Teaching Load Standards

College of Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty Teaching Load Standards

March 30, 2017



Faculty are among the most important and consequential resources of any university and so it is essential that the university, and each of Mason’s academic units, ensure workload equity while also maximizing the efficient use of our teaching, research, and service resources.

Recognizing and allowing for differences among units, these guidelines are designed to assure consistency of workload expectations both across our university and aligned with related policies and practices in our peer institutions. This document applies to all College of Humanities and Social Sciences instructional faculty, and is consistent with the university’s Faculty Handbook, University Policy 3008 - Faculty Teaching Loads and University Policy 4012 – Roles and Responsibilities of a Principal Investigator, Mason’s Supplemental Pay procedures, and State and Federal guidelines.

Setting Teaching Loads with Consideration for Other Duties

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences is comprised of a diverse set of academic departments spanning numerous disciplines. In addition to differences between social science and humanities scholarly activities, there is wide variation among and within disciplines in each of these categories. This diversity is a great strength of the College because the scholarly work of our faculty provides a host of perspectives on theory, method and knowledge. The multidisciplinary span of the College exemplifies the interdisciplinary mission of the university and research innovation more generally. This diversity means that there cannot be a singular procedure for assessing scholarly productivity. For example, in some departments peer-reviewed journal articles are key; others may require more cumulative work published in book form. In still other departments, scholarly productivity may be reflected in creative works, performances, or the development of products for use in the field. Moreover, disciplines vary widely in their criteria for what constitutes a high level of productivity (e.g., volume of work). Disciplinary expertise is crucial in assessing scholarly productivity.

This policy identifies general criteria and standards to define and evaluate standard teaching loads and associated required research productivity for full-time faculty in all departments and programs within CHSS.

Teaching loads for term faculty have been and will continue to be primarily based on teaching and administrative duties while teaching loads for tenured and tenure-track faculty have been and will continue to be primarily based on research productivity.  Therefore, release time for scholarly activities is linked with an expectation of greater research productivity.  However, CHSS is served by a faculty with a wide range of skills, interests and responsibilities.  Thus, different faculty members may have different assignments in terms of teaching, research/creative activity, service, and administration.  These differences in expectations shall be recognized, valued, and respected at all levels during the review of faculty performance.

The chart below outlines, in broad terms, the level of research productivity, service and administrative obligations associated with various teaching loads.  Note that all faculty members are required to teach at least one course per year and are expected to engage in service activities. Each department is expected to articulate more specific standards for Minimal Research, Standard University Research, and Advanced University Research based on the standards appropriate to their field.

Criteria may include, for example:

  • the degree to which scholarly works have advanced the faculty member’s discipline or profession, as demonstrated by the impact of the work on the field at local, state, regional, national, and international levels;
  • the quality and quantity of the research products over a period of time;
  • the extent to which the faculty member collaborates and mentors other faculty members within or outside of the department; and
  • the reasonability of the timeline needed to move projects from conception to publication.

Service/outreach obligations may include:

  • internal service at the department, college, or university on committees;
  • supervising graduate students on thesis or dissertation committees; and
  • external service in professional and community organizations at the local, state, regional, national, and international levels that are uncompensated and related to the faculty member’s professional training and competence.



Teaching Load*

Expectation for Research and Service Productivity


Teaching Only

  • No obligation for research productivity
  • Some service/outreach obligation


(minus administrative reductions)

Teaching & Administration

  • No obligation for research productivity
  • Some service/outreach obligation


Teaching & Minimal Research

  • Evidence of minimal research activity, e.g.
    • professional growth related to research (seminars, conferences, etc)
    • Papers submitted for presentation at professional meetings
    • Normal service/outreach obligation


Teaching & Standard University Research

  • Evidence of on-going standard research activity, e.g.
    • Number and quality of papers accepted or presented at professional meetings
    • Number and quality of papers, chapters, or books submitted for publication
    • Number and quality of papers accepted or published in journals that are not major refereed professional journals
    • Number and quality of books or chapters accepted or published by publishing firms of lesser reputation or with limited circulation potential
    • Normal service/outreach obligation


Teaching & Advanced University Research

  • Evidence of on-going advanced research activity, e.g.
    • Number and quality of papers accepted or published by major refereed professional journals
    • Number and quality of refereed chapters in books accepted or published by major publishing firms (high quality)
    • Number and quality of books accepted or published by major publishing firms
    • Awards and funding for research
    • Normal service/outreach obligation

* Notes:

1 Teaching load is based on university didactic hours and assumes 3 or 4 hours per course.

2 The minimum teaching weighting for any given course normally shall be 10%.

3 Faculty who buy out teaching responsibilities on an external grant shall have the weighting of their teaching reduced and weighting of their research activities increased proportional to the reduction in teaching.

