What do professors do all day? Answers to this question affect students, faculty, and institutions, and could be helpful information for the trustees who think about the health of all three.

Jonathan Ziker, an anthropologist at Boise State University, tackled the work of finding answers with the Time Allocation Workload Knowledge Study (TAWKS) project, using a time allocation measurement. During structured interviews, subjects were asked to report everything they did from 4 a.m. the previous day until 4 a.m. on the current day.

On average, faculty participants reported working 61 hours per week. They worked 10 hours per day Monday to Friday, and about that much on Saturday and Sunday combined.

The most surprising finding, says Ziker, is that faculty participants spent 17 percent of their work week in meetings -- including meetings with students -- and 13 percent of the day on e-mail (both for research and with students). This means that 30 percent of faculty time is used for work that has not been traditionally considered part of academic life.

Ziker found that 12 percent of weekday time was spent on instruction (lectures, labs, clinicals etc.) and an equal amount of time on class preparation. Eleven percent of weekday time was spent on course administration (grading, updating course web pages, etc.). Thus, a total of 35 percent of workweek days were spent on traditional teaching activities.

Research occupied a relatively small portion of the workweek (17 percent), but this was boosted by a heft share of weekend time (27 percent). Ziker notes that a good deal of research is conducted during breaks from the academic year, and future work will focus on what kinds and amounts of work are done during those times.

“Being a faculty member appears to be a lonely occupation,” adds Ziker, who notes that participants reported spending 57 percent of their work time working alone.

Phase 2 of the study will be conducted using a smartphone app with which participants can respond to text messages they receive at random times to report what they are doing.


Read more about the study here.

Photo courtesy of the College of DuPage