As you prepare for this coming term, you’re likely making sure you have all the teaching resources you need in order to make your course a success. For adjunct instructors, who sometimes receive course assignments at the last minute, and who often lack connections on campus, these last-minute efforts may prove challenging (or, at the very least, more time consuming).
In our Spring 2015 Instructor Engagement Insights survey, we asked adjunct instructors a number of questions about their teaching experiences. Among these questions, we asked several regarding the resources they want, and need, to teach successfully.
While reviewing the data, we saw that, overall, most adjuncts are able to obtain the tools and resources that enable them to teach their students and manage their courses well. When we asked “Do you have adequate access to the resources you need?” 78% said yes, they did.
But as we looked more closely at the specific resources that adjuncts say help them lead their classes, did we uncover any significant gaps between their teaching needs and what’s actually provided to them? And what might you be able to do to bridge those gaps (whether you’re an adjunct yourself, or you’re in a position to help them)? We’ll explore the results below.
Availability of teaching-related resources
We first asked adjuncts: “What types of resources would help you to conduct your classes more effectively?” As a follow-up, we asked: “Which of these does your school offer you?”
Adjuncts named “prep materials from publishers” (at 70%) and “online tools and resources” (at 61%) as the top tools that would (and do) help them plan their courses, facilitate learning, and manage their classrooms. However, slightly less than half of the adjuncts (49%) said that their schools made either of these available to them.
“Tech tools for use in the classroom” ranked third on the list of most-needed resources. Interestingly, while 56% of the adjunct instructors said these were available to them, a smaller percentage (49%) said that they’d help them manage effectively.
If you’re an adjunct—especially one who’s new to a particular college—it can be difficult to start the search for resources and other assistance in getting your course up and running. To begin, reach out to your department secretary. And of course, if you’re using a Cengage Learning solution, we’re more than happy to help you get what you need! (Visit Cengage Learning’s support site for adjunct instructors to learn more.)
Fewer adjunct instructors (35% of those surveyed) said that materials from other instructors at their institutions would be helpful… and an even smaller percentage (25%) said that they were available to them through the school.
Though instructors will, of course, want to make their classes their own, shared materials can serve as exemplars that help new faculty complete their course planning more efficiently. If you’re in a position to do so, find out if there’s a way to share materials (such as syllabi, learning objectives, and lists of resources and learning materials) among instructors. This could have many benefits. For one, students will have consistent experiences in the course. Two, it will help the adjunct instructors save time in preparing the course. Finally, it may help increase collaboration among full-time faculty and adjunct faculty.
A few of the other resources that some adjuncts suggested included:
- “Hands-on materials to use with students”
- “Instructional Designer”
- “Online chats”
- “Video recommendations”
- “More time”
Now that we’ve looked at some of the items that would help adjuncts prepare for and manage their courses, we turn to the types of resources that would help adjuncts assess student learning more effectively.
Resources needed to assess student learning
When assessing students’ success in your courses, you probably use a variety of tools and strategies. After all, test scores aren’t the only measure of student learning. Even so, a variety of resources can prove helpful when you’re working on this important aspect of your course. To learn if adjuncts are able to easily access the tools they need to assess student learning, we turned again to their responses to the questions: “What types of resources would help you assess student outcomes more effectively?” and “Which of these does your school offer you?”.
Approximately half of the adjunct instructors said that “online assessment tools” (54%) and “test banks” (51%) would help them assess students’ learning, while approximately a third of them (35% and 33%, respectively) said that their schools made these available to them. If you’re interested in using these types of materials, and you haven’t yet received them from your department, the good news is: if such materials exist, you may be able to obtain these directly from the publisher of your text. (And if you’ve adopted a Cengage Learning solution, your Cengage Learning team is ready to help you find and access your support resources.)
Of course, as we mentioned above, tests aren’t the only measure of student success; direct conversations and interactions with students will also reveal important insights regarding their progress in your course. Notably, many adjuncts mentioned “more one-on-one time with students” as a key opportunity for improved assessment and understanding of student outcomes. Of those surveyed, 42% would appreciate more of this time, while only 14% said that their institutions offer this possibility.
The challenge of wanting more time with students is likely as true for adjuncts as it is for full-time instructors, but often, adjuncts face the additional hurdle of lacking a dedicated place to conduct these meetings. Though it may be difficult to increase face-to-face time with students, consider how you (as an adjunct, or as someone who works with or oversees adjuncts) can use existing tools, such as online chats or message boards, social media tools like ConnectYard or Facebook, or text-messaging services, to improve or increase communication. You might also try to find out how you could secure a space in your department that adjuncts can use for meetings with students. Even if the space is shared, it could help improve their ability to meet individually with students.
Adjuncts’ need for, and the availability of, “well-defined learning outcomes” aligned fairly closely, with 39% saying that these help them assess students’ learning, and 37% saying that they’re available from their institution.
If you’d like to see 100% of your school’s adjuncts creating (and using) effective learning objectives, ensure that all instructors in your department have access to resources that will help them write or adapt objectives that align with both your institution’s goals, as well as their own. If you’re an adjunct yourself, and you’d like some suggestions for crafting learning outcomes, review our previous posts, “Incorporating Standard Learning Outcomes into Your Curriculum” and “Creating Learning Objectives that Fit Your Course.”
Online grade books are more than readily available; 65% of our survey respondents say that their institution provides them with access. However, only 38% of our surveyed believe that they are necessary tools for assessing students’ learning outcomes. Does this number surprise you? If you do see the value in the online grade book in use at your college, find out what you might be able to do to help the adjunct instructors in your department use these tools to their best advantage. If this comes up as a topic of conversation, you might let them know about available training sessions, or simply describe how you use them to support (and better understand) students’ progress in your courses.
Going by these numbers, we’re glad to see that, for the most part, adjuncts do have what they need to succeed in order to help their students become successful. However, there are times everyone needs help getting up and running… and Cengage Learning wants to provide support however we can.
Support and resources for adjunct instructors from Cengage Learning
Are you an adjunct? Are you using a Cengage Learning solution this fall? Your team is here to help take the stress out of your class prep!
We’ve created a site specifically for adjunct instructors, where you can find resources and people that will answer questions about your course materials, help you set up and implement your Cengage Learning digital solutions, and work with you to identify strategies that will engage your students and drive improved outcomes.
Visit http://services.cengage.com/adjunct to get started!