4 All faculty members shall be engaged in service. The minimum service weighting for term and pre-tenure tenure-track faculty shall be 5%. The minimum service weighting for tenured faculty members shall be 20%.

5 Faculty with administrative duties shall be evaluated on those duties. The weighting of teaching and research in their annual evaluation shall be reduced proportional to the reduction in teaching and research duties and placed on administrative duties.

6 Every faculty member must teach at least one course per academic year and is expected to engage in service, unless the faculty member has been bought out at 100% on a fellowship.


Beginning in academic year 2008-09, the College implemented an opt-in program by department whereby current tenured and tenure track faculty members elected an appropriate teaching load with its associated research expectations.  New tenure and tenure track hires will customarily enter the department at the 2-2 level of Advanced University Research.

Each department will determine the process by which faculty adopt/change their teaching load and linked research expectation.  For example, the department’s salary review committee may determine teaching load for each faculty member – or it could be a negotiation between the department chair and each faculty member.  All processes must include the following:

  • Consideration of a faculty member’s previous professional performance in research/creative activity as well as future professional interests, tied to the annual faculty performance evaluation process, and submitted to the dean;
  • Documentation of the elected teaching load for each faculty member; and
  • Assignment in a specific category normally chosen for a maximum of three years for purposes of performance evaluation and raise review

Further, every department is required to have a protocol for tenure-line faculty research productivity guidelines and a department-level chart that implements the levels in the CHSS chart. The productivity guideline for each department should stipulate productivity standards appropriate for the discipline, with an explicit time period of productivity noted (i.e., how far back we count). For example, a standard might read as follows: a 2-2 load is justified for an average (x) peer-reviewed articles (or the explicitly defined equivalent) per year over the last 5 years in journals with a strong impact factor.

Finally, every department is required to submit and follow a schedule for tenured faculty teaching load review. Each individual faculty member should be reviewed at least every 3 years as part of the annual performance review process. Annual performance review reports to individual faculty members should include a line at the bottom indicating when the teaching load will be next reviewed. The annual review should note how the individual is doing in regard to maintaining research productivity to justify the current teaching load and whether a load increase or decrease may be imminent. When a load increase or decrease is necessary, it should be implemented mid-year (i.e., a September review resulting in a load change should be implemented in January).

Course Reductions from Expected Teaching Load


Course reductions for administrative positions will be based on the teaching load/research expectation of the faculty member and the size and complexity of the department.  Each department and program will formalize administrative course reductions and stipends that are handled within the department/program.  All administrative positions receiving any sort of load reduction or compensation must be approved by the dean in advance.


Department chairs will have a teaching load of 1-1. Program director reductions will depend on faculty status (term or tenure-track) and size of program.


As a general principle, faculty effort should be charged when the effort is expended. For faculty seeking course buyouts, all new grants shall be budgeted according to the following policy as of July 1, 2017. Tenure-track faculty members charging labor to grants and contracts will provide 15% of academic year salary plus benefits to buy out the first course in an academic year, 15% for the second course, and 25% for the third course.

Term faculty members charging labor to grants and contracts must charge 12.5% of academic year salary plus benefits for each course bought out.

Every faculty member is expected to teach at least one course per year and is expected to engage in service.  Any exceptions to this policy must be negotiated with the dean prior to submission of the grant or fellowship proposal.

For purposes of this policy, faculty members with administrative buy-outs of their teaching or contractual teaching loads less than 2-2 must treat those reductions as grant buy-downs. For example, someone with a one-course administrative buy-down must charge their grant as a second course reduction.

Any other financial arrangement must be agreed to in advance by the dean.


Faculty on 2-2 loads who are teaching 8 credits one semester will teach 4 the other semester.  Faculty may not reduce teaching to zero in a semester by “banking” extra credits. Faculty on 3-2 loads who are teaching 8 credits each semester may not “bank” extra credits. For other course distributions which are analogous, arrangements will be negotiated with the dean.


Department chairs should attempt to distribute thesis supervision and all graduate and undergraduate individualized section duties equitably.  Supervision of students does not provide credit toward course reductions.


A faculty member with an uneven teaching load (for example:  3-2 or 2-1) who is on leave status during one semester of an academic year will take leave in the semester with the lower load.


Term faculty on a 4-4 load who are awarded university support to develop an online course may take support for the first course as either a stipend or a course release. Any additional compensation must be taken as a stipend. Tenure-line faculty receiving university support to develop an online course must take that compensation as a stipend.


Chairs may reduce individual faculty teaching load on a temporary basis with explanation to the dean.  (The dean may or may not provide part time replacement budget depending on the circumstances.)