Guest Blog: Educational Leadership Titles

Categories: Bargaining, Bargaining Updates 2016, Educational Leadership Stream, Instructors, Professors of Teaching, Ranks

Occasionally the bargaining team asks members for permission to share their thoughts via the bargaining blog. In September 2016, Christina Hendricks, Chair, Instructor Network Leadership Team, sent a letter to the Provosts at UBC Vancouver and UBC Okanagan, the President of the Faculty Association and the Chair of the Okanagan Faculty Committee discussing the need for change in the Educational Leadership titles. The correspondence follows:

As current faculty members in the Educational Leadership stream we are requesting that you advocate a change to our titles to align appropriately with our job descriptions and career trajectories, as well as to parallel our Research stream colleagues. We suggest that titles of Instructor and Senior Instructor be replaced with Assistant Professor of Teaching and Associate Professor of Teaching, respectively. Such a shift in titles would create a sensible, clear trajectory of rank that ends with the extant Professor of Teaching. The University of Toronto has just recently made a change to their instructor/educational leadership stream faculty titles.

This proposal is very strongly supported by current faculty in the UBC educational leadership stream. This past summer 83% of the faculty members in the educational leadership stream, from both campuses, responded to a poll asking if they were in favor of the title changes or not. Of those who responded, there was near unanimity: 97% were in favor of these title changes. The letter below outlines our reasoning behind our request.

We argue that there are many advantages for the university and individual faculty members for adopting more appropriate titles for the first two ranks of the Educational Leadership stream. The most obvious reason we see to change the titles is to align across rank. It is cumbersome and nonsensical to have three very different terms to represent different phases of a single career. We argue that a title change is important for three additional and important reasons: (1) current titles fail to capture the scholarly credentials and work engaged in by faculty who hold these positions; (2) they are misunderstood within and outside the university; and (3) they fuel a second-class status. We elaborate below.

First, we argue that the current titles do not accurately reflect the expertise and academic training of the faculty in the Educational Leadership stream. Furthermore, the titles do not represent the academic work expectations of these positions. To be hired into an educational leadership faculty position requires demonstrated expertise in one’s field as well as outstanding or excellent achievements in teaching and educational leadership/innovation. Research stream faculty members are required to demonstrate expertise and scholarly achievement in those same disciplines, and have titles that showcase that expertise. The current titles undermine the advanced knowledge and research that have qualified us for positions at an institution of higher learning, the same basic requirements as a research professor. “Instructor” implies that the university fails to acknowledge that educational leadership track faculty have equivalent PhD degrees and legitimate expertise relative to “Assistant Professors,” despite the university’s commitment to placing both hires on the tenure track. Such communication may impede the ability of the university to attract and retain qualified faculty, particularly in a resource-strained environment in which educational leadership track faculty are often paid less than research faculty.

In addition to acknowledging past credentials and expertise, a title shift would more accurately represent the scholarly work that educational leadership stream faculty are increasingly expected to produce. A title such as Assistant Professor of Teaching (extending the existing Professor of Teaching) is a much more accurate representation of a position held by academics with a PhD or disciplinary equivalent at a highly respected university and who are responsible for much more than simply ‘instructing’ classes. Faculty in the educational leadership stream are expected to ultimately achieve “distinction in the field of teaching and learning,” and “to provide evidence of “sustained and innovative contributions to curriculum development, course design and other initiatives that advance the University’s ability to excel in its teaching and learning mandate,” in addition to demonstrating “outstanding achievements” in both teaching and educational leadership, in order to achieve the Professor of Teaching rank (Agreement on Conditions of Appointment for Faculty, Articles 3 & 4). Indeed, across the ranks, educational leadership stream faculty are engaging in scholarly activities related to teaching, including keeping current within their own disciplines and in the teaching literature, innovating in their classrooms and disseminating those methods and results, forging collaborations that improve teaching and learning, spearheading curriculum renewal locally and in the disciplines, and much more. Given that the mantra ‘same but different’ is frequently used to describe the research and educational leadership streams, titles should reflect this philosophy. While the workload of faculty in the educational leadership stream requires more teaching and service, and less research (or equivalent educational leadership contributions beyond the classroom), it is contractually equivalent to the workload in the research stream. The university expects educational leadership stream faculty to engage in scholarly work that is commensurate with Assistant and Associate titles. We are asking to be designated appropriately.

