Study Finds Part-Time Community College Faculty at ATD Colleges Dedicated to Teaching

A new study of part-time faculty employed at six ATD colleges found a notable proportion of adjunct faculty are passionate about teaching. Nearly three-fourths of adjunct faculty who completed a survey (68 percent) reported extreme or moderate satisfaction with their jobs. They also reported a strong commitment to community colleges and their students, borne out by the length of time they have worked at their institutions. On average, survey respondents have taught at their current colleges for nine years and teach 45 percent of course sections.

“Because part-time faculty teach so many community college students, a college that wants to ensure students have the best chance of success must pay attention to the needs of their adjunct faculty,” said Susan Bickerstaff, the lead author of the research brief released today by the Community College Research Center (CCRC).

The brief, Understanding the Needs of Part-Time Faculty at Six Community Colleges, by Bickerstaff and Octaviano Chavarín, analyzes survey data from more than 250 adjunct faculty and interview and focus group data from almost 60 full- and part-time faculty at colleges participating in ATD’s Engaging Adjunct Faculty in the Student Success Movement initiative. These colleges are: Community College of Baltimore County (MD), Community College of Philadelphia (PA), Delta College (MI), Harper College (IL), Patrick Henry Community College (VA), and Renton Technical College (WA).

The study also underscored the range of part-time faculty survey respondents’ previous educational and professional experiences. Nineteen percent have a full-time job elsewhere; 41 percent have a part-time job elsewhere, including 33 percent who teach at multiple colleges or universities; 50 percent hold a degree in teaching or an education credential; and 57 percent have sought a full-time faculty position. 

“The results of this study reinforce the importance of developing a full, nuanced picture of the adjunct workforce so colleges can determine how best to help them reach their full potential as educators and partners in their students’ success,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, Achieving the Dream president and CEO. “Achieving the Dream will be supporting colleges in building a culture of teaching and learning excellence with a special focus on strengthening the capacity of centers for teaching and learning to meet the needs of part-time and full-time faculty.”

The six colleges in the ATD initiative are building on faculty dedication with new opportunities for adjunct faculty to contribute their expertise in and outside the classroom. The colleges have begun designing and implementing a variety of strategies that would improve adjunct faculty working conditions identified in the study as challenging. For example, all six colleges are exploring ways to make existing information about departmental and college resources, policies, and procedures available in a single online location. They are also creating new content that answers questions full-time and part-time faculty often have. In the study, adjuncts reported spending a lot of time trying to find out how to order textbooks, how to use course management software, where to find key campus resources, and other basic information that potentially takes time away from teaching or providing student support. Only slightly more than half of survey respondents (54 percent) said they had attended a formal orientation that would typically present this information.

All six colleges are also providing mentoring and/or cohort-based learning opportunities to create more chances for adjunct faculty to connect with each other and with full-time faculty.
For example, at one college, the mentoring program is designed to be very flexible. Mentors send email updates and make themselves available, and part-time faculty decide whether they want to arrange a meeting.
Furthermore, colleges in ATD’s project have intentionally begun inviting part-time faculty to participate in departmental and college-wide initiatives, including committee work focused on course learning objectives, texts, assessments, and instructional reform.  The study notes that all the colleges have engaged adjuncts in leadership positions on several instructional and student success initiatives, including the infusion of High Impact Practices in introductory-level courses and the examination of instructional practices related to enhancing equity in STEM fields.

Read the full report here.

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