Broadly, UMass Amherst faculty are more satisfied than faculty at peer or cohort institutions on the majority of teaching indicators. A remarkable 89% of faculty are highly satisfied with their autonomy over the content of their courses and 85% are satisfied with the level of courses they teach. According to COACHE, ensuring that faculty have a say in which courses they teach and their content is one of the top five qualities shared by exemplary institutions.
The quality of undergraduate students is regarded highly by faculty; 66% are satisfied and only 13% are dissatisfied (the remainder are neutral, neither satisfied nor dissatisfied). Furthermore, UMass is strong in its support for assessment of student learning and for teaching different learning styles: our faculty are more satisfied with support in these areas than faculty at any of our five peer institutions. Only one faculty group is an exception to this: non-tenure track faculty show a relatively low level of satisfaction compared to their peers. This suggests that non-tenure track faculty are concerned about their ability to meet their students’ needs and to appropriately evaluate student learning.
Faculty report low levels of satisfaction with how equitably the teaching load is distributed across faculty in their department, especially compared to our peers. Only 45% of faculty were satisfied with the equitable distribution of teaching load and 31% were dissatisfied (the remainder are neutral). Women faculty are significantly less satisfied about teaching load equity, both compared to men faculty on our campus* and compared to women faculty at peer institutions. In contrast, men faculty at UMass are more satisfied with teaching load equity compared to women faculty on our campus and compared to men at peer institutions.
Faculty indicate some dissatisfaction with the quality of graduate students who support their teaching. For example, of the faculty who work with graduate TAs, only 53% of faculty are satisfied with the quality of graduate TA support, and 25% were dissatisfied (the remainder are neutral).
A third area of faculty teaching dissatisfaction relates to online teaching. Only 26% are satisfied with support for the development of online/hybrid courses and 25% are satisfied with support for teaching of online. Notably, faculty responded to the survey between February and April 2020, a time of great disruption in teaching modalities. In the interim, campus support for the development and teaching of online/hybrid courses has increased dramatically. Thus, findings may not reflect current faculty satisfaction with online teaching support.
* COACHE reports findings by gender for men and women, including transgender men and women, but not for non-binary individuals.
Based on research across dozens of institutions, COACHE has developed a set of best practices for teaching. UMass employs many of these best practices and faculty satisfaction with numerous aspects of teaching are a testament to UMass’ commitment to its teaching mission. For example, the campus and colleges recognize excellence in the classroom through public and prestigious awards and offer grants for pedagogical development and innovation. Such awards and grants include the Manning Prize, Distinguished Teaching Award, College Outstanding Teaching Awards, Lilly Fellowship, and the Open Education Initiative grant, among many others.
Faculty have concerns about the equitable distribution of the teaching load among faculty in their department. A recent study (O’Meara et al. 2020) finds that faculty work activity dashboards can help diagnose and address equity issues in the department. According to the authors, dashboards promoted accountability, clarity, and reference points for expected contributions of faculty.
Faculty concerns about the quality of graduate students to support their teaching may reflect the need to better match graduate students’ interests and qualifications to the courses they teach and to better support graduate students' development as teachers. The Teaching Academy, launched by The Graduate School in August 2020, aims to promote creativity, collaboration, inclusivity, and reflective practices that support effective teaching and learning.
The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and the IDEAS Group have created an extensive set of resources and provide support through workshops and consultations for the development and teaching of online courses in synchronous and asynchronous modalities.