Tips for Equitable Course Scheduling

Suggestions for deliberation and identification of equitable teaching times within departments and programs

In Fall 2021, we will be returning to teaching schedule options based on a single time zone, as in pre-COVID times. Inherent in that are both more desirable and less desirable time blocks. Departments and programs will likely build on lessons learned during the pandemic for flexible and collaborative planning of teaching and distribution of teaching times among colleagues.

Acknowledging that several departments and programs already have equitable ways of figuring out teaching schedules and assignments, we offer these suggestions with humility. Below we list a few equitable ways of arriving at teaching schedules. Perhaps, one of them might resonate with you and prove to be helpful:

  • Anonymously gather input from departmental colleagues on norms and criteria for selecting teaching times (using googledocs, mentimeter, or polleverywhere) and create a set of shared norms that will guide the teaching assignment planning process.
  • Pick numbers out of a hat. Go down the list in selecting the first class of your two classes, starting with the person with the lowest number, then pick the person’s second class starting with the person with the highest number (so that the person who got to pick their first class last gets to pick their second class first). When considering the second use of the same time block, people are invited to pay attention to course conflicts that need to be avoided in order to best serve student needs.
  • Have each faculty member submit to the chair their preferred course times, with first and second choices. The chair uses a set of mutually agreed upon criteria to make the assignments. Chairs/directors should give every faculty member the option to share confidentially the considerations they would like the chair to accommodate, such as dependent care or health constraints; this should be an opt-out step in the process rather than opt-in. Chairs will make sure that these considerations are accounted for in the assignments.
  • If you are a department/program that has this capability, create and use an algorithm that can incorporate agreed-upon criteria and individual preferences, and randomly assign course times (and then please share it with the rest of us!).

Perhaps you will develop other equity-minded methods of figuring out the course offering worksheet process. Considerations to keep in mind include individual obligations, preferences, access to desirable time blocks, and history of taking less desirable times for the sake of others.