Quality English teachers—whether they teach introductory composition classes or senior seminars on Middlemarch—help their students to become purposeful writers and empathetic readers. They develop their students’ abilities to communicate with clarity and sensitivity. They prepare their students to navigate an interdependent world.
But quality English teaching takes time. It requires thoughtful comments on essays and conversations that, on occasion, linger. And while English departments do not face any shortage of experienced teachers, those teachers are too often short on time. College and university English teachers are increasingly overworked and overscheduled. In an effort to support quality teaching, the MLA Association of Departments of English has issued a statement of policy with recommendations for appropriate English class sizes and workloads.
In addition to specific prescriptions for class size and workload, the statement notes that English teachers should be allowed to adopt variable workload policies in response to administrative and other duties. The statement also recommends that part-time and temporary appointments should be avoided as a rule. These appointments are often exploitative. Moreover, they do not support the integrity of commitment and continuous effort which quality teaching requires.
These guidelines were originally published in 1992 as a resource for departments, but they are even more relevant today. The MLA encourages English departments—as well as academic-workforce advocates—to use them as they lobby for fair workplace policies.