Adjunct Instructors’ Engagement Opportunities: Helping Students Prepare for Success
Updated: Oct 1, 2020
Jeffrey Deckelbaum, Lindenwood University, firstname.lastname@example.org
The growth in adjunct faculty teaching in US degree-granting universities has increased from 444,000 adjunct faculty in 1999 to 722,000 in 2017 (NCES, 2019, p. 1). There are nearly 1,000 adjunct instructors at Lindenwood University today, with approximately 500 to 600 working at any one time across the six academic schools. Due to workplace policies and myriad commitments, such as other employment, that adjunct instructors have, it is often challenging to find ways to engage adjunct instructors in professional development, dialogue, and initiatives to enhance student success. This blogpost outlines a few ideas to address this.
I had the privilege of being an adjunct instructor for four years at Lindenwood and now enrolled as a doctoral student in the Ed.D. Educational Leadership program, while working part-time in the Office of Institutional Effectiveness I believe adjunct instructors, like full-time faculty, teach because they enjoy working with students and want to contribute to preparing students for success after graduation. Webb et al. (2013) claimed adjunct faculty in professional programs bring real-world and relevant expertise into the learning environment. The knowledge that adjunct faculty bring to the classroom complements the student’s academic learning while bringing experience from a full breadth of professional careers that directly align with Lindenwood’s Mission Statement of Real Experience, Real Success.
Research by Bettinger and Long (2010) found adjunct instructors are especially useful in fields more directly tied to a specific profession, such as education, engineering, and the sciences. Many adjuncts, however, have limited time to participate in professional development initiatives and, in some cases, are unaware of institution-specific and discipline-specific structures. These structures include accreditation standards, student learning outcomes, shaping teaching and active learning methods, and the use of technology (Peters & Boylston, 2006 as cited in Webb et al., 2013).
Engaging adjunct instructors in institutional accreditation
As the institution prepares for its next comprehensive evaluation by the Higher Learning Commission (Lindenwood’s regional accreditor), there will be communication in the Digest and through email about opportunities to engage in this process. The University Committee on Accreditation will host workshops, information sessions, and provide updates. All of these are great ways to become informed and get involved. As an adjunct instructor, please explain to students, during the syllabus review at the start of the semester, what institutional learning outcomes (ILOs) are; and the process used to conduct ILO evaluations.
Engaging adjunct instructors in the assessment of student learning
Lindenwood University is moving toward a community of practice model that would allow any interested instructor an opportunity to participate in the assessment and continuous improvement of a chosen ILO I plan to engage in the community of practice assessment process in the Fall 2020 semester as a development opportunity. Watch for more information about these opportunities through email and the Digest.
Engaging adjunct faculty in developing methods for teaching and active learning
Researcher Tiffany Ferencz (2017) claimed, through a review of literature, the number of adjunct faculty teaching online classes had significantly grown in part to support the increasing number of students enrolling in online courses. Ferencz found common themes in prior research among adjunct instructors included; lacking training in teaching online courses, experiencing issues with the use of technology, and feeling a lack of connectedness. As a result of these findings, the researcher initiated a study to explore the extent to which a high sense of community impacted the work environment. First and foremost, adjunct faculty unanimously demonstrated a commitment to student success. Furthermore, instructors stated when supported by faculty leadership they:
felt safe to ask for help,
engaged or connected with others to discuss common issues, and
received technology training
These critical success factors led to a high sense of community with other faculty members to ensure they could best support students.
Call to Action:
1. Please provide your suggestions or ideas you have to complement our students’ academic educational experience, such as how you translate your professional background into experiential learning opportunities and what are the attributes essential to be successful in the labor markets.
2. Please review the Community of Practice link and determine if it could provide value-added to the assessment process.
3. Please consider the use of ILO icons that align with your courses and insert into your syllabi
I look forward to your feedback!
Jeffrey Deckelbaum is a doctoral student, adjunct instructor, and part-time team member for the Office of Institutional Effectiveness at Lindenwood University. His research interests include the development, implementation, and quantitative methods to predict student success in research-based doctoral online education programs.
Bettinger, E. P. & Long, B. T. (2010). Does cheaper mean better? The impact of using adjunct instructors on student outcomes. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 92(3), 1-16.
Ferencz, T. L. S. (2017). Shared perceptions of online adjunct faculty in the United States who have a high sense of community. Journal of Education Online, 14(2), 1-19.
National Center for Education Statistics (2019). Characteristics of postsecondary faculty. Institute for Education Sciences. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_csc.asp
Webb, A. S., Wong, T. J., & Hubball, H. T. (2013). Professional development for adjunct teaching faculty in a research-intensive university: Engagement in scholarly approaches to teaching and learning. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 25(2), 231-237.