Report: ISU faculty spends less than half of time teaching

Elizabeth Kix

A new study shows that ISU professors spend less than half their time teaching students.

A report by the Iowa Board of Regents in late July revealed some truths about faculty at Iowa State, showing statistics of how much time professors at Iowa State spend actually teaching undergraduate students.

The report, compiled biennially, compares the amount of time spent teaching, researching, attending administrative meetings and providing public service between the ranks of faculty – tenure, tenure track, non-tenure track, and graduate teaching assistants – at all three public universities in Iowa.

The data, retrieved by stratified random survey, show that, on average, ISU faculty members spend 46.1 percent of their time teaching, 35.8 percent on sponsored and non-sponsored research, 5 percent on administrative activities and 13.1 percent on university, professional and public service.

James Hutter, associate professor of political science, said he doesn’t necessarily believe these statistics are accurate. He questioned the validity of the surveys as well as the validity of data provided to them by faculty at Iowa State.

“These surveys are an idiotic exercise. If it says I only spend 50 percent of my time teaching, that is way off,” Hutter said.

Hutter, who said he spends nearly 80 percent of his time in the classroom some weeks, thinks a better way to accurately determine these statistics would be to have faculty at the universities keep track of their time over a full week instead of being tested twice a year.

Other graphs show the allocation of hours in a typical work week. On average, ISU faculty members work 57.7 hours per week, with tenured and tenure track professors working slightly more.

The research showed that 60 percent of full-time students at Iowa State were taught by tenured or tenure track faculty. Of these students, tenure track faculty teach 14.4 percent, with tenured faculty making up the rest of the percentage. Non-tenure track faculty teach more students than tenure track faculty, with 26 percent of full-time students taught by non-tenure track professors.

Another statistic showed that graduate teaching assistants taught 13.8 percent of undergraduates and that 14.4 percent of students were taught by tenure track faculty.

Hsain Ilahiane, associate professor of anthropology, said although the numbers of teaching hours each week sometimes seem a bit low, the role of research, especially for tenure track professors, is key to teaching well.

With numbers like these available to the public, Ilahiane said he believes high research statistics should not scare the public.

“The general public needs to be educated about the role of research in the classroom. My research right now is directly tied to my current classes,” Ilahiane said. “This research interests me and my class. If I don’t keep on my toes and on top of current issues, my classes would be boring.”

Michael Martin, associate professor of landscape architecture, said he couldn’t believe the amount of time spent researching wasn’t even higher, especially when considering lab research done in the fields of agriculture and natural science.

“Tenure track professors are really pushing toward getting their research done for tenure. Some tenure track professors have legitimate complaints of not being able to get everything done,” Martin said.

Because of limited time to teach and the tiring nature of researching excessively, Martin said he knew of a lot of first-year tenure track professors getting bad reviews at the end of the year.

Chelsey Lass, sophomore in mathematics, said she is concerned by and upset over these statistics. Lass has received a lot of academic scholarships for her education and was unhappy to see tenure track professors teaching nearly the same amount of students as graduate teaching assistants.

“If I was paying what some students here are paying, I would be extremely upset. Knowing these statistics, I am still upset that more classes aren’t taught by experienced professors,” Lass said.