Monthly Archives: November 2008

Optempo

It’s one of the words I think academia could adopt from the military. It refers to the pace of operations, and implies the considerations that such a pace places on all involved, instructors and students. The term implies, as well, the differing priorities for all involved, and the ways that students’ priorities are often obscured from instructors’, instructors’ from parents’, parents’ from students, and so on.

It’s an administrator’s term; a pace set by staff syllabi and due dates, by objectives and phase lines. But what academia knows and doesn’t admit, and what the military seems to know and admit and sometimes gauge better, is how optempo works on all involved. There are measures of optempo, and I’d like to see them more widely considered. I’d argue that when we construct outcomes statements, one of the things we need to consider is optempo, for instructors and students alike. Not only how much students are writing, and in what form, but how much instructors are responding, and how swiftly instructors are able to return feedback on students’ drafts. Certainly, that’s a matter of employment and staffing logistics, but it’s also a matter of syllabus planning, especially when programs are offering or requiring staff syllabi.

It’s what makes me think I’ve overplanned this semester: in trying to map out my students’ writing, I’ve failed to map out my own work in relation to that writing. I’ve tried to do too much, and the way I’ve paced my own work in relation to the syllabus I’ve set has been short-sighted. That’s something to think about when I lay out the calendar grid for next semester and next year: not only where my students are going to be, but where I’m going to be.

It’s odd for such a concern to come up so late; that it hasn’t come up before. That optempo has always seemed like a given; something unalterable.

Isn’t it?