There's a very interesting post over on Larval Subjects about the academic assembly line:
These days, one of the more frustrating and tedious aspects of working in an institutional setting such as a secondary school, a college, or a highschool has been the shift to constant mechanisms of “quality control” that are implemented from year to year, semester to semester. What I have in mind are the constant calls to codify things such as student learning outcomes, assessment criteria, and curriculum across the body of educators. These mechanisms, in turn, lead to endless meetings, professional development seminars, and piles of paperwork that often have little or no connection to teaching or what really takes place in the classroom.This post reminded me off another article on Deconstructing Faculty Work that highlighted the ways in which faculty work has become fragmented and subdivided in some damaging ways. It has now become commonplace for faculty to characterize themselves in their annual reports by how much of their time is spent on the various institutional components of teaching, research, and service.
We constructed the artifact of faculty assignment; a quantity set at 100 percent, and then partitioned that assignment into sections assigned to teaching, research, service, and other duties. Although most institutions do not explicitly quantify these assignments, the work recorded in our faculty annual reports make clear that we parcel out our actual effort into categories defined by what we do for teaching, for research, and for service. Our administrative work became defined by the released teaching effort traded for the administrative effort, further subdividing our faculty work. ... We designed accountability systems to measure the cost of teaching as an item separate from research so that we could calculate the return on the investment in teaching separately from the return on investment in research. ... These became the measurable quantities for effective optimization and management in our increasingly accountable world.I myself am a 50% teaching, 25% research, and 25% service employee this year. My job is structured such that my full-time teaching load of 4 courses per semester is subject to reassigned time for various other duties, typically including one course a semester reassigned time for research (if I continue to publish well) and sometimes release time for other administrative chores. It has ceased to strike us as strange that we should be subdivided in these ways and to think of our work lives as the assemblage of discrete tasks, rather than as the life's work of a single person.
This subdividing of tenured and tenure-track faculty also tends to facilitate and justify the use of contingent faculty. It is the logical extension of a system organized around the outcomes of specific, and seemingly unrelated tasks.
For the institutions, however, the deconstruction of faculty work offered a great incentive to reduce their commitment to an inflexible work force of tenured faculty and increase their investment in short-term, highly efficient faculty dedicated to specific purposes for specific periods of time and whose productivity and performance could be reliably maintained.If the teaching me, the research me, and the administrative me cannot actually exist separately and independently of one another, then it makes a certain administrative sense to seek specialized workers whose functions can actually be compartmentalized in exactly this way. Of course, I actually only do any of these jobs well because I do all of these jobs. But that complexity makes faculty assessment and management much more difficult. The pernicious fantasy of the fungibility of faculty work is only perpetuated by the current ways in which we evaluate faculty.