Final Report Includes Four Recommendations for Colleges Focused on Adjunct Faculty Reform

On July 27, 2020, the Community College Research Center (CCRC) released its final report on Achieving the Dream’s Engaging Adjunct Faculty in the Student Success Movement initiative, a two-year effort to develop and implement the most promising and scalable strategies that can be broadly implemented to support adjunct faculty in improving student success.

Strategies to Engage and Support

In response to widespread reliance on part-time faculty in community colleges and the ways adjunct faculty are disadvantaged through their employment arrangements, ATD’s initiative supported six diverse community colleges in their national Network as they developed and implemented strategies to engage and support adjunct faculty and thereby improve student outcomes. The work was guided by four design principles including classroom activities, professional development, employment policies, and the use of data.

Participating colleges included

  • Community College of Baltimore County (ATD Leader College)
  • Community College of Philadelphia (ATD Leader College)
  • Delta College (ATD Leader College)
  • Harper College (ATD Leader College of Distinction)
  • Patrick Henry Community College (ATD Leader College)
  • Renton Technical College (ATD Leader College).

Report Strategies

Using surveys, interviews, and student transcript data, CCRC documented strategies and activities that colleges designed to support and engage their part-time faculty, examined how they were implemented, and measured the effects on faculty and students. CCRC classified the strategies into four categories:

  1. Facilitating cohort-based faculty experiences: establishing professional learning structures that bring together small groups of faculty for a semester or an academic year.
  2. Offering orientations and workshops: providing one-time or short-term activities for faculty to learn about specific topics or to become acquainted with the structure and function of the college.
  3. Strengthening online resources: improving and increasing information useful to part-time faculty disseminated through a website platform.
  4. Improving working conditions: placing greater emphasis both on providing recognition and reward for part-time faculty contributions and on enhancing physical resources available to part-time faculty.

All of the colleges created cohort-based programs. Delta College designed the Faculty Frontier Circles (FFC) program and implemented it in its math and English departments. Groups of six to eight full- and part-time faculty met regularly with the goal of creating resources that could be shared more broadly. Each group also had an online forum. Faculty were also invited to join optional team-teaching partnerships, which many enjoyed. One part-time faculty described his experience team teaching:

“I really enjoy it because [my partner] and I have fleshed out each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and we use that to enhance our classroom environment. We don’t necessarily go half and half for the lectures, but we will have specific days where I am more knowledgeable about this subject so I will do the majority of the speaking. We normally just bounce off of one another, and it has been extremely illuminating for me. And from what students have told me so far, they’ve enjoyed it as well.”

Suggestions to Best Support Part-Time Faculty

Overall, CCRC found that the project yielded important information about adjunct faculty needs and experiences in community colleges and offered suggestions for how colleges can best support part-time faculty, including grounding decisions in local data, embedding adjunct faculty supports into existing institutional infrastructure and initiatives, examining policies and practices that affect adjunct faculty’s working lives, and considering intended outcomes for faculty engagement strategies and creating a plan for measurement.

CCRC included four recommendations for colleges interested in adjunct faculty reform:

  1. Ground decisions on adjunct faculty supports in local data on adjunct faculty needs. Investigate the needs and experiences of part-time instructors to create customized approach rather than one-size-fits all.
  2. Embed part-time faculty supports into existing institutional infrastructure and initiatives. Identify places where programming and resources for adjunct faculty can be housed over the long term, such as a Center for Teaching & Learning or other professional learning hub.
  3. Examine college policies and practices that impact the working lives of adjunct faculty. Colleges should identify policies and practices, such as hiring, orientation, and onboarding, that may provide opportunities to improve the knowledge and resources available to adjunct faculty.
  4. Consider and identify intended outcomes for faculty and students and create a measurement plan.

Read the full report here.

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