managing adjunct faculty
With part-time faculty now the majority of instructors at most higher education institutions, it’s important to provide them with the support they need to succeed. But what kind of support do they find most useful? The answer to this question can help administrators meet adjuncts’ needs and make the best use of limited resources.
In online higher education, adjunct faculty members are an essential resource. These faculty members teach, research, perform service and outreach, and even oversee administrative aspects of higher education institutions (Doe, Barnes, Bowen, Gilkey, Smoak, Ryan, & Palmquist, 2011). Unfortunately, adjunct faculty members often feel isolated and set apart from the full-time faculty, administration, and staff. Dolan (2011) reported adjunct faculty members are generally disappointed with communication, recognition, and a lack of opportunity. One way to improve a sense of belonging is through the development of a strong professional learning community. A successful learning community is primarily focused on student learning, collaboration, and accountability for outcomes (DuFour, 2004).
The Department of Behavioral Sciences at St. Louis Community College-Meramec is a diverse department with 16 full-time and 53 adjunct faculty. In an effort to connect those adjuncts to the department, Darlaine Gardetto and some of her colleagues created an adjunct professional development program focused on improving teaching based on Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Retention is a big challenge for online programs, but it’s not just a matter of student retention. Faculty retention is just as important. Because geography doesn’t dictate where online instructors can work, they can cast a wide net when looking for a job and don’t necessarily need to stay loyal to their current employer.
Editor’s Note: In yesterday’s article, the authors introduced steps for overcoming some of the administrative challenges when working with part-time faculty. Here, in part two of the article, they outline strategies for overcoming some of the pedagogical challenges.
Part-time faculty make essential contributions to our programs. Their part-time status often limits their contact with other faculty and their knowledge about the program in which they are teaching. Program coordinators and directors often provide the only contact between the two, and so play a critical but challenging leadership role. However, coordinators may also tend to work in isolation from one another and may lack opportunities to share experiences and learn from one another.
Adjunct faculty make up approximately half of all instructional faculty in degree-granting institutions (National Center for Education Statistics, 2008). Some teach online and some in a traditional classroom-based setting. Some work at private colleges, others for large public universities, and still others at community colleges. Adjuncts represent a diverse group professionals with a wide variety of backgrounds, but they do have at least one thing in common: they’re under increased scrutiny to demonstrate their effectiveness.
When Johnson County Community College Assistant Dean of Sciences Joseph Gadberry is hiring a part-time instructor, he seeks candidates with similar qualifications to his full-time instructors because hiring an adjunct is not necessarily a short-term staffing solution. The goal is to integrate adjuncts into the college community by having them serve on major committees, attend department meetings, and participate in the same professional development activities as full-time faculty members…