(Last Update: February 2008)
Founded in 1980, the American Association of University Supervisors and Coordinators (AAUSC) is the largest organization of its kind. It represents the intellectual and professional interests of scholars who oversee a staff of teaching assistants, fellows, and other non-tenure track or temporary instructors. The AAUSC enjoys a large membership composed of professionals affiliated with public and private institutions of higher education throughout North America.
The following statement is intended for several audiences. Departments of foreign languages will find below important parameters for discussing the creation and maintenance of faculty positions that entail the supervision of teaching assistants and other teaching staff with their administration. Job search committees will find important guidelines for drafting announcements for new language program directors. For job candidates, the statement provides a basic outline of reasonable expectations for the position of language program director.
Understanding the Work of the Language Program Directors
Language program directors (often also called “coordinators,” “supervisors” or “directors”) are specialists in many fields. Some have expertise in applied linguistics; others have degrees in foreign language pedagogy; still others are scholars of literature, film, and/or culture. Regardless of their particular research area, language program directors sustain a significant and continuous service load.
One of the primary responsibilities of the language program director is to educate new graduate student instructors/teaching assistants and other teaching staff. At Ph.D. granting institutions, graduate students typically teach the majority of lower-division foreign language courses. Solid training in both the theory and practice of foreign language teaching is vital to the strength of the programs as well as to the graduate students’ future success as teachers and scholars. Teacher education often takes place over the course of several semesters or years and involves such activities as intensive pre-service workshops, classroom observations and regular meetings.
Another significant responsibility of language program directors is to design and maintain foreign language curricula at the beginning and intermediate levels, which typically encompasses at least four different sequenced courses with multiple sections. In addition, language program directors define program goals, select textbooks, write detailed syllabi for multi-section courses, and conduct assessment.
Language program directors also maintain an active research program. In many foreign language departments today, language program directors are the only faculty members who conduct research in the fields of applied linguistics and foreign language pedagogy. These fields have sophisticated theoretical foundations and are intellectually rigorous. They have diverse publishing venues, including prestigious refereed journals and academic presses. The presence of a scholar, or scholars, in these fields strengthens and broadens every foreign language department and their institutions as a whole. In some foreign language departments, language program directors are literary and cultural scholars whose research is quite separate from the work they perform in the name of their language program.
It is the policy of the AAUSC that all junior faculty hired as language program directors to supervise graduate student teachers or other non-tenured instructors receive a tenure-track appointment at the assistant professor level. Because of their tremendous influence over a department’s curriculum, language program directors must be afforded the same voting rights and institutional standing of other tenure-track colleagues. In the event that an institution is unable to create a tenure-track position for its language program director, the AAUSC advocates a secure, long-term appointment equivalent in status to a tenure-track position in the hiring department (including such titles as “professor of the practice” or “senior lecturer”).
Language program directors should have the same rights and privileges as their colleagues of equal rank, particularly with respect to raises, promotions, and tenure. In recognition of their additional workload, language program directors should have a reduced teaching load. Institutions must also account for the involvement of language program directors in preparing for their department’s summer courses; organizing their department’s pre-semester teaching orientation; and participating in regular departmental committee work for which their expertise is essential.
Because of the extensive responsibilities of the language program director, the AAUSC also strongly recommends that foreign language departments implement a plan that, at a minimum, involves other faculty members in the duties of coordination and supervision or, ideally, establishes a procedure for relieving language program directors from their coordination and supervision capacities after a specified time period. Just as the other administrative positions within the department are handled on a rotating basis, so too should language program direction not become the responsibility of one individual for the entire length of her/his tenure in the department.
Two exceptions to AAUSC’s hiring policy may occur:
1. At universities with high enrollment in language classes that require multiple supervisors, some may be hired in lecturer or adjunct positions. AAUSC recommends, however, that a senior level language program director oversee these colleagues and courses.
2. The temporary hiring of an ABD or recent Ph.D. in a supervisor position is acceptable if the candidate is to work closely (such as in an apprenticeship position) with a scholar established in a relevant field of expertise. An arrangement of this nature will strengthen the candidate’s professional training.