A second and related reason to change educational leadership stream titles is to facilitate accurate communication regarding the role faculty in this rank play at the university. Some of the aforementioned scholarly activities involve soliciting internal and external grants in order to fund the design and implementation of innovative projects in the field of education, which can in turn produce scholarly work. The current titles limit our ability to apply for external funding (and sometimes internal funding) due to lack of understanding of the tenure-track/tenured nature of our ranks. In addition, we experience that research faculty and administrative staff members, as well as some students, often misunderstand the educational leadership titles as they currently exist. Some people on our campuses seem to think that educational leadership stream faculty occupy positions of lower rank than those in the research stream, and are thus given less respect. The titles are easily misinterpreted as implying that the positions are for those with lower qualifications than research faculty, but who have obtained a more permanent position at the university than that of sessional faculty. Moreover, the title “Instructor” is currently in use in many jobs and fields that are unrelated to university faculty positions and thus are further misinterpreted by community members and other professions. The current titles imply that educational leadership stream faculty solely teach, similar to a position of a yoga instructor or a driving instructor. Yet Educational leadership stream faculty have expertise and scholarly appetites that place them in the cadre of academics. More accurate titles will help to clarify the nature of educational leadership faculty work to community members within and beyond our university, thereby bringing the two streams closer to two different but equal paths, as was intended.

The final argument we present here in favour of title changes is one of feeling valued by the university. In Fall 2014 the Instructor Network held a re-visioning survey and focus group session regarding the vision and goals for the network. One of the top sources of dissatisfaction that emerged from educational leadership faculty was the feeling of second-class status that the titles triggered. We believe that UBC has revised the criteria and language for the educational leadership track because it values the contributions such faculty make to the teaching and learning environment, and because it wants to be seen as a leader in teaching. Indeed these ranks generally put UBC in a place of distinction among other institutions who are choosing to implement and expand this rank (e.g., Toronto, Victoria). Yet lagging behind on changing the titles forces each Instructor and Senior Instructor to routinely have to explain what their positions are, and to try to justify that they too are university faculty even though their institution does not include the word “professor” in their titles. Anecdotally, such explanations undermine our sense of worth, and fuel micro-cultures within UBC that treat educational leadership stream faculty as second class. Feeling undervalued in the workplace is related to low job satisfaction and high mental health issues among faculty generally1, and we argue that the current Instructor and Senior Instructor titles serve to undermine our feeling of worth relative to those in the research stream. It is time to dignify the first two ranks of the educational leadership stream with improved titles.

Educational leadership stream faculty are qualified scholars who make deep, scholarly contributions to the teaching and learning mandate at UBC. Yet the current titles of Instructor and Senior Instructor do not reflect the expertise needed or work involved in holding those positions. Changing these titles would serve to more accurately describe the credentials and work to people both within and outside the university, and would consequently improve the sense that UBC values those contributions. Title changes would also serve to signal that UBC takes seriously its commitment to teaching alongside the excellent research mission; more appropriate titles could bring increased recognition to the institution in both these areas.

We, as educational leadership faculty members at UBC, want the issue of titles to be brought forward as a priority issue at the next round of bargaining for our faculty contracts. The high response rate to the title change poll, and the strong support for the title changes, sends a clear message of how important this issue is to us as educational leadership faculty. Thank you in advance for your attention and interest in this issue. We look forward to hearing back from you, and welcome further opportunities for dialogue. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Christina Hendricks, Chair, Instructor Network Leadership Team
On behalf of the Instructor Network Leadership Team
UBC Vancouver and Okanagan

1 Campbell, C. M., & O’Meara, K. A. (2014). Faculty agency: Departmental contexts that matter in faculty careers. Research in Higher Education, 55, 49-74.

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