, reuse, and share what they learn, and then YOU use the best of what they come up with the next time you teach the course. 

* Co-author papers with students. You get points all the way round with no down-side, and the students can do at least part of the work. 

* Spend time with more senior faculty, take them to lunch, get to know them, and pick their brains. Even if you get contradictory advice, your movement up the "learning curve" will be tremendous - and every one likes to give advice. 

* Volunteer up front for certain service assignments. Most faculty would just as soon not do any service or committee work but this is not reasonable or even desirable. You need to pull your weight so why not be proactive and volunteer for service assignments that have high leverage for you. Examples include serving on the department graduate admissions committee (gives you a first look at the best students in your field), and serving as coordinator of biweekly department seminar series (highly visible, brings you in contact with visiting experts in your field). NOTE: "It is easier to say NO to things you don't want to do if you have already said YES to things you do want to do." 

* Don't answer your phone every time it rings! Let it go on to voice mail, then block off one or two periods during the day for returning calls. Do the same with e-mail. 

* Do NOT do consulting until after you have tenure. It is a time-sink of the first order and does little or nothing for your research productivity.