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By Paul Bradley  /  
2014 April 7 - 12:00 am

New Report Urges Colleges To Make Part-Time Faculty Full Partners

Adjunct, Part-Time Faculty

Community colleges depend on part-time faculty to teach more than half of all their credit students, yet colleges typically don’t treat adjuncts as full partners in promoting student success, a disconnect can undermine student engagement and success.

That’s the central assertion of a special report released by the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) — “Contingent Commitments: Bringing Part-Time Faculty Into Focus.” The 27-page document aims to help college leaders better engage part-time faculty so more students have access to the educational experiences and supports they need to succeed.

Among the report’s findings are data showing that part-time faculty are more likely to teach those students who need the most help. More than three-quarters of faculty who teach developmental education are employed part time. Part-time faculty teaching developmental courses are also more likely to have fewer years of teaching experience and less likely to have advanced degrees, the report found.

While earlier research shows that the use of high-impact practices is low across the board at community colleges, the report found that part-time faculty use these practices even less frequently than do full-time faculty.

Though many part-time faculty say they are passionate about teaching and committed to helping their students succeed, they also see themselves as outsiders in the colleges where they work. Many do not find out whether they will be teaching classes until just days before the term begins. Their access to orientation, professional development, college

services or office space is limited or non-existent.

They rarely interact with their peers or in campus discussions about the steps colleges should take to improve student learning, persistence and completion. They don’t take part in campus governance.

CCCSE Director Kay M. McClenney said colleges should reach out to part-timers much in the way they have tried to better engage their students.

“The practice of effectively engaging community college faculty has a lot in common with the practice of effectively engaging community college students,” she said. “It is critical that college leaders clearly articulate high expectations and then provide the training and support all faculty need to attain those expectations.”

“Nobody rises to low expectations.”

The report says that colleges committed to helping more students earn credentials must rethink their approaches to working with part-time faculty so that all faculty — both full-time and part-time — are expected and prepared to serve their students effectively.

Through examples of colleges who work to engage part-timers and discussion tools, the report offers college leaders guidance on ways to strengthen the role of part-time faculty in their own institutions in hiring, setting expectations, and orientation; professional development and support; evaluation and incentives; integration of part-time faculty into student success initiatives; and creating an institutional culture that embraces the role of part-time faculty.

McClenney posed a question and offers both an answer and a challenge to community college leaders across the country.

“What matters most?” she said. “Students. Providing effective instruction and support for students needs to be at the heart of community college work.” The report says community college leaders must create conditions that encourage and enable this work.

The report provides data drawn from more than 70,000 faculty responses to the Community College Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (CCFSSE) between 2009 and 2013. In 2011, the Center added survey items focusing on high-impact practices for community college student success, and the number of faculty respondents during that period was 47,699. Through more than 30 focus groups, the center also listened systematically to part-time faculty, full-time faculty, administrators, and staff at community colleges across the country. Findings from those discussions are also highlighted in this report.

The report can be downloaded at http://www.ccsse.org/docs/PTF_Special_Report.pdf

See the April 14 edition of Community College Week for a full report.

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