Overcoming the Challenges Faced by Part-time Faculty
January 29, 2018
by Mandy McGrew
Educational Specialist for Scholarly Teaching and Part-Time Instructor of American Studies
Kennesaw State University
Welcome to a new spring semester! Whether it’s your first time teaching here at Kennesaw State or you are returning after many years, the beginning of a new semester is an exciting time for faculty and students.
Because of the recent weather, this semester in particular may require some tweaking and adjusting of our plans for the spring. While full-time faculty are often surrounded by their colleagues with whom they can discuss their courses, disciplinary interests, and pedagogies, part-time faculty are less likely to have these very important opportunities due to their teaching schedules and the more limited amount of time they are on campus (CCCSE, 2014). Late last year, a new book was released detailing some of the issues part-time faculty face in teaching their courses. This book, Adjunct Faculty Voices, collected the stories of part-time educators throughout the nation. One of the primary themes that emerged from these narratives reveals that part-time faculty members often feel the absence of a community in which they can discuss teaching, their students, or campus events. This can lead to feelings of isolation or, as described in one of the book’s chapters, a sense that adjunct faculty hold second-class status on some campuses (Fuller, Kendall Brown, & Smith, 2017). Other studies have found that part-time faculty often feel like outsiders who teach online or late in the evenings when no one else is around (CCCSE, 2014). Cultivating a network of colleagues through educational development opportunities helps to fulfill a great need for part-time faculty who are, as described by part-time faculty member and author, Roy Fuller, “‘starved for community,’” (quoted in Flaherty, 2015).
Unfortunately, insufficient access to educational development repeatedly appears in the literature as another major hurdle to part-time faculty members’ success in the classroom (Delphi Project, 2013). As the shift to relying on part-time faculty to bear much of the teaching burden has happened very quickly, support systems and university policies relevant to these faculty are lagging behind the changes. Some institutions across the country, including Kennesaw State, are making efforts to improve the conditions under which part-time faculty teach by providing them with better access to educational development opportunities and teaching support (DiSalvio, et. al., 2014). Developing ourselves as teachers is vital to our mission to educate our students (Roney & Ulerick, 2013).
Kennesaw State University supports its part-time faculty by both providing opportunities to create community and to engage in educational development through the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL). CETL seeks to mitigate these challenges through a variety of programs like workshops and webinars that are offered throughout the year. Over spring break (April 2-3, 2018), CETL will hold its annual Teaching Academy for Part-time Faculty. This event is two full days of interactive workshops that introduce participants to the seven principles of learning put forth in the book, How Learning Works. By attending the academy, part-time faculty will become informed on the science of learning, factors surrounding student motivation, the importance of teaching metacognition, student development theory, and more. Participants will also have the opportunity to work with other part-time faculty members throughout the event—an opportunity to build our community.
Center for Community College Student Engagement (2014). Contingent commitments: Bringing part-time faculty into focus (A special report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement). Austin, TX: The University of Texas at Austin, Program in Higher Education Leadership. http://www.ccsse.org/docs/PTF_Special_Report.pdf
DiSalvio, P., and Journal Staff. (2014). “New directions for higher education: Q&A with Adrianna Kezar on the changing faculty.” The New England Journal of Higher Education. Accessible at http://www.nebhe.org/thejournal/new-directions-for-higher-education-qa-with-education-scholar-adrianna-kezar-on-the-changing-faculty/
Flaherty, C. (2015). Non-tenure-track faculty members say they want more professional development, with compensation. Inside Higher Ed.
Fuller, R. M. Kendall Brown, & K. Smith. (2017). Adjunct faculty voices: Cultivating professional development and community at the front lines of higher education. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Roney, K. & S. Ulerick. (2013). “A roadmap to engaging part-time faculty in high-impact practices.” Peer Review 15 (3). Accessed at https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/roadmap-engaging-part-time-faculty-high-impact-practices