Individual professors largely retain the right to choose what they teach and how, even when they’re teaching sections of the same course as other professors. That’s the American Association of University Professors’ take on individual vs. collective responsibility for course design, as laid out in its new statement on the matter, reports InsidehigherEd.
“The freedom to teach includes the right of the faculty to select the materials, determine the approach to the subject, make the assignments, and assess student academic performance in teaching activities for which faculty members are individually responsible, without having their decisions subject to the veto of a department chair, dean, or other administrative officer,” reads AAUP’s “The Freedom to Teach.”
“It continues: “In a multisection course taught by several faculty members, responsibility is often shared among the instructors for identifying the texts to be assigned to students. Common course syllabi and examinations are also typical but should not be imposed by departmental or administrative fiat.” Essentially, beyond the shared choice of textbook among professors teaching the same course, which may make logistical sense, other pedagogical freedoms remain “undiluted,” AAUP says. Greg Scholtz, director of academic freedom, tenure and governance for AAUP, said no particular incident or institution prompted the statement. Rather, who decides who teaches what was something the organization had been meaning to address, in the same statement, for some time. Previously, different parts had appeared in various AAUP documents — but there is one notable change. The new statement includes entirely new language saying such principles “apply equally” to all faculty — including adjunct faculty, who often feel that course materials are “imposed” on them, Scholtz said.
“The statement comes at a time that technology makes it possible for multisection courses to get quite large, and when an increasing number of instructors may not be teaching such courses in structures that designate someone as the lead professor. Don Eron, a full-time, non-tenure-track professor writing at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is part of AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which drafted the statement. In his opinion, he said via email, individual vs. collective responsibility for course design is the “probably the central academic freedom issue” confronting adjuncts — particularly for those teaching core courses, which are more likely to be subject to administrative calls for standardization across sections.”