Engaging Adjunct Faculty in the Student Success Movement

Project Overview 

More than half of courses in community colleges are taught by adjunct faculty, and institutions’ reliance on part-time instructors is growing. Despite efforts in individual departments and colleges, the field has not devised scalable strategies for engaging adjuncts. Achieving the Dream’s new project, Engaging Adjunct Faculty in the Student Success Movement, funded by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation, seeks to build institutional capacity to better integrate and engage the adjunct faculty member in the student success agenda and to understand and address the opportunities and challenges faced by colleges engaging part-time faculty.

Project Goal

Engaging Adjunct Faculty in the Student Success Movement seeks to address the opportunities and challenges faced by colleges in engaging part-time faculty in the student success agenda through policy and practices.  This two-year planning and implementation grant supports six ATD leader colleges as they empower adjunct faculty to improve instruction and become more deeply engaged in student success initiatives. The Community College Research Center (CCRC) serves as a third-party evaluator for the project, documenting the strategies employed, stakeholder experiences with implementation, and project outcomes.


Community colleges often lack the capacity, ecosystems, or roadmaps of activities that improve the working environment and support the engagement of adjunct faculty in their student success agenda. When adjuncts are disconnected from the institution, they may be less able to effectively support students' use of campus resources, especially if they don't know about the resources themselves. They may be less knowledgeable about course sequences and program maps, and they are unable to tap into the wealth of informal knowledge that long-term full-time faculty generate over years of teaching in departments and programs and data about student performance and progression. Colleges are also missing out on the wealth of experience adjunct faculty may bring and many are highly skilled teachers. In some cases, adjuncts may be more knowledgeable than their full-time colleagues about students at certain levels such as developmental education. So opportunities for them to share that knowledge and their skills will provide benefits to the institution. Additionally, more engaged adjuncts can create a more stable teaching force, which could arguably improve the quality of services provided to students. The cost, financially and in terms of human capital, associated with adjunct turnover can be high.

What’s Next?

Participating colleges will submit annual reports to Achieving the Dream in late June 2017.  During the second year of the initiative (July 2017-June 2018) we will host a project convening at DREAM (February 2018, Nashville) and will present findings from our work at national conferences.  ATD and CCRC will publish a Practitioner’s Guide at the conclusion of the project in fall 2018.


For questions or general support, please email: adjunctfaculty@achievingthedream.org


  • This resource is produced by an ATD investor and is noted with an asterisk (*). These investor-produced materials are not endorsed by Achieving the Dream nor do they represent the only solutions to the various challenges they address. As a body of information, these resources are intended to support Achieving the Dream Institutions throughout the process of institutional reform and assist in creating a culture of continuous improvement.


    Despite the intrinsic rewards of teaching college students, adjunct faculty face a number of challenges, including:

    • Lack of professional resources, such as a dedicated teaching and learning center
    • Limited or no access to computers, library resources, and curriculum guidelines
    • Limited or no access to an office or another private area in which to prepare lessons and meet with students
    • No formal system for helpful evaluation or peer feedback
    • No formal onboarding or campus orientation process

    How might these factors translate into potential challenges for the students they teach?

    Resource Files

    data-informed_teaching_and_learning.pdf299.07 KB

Press Releases

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