HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
avoiding faculty burnout
It’s already the end of the semester! The shiny back-to-school dust has settled and we have all been rotating through our new COVID-complicated school routines.
As my work on career-long growth and development for college teachers progresses, I continue to fret about the haphazard way we take care of our instructional health. To begin (and this is not our fault), we work hard and are way too busy. Whether it’s teaching five courses a semester or teaching less but having a research agenda that must be moving forward and continuously productive, we have precious little time for one more thing that might interfere with the frenetic motions required to keep our heads above water.
With the increase in online classes being offered by higher education institutions and the convenience and flexibility it affords (particularly for adult learners), it is important that institutions hire, train, and retain high-quality, student-centric online faculty. Just like on-ground students, online students need instructors who are passionate, organized, creative, and manage the (virtual) classroom effectively. Unfortunately, from time to time, online faculty can struggle with burnout, which may make them less effective instructors.
“Do more with less.” Wherever this phrase is expressed—at a private liberal arts school facing declining enrollments, a large research institute facing decreased support from state budget appropriations, a large corporation facing decreasing fourth quarter profits, or a government entity facing budgetary cutbacks—in each case, the underlying force is tightening fiscal resources. What invariably follows is that employees are asked to be more creative or productive in the face of those declining resources, causing an increase in demand on one’s time and, often, feelings of burnout. While increasing workload is one factor that exacerbates the prevalence of burnout, there are several others.
I have been wanting to do a blog post on tired teaching for some time now. Concerns about burnout are what’s motivating me. Teachers can reach a place where teaching does nothing for them or their students. They don’t just wake up one morning and find themselves burned out; they’ve moved there gradually, and it’s a journey that often starts with tired teaching.
Now that you’ve finished assessing your students, it’s time to turn the assessment process around by looking in the mirror. If you limped across the finish line last semester, it may be time to identify some new strategies for self-care. In our “Tending the Teacher” session at the recent Teaching Professor Conference in Washington, D.C., we presented a menu of ideas to help faculty design a balanced and productive work life. Here are our top tips:
No matter how much we embrace and enjoy online teaching, the human frailties of mistakes, disappointment, anger, frustration, and oversights will come calling each time we teach a class. And when any of these happen we can respond with an emotional and unchecked action—never good—or we can accept that these negatives will always be part of our online teaching efforts and learn how to deal with them in a sensible, appropriate manner. What follows are the most common of the negative issues one will find when teaching online.
Academic leaders can have a tremendous effect on faculty satisfaction and productivity. Part of the responsibility of being an academic leader is to provide appropriate guidelines and support to foster faculty productivity throughout their careers, says Susan Robison, a psychology professor at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. In an interview with Academic Leader, she offered the following advice on how to support faculty:
I’ve been teaching online since 2001. I’ve always felt a certain sense of excitement when discussing philosophies, pedagogy, or instructional strategies with others and creating active, energetic online classrooms. So it was disheartening when I “hit a wall” and things started to feel really monotonous.