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Benefits for Faculty

Benefits for Faculty

Humane Pace of Teaching

One important reason for Cal Poly Pomona to switch to the semester system is the more humane pace for teaching and learning. Faculty in particular benefit because semesters allow more time for grading, course prep between semesters, and reflection on teaching decisions both during and after the semester. Proponents of Cal Poly Pomona’s traditional quarter system argue that semesters would increase faculty workload. However, by many measures (total contact hours, WTU's, etc.), there is no difference in teaching workload between the two calendars. While it is likely that some faculty will teach more courses per term on a semester calendar, a 2001 CSU study suggested that the average teaching load at semester campuses for full-time faculty without any assigned time is 3.5 courses per term. However, even if a semester calendar meant 4 courses per term, it would still mean one fewer course per academic year (8 versus 9). More broadly, 'teaching' is a heterogeneous activity, involving many distinct tasks and responsibilities, so the number of courses taught at a given time is only one measure of the amount of effort required to fulfill one's teaching duties. With respect to other factors that shape teaching workload (frequency of major exams, frequency of grading, beginning and end of term activities, etc.), the semester system is likely to be less burdensome. This is reflected in the fact that, in our survey of faculty, 'faculty workload' was the third most cited reason for favoring conversion. Anecdotal evidence from other CSU faculty at CSU conferences and meetings indicates that faculty in the quarter system feel disproportionally stressed and over-worked compared to faculty on CSU semester campuses.

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Increased Time for Quality Teaching

The increased duration of a term in a semester system allows for an increase in the quality of teaching. The longer term allows for mid-semester review and changes to be made midstream in a course. In addition, there is time for faculty to provide students feedback on drafts of assignments that can then be revised before being turned in. Two semesters with breaks between them allow faculty more time for new course prep as well as time to review and update their courses during the semester breaks.

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Greater Depth of Projects

The longer term allows faculty to assign projects of greater depth, complexity, and scope. In keeping with the campus’ commitment to a Teacher-Scholar model of faculty work, such projects could incorporate multiple modes of student learning or scholarship, including discovery, integration, application, and engagement. Semesters allow a better fit with the Integration aspect of the Cal Poly Pomona Teacher Scholar model by allowing faculty to engage students in substantive research and creative activities.

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End to the Mega-term

For faculty, semesters mean an end to an essentially uninterrupted 23-week 'mega-term' from January to June in favor of two balanced semesters. This mega-term creates end losses in faculty scholarship and teaching when faculty are exhausted and ‘burnt-out’ on teaching by the end of the six month run and are unable to effectively engage in scholarship or to critically assess and review their teaching.

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Better Ability to Cope with Class Cancellations

The semester system provides more flexibility to deal with faculty illnesses, cancellation of lectures due to extra-curricular or conflicting schedules (such as field trips), and inclusion of guest speakers. The compressed course schedules required by the quarter system assume no ‘lost’ time for faculty time out, and no trips or other curricular needs that may interfere with course planning.

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Better Balance of Time for Scholarship

In a semester system, there is a more equitable distribution of time between semesters for scholarship. The time between fall and spring semesters better allows faculty to write articles or grants and engage in other scholarly and creative activities.

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Greater Ease of Inter-Institutional Partnerships

Partnerships with faculty at other institutions are made easier by conversion to a semester system. Most institutions are scheduled in some version of semesters, and Cal Poly Pomona’s insistence of remaining out of step with the general academic calendar makes working relationships, co-investigation, grant partnerships and creative collaboration more difficult than it would be under a semester system.

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Advantages for Lecturers

Semesters allow more notification time for course assignments for lecturers and more prep time once they receive their assignments. The semester system also allows for easier and more productive evaluation and feedback for lecturers. Lecturers who also teach at other semester campuses may find it easier to coordinate their work on multiple campuses.

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FERP Advantages

Given the increasing age of Cal Poly Pomona faculty, and the need for consideration of FERP concerns, it is clear that semesters create a better FERP load. FERP faculty can teach ½ of their teaching load in one semester rather than having it spread over 2 quarters.

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Sabbatical Length

Semesters allow faculty sabbaticals with full pay to take place over a 16 week semester rather than a 11 week quarter.

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Faculty Process Losses

In the quarter system, start-up and shut-down happens three times a year, instead of only twice a year in a semester system. Any start-up and shut-down creates process losses while new classes begin and new students become used to the professor, and end losses when the class winds down. In a semester system there is less time lost to start of classes and end of classes which results in more time spent on teaching and less on grading and course administration.

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Better Alignment with K-12 System

Semesters align better with the K-12 system which results in better work-life balance for faculty with school age children.

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More Consistent Schedules

Semesters result in fewer schedule changes for faculty, which allows better scheduling of home/work issues, and easier scheduling of service responsibilities throughout the year. Currently committee meeting times must shift every 12 weeks, with the result that some members on committees become unable to attend at quarter change. In semesters this problem would only happen two times per year rather than three.

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Questions/Comments

Do you have questions? Would you like to comment on this topic?
Please email us at Academic Calendar Conversion