Adjuncts’ top priorities are to share knowledge and make a difference in the lives of their students. And yet, many still feel disconnected and less valued than full-time faculty because they believe they have to try harder in order to prove themselves. Most adjunct faculty hold master’s degrees or a PhD, and because several of them have professional/real-world experience in the course area they teach, they can bring that extra value to the classroom.
Adjunct Instructor Survey
Cengage partnered with Zeldis Research Associates in a three-phased multimethod study. 417 adjunct instructors completed an online survey, and 63 adjunct professors participated in one of two online bulletin-board sessions. All phases included a mix of adjuncts in 2-year and 4-year institutions. Through the survey, we looked to find out the goals of adjunct instructors, their workflows and decision-making processes, the value they place on digital teaching materials, pain points in selection of course materials and engagement with peers in higher education.
Adjunct vs. full-time faculty
In some ways, adjuncts aren’t much different from full-time faculty. They have the same beliefs in what they hope to accomplish with students, as well as use digital course materials and take into consideration the cost and ease of using these products.
So, why do adjuncts feel they have fewer opportunities and less influence? Many of those interviewed for this study reported inadequate compensation a primary challenge. Several also reported a lack of office space, irregular assignments, limited opportunities to select class times or expand their role, and lack of adequate communications from colleagues as key pain points.
Additionally, just over three-fourths of adjuncts from this study felt pressed for time when preparing to teach a course, with those at 4-year schools more likely to feel time pressure. On average, they currently have nine weeks to prepare their courses, but would prefer another two weeks. Since over half of those surveyed also hold another job in addition to teaching, having that little bit of extra time would be beneficial.
Course materials, technology and professional development
Selecting primary course materials was somewhat less of a pain point with adjunct faculty than the areas noted earlier. Instructors at 2-year institutions were more likely than those at 4-year institutions to say they have no influence or decision-making authority for primary materials.
More than half of adjunct instructors (58%) say they are comfortable using technology in the classroom. When talking about digital learning solutions, adjuncts are more positive than negative, although some cite concerns about time constraints and ease of use. One concern is that fewer than half of those surveyed had formal training from their institution for the digital product in use, and those who didn’t receive training would have liked to.
Most adjuncts take part in optional professional development training, despite trainings not always aligning with their schedules. Because of this, they utilize the recorded features of webinars and see them as a valuable asset. These types of training materials are crucial in helping adjuncts refine the skills and strategies that will help them keep up with the changing way in which students learn.