What are the benefits of teaching as an adjunct instructor? What matters the most to adjuncts, and what figures less prominently in their experiences?

In our Spring 2015 Instructor Engagement Insights survey, we asked adjunct instructors to tell us about the benefits they’ve gained from their positions. Below, we’ll explore their responses. Read on, and see if you relate to what they had to say.

Adjuncts answer: What are the top benefits of teaching as an adjunct instructor?

Top benefits of teaching as an adjunct instructor

For the great majority of adjuncts, the value of the job lies in the teaching experience itself. “Teaching topics I’m passionate about” received the highest percentage of votes (78%), illustrating the joy that adjuncts have in passing along their knowledge to the next “generation” of learners, as well as their commitment to the practice of teaching.

“Interactions with students” ranked second, with 75% of adjuncts agreeing that the connections that they’re making with learners provide a great deal of satisfaction.

A significant portion of adjunct instructors value the convenience and flexibility that working as an adjunct grants them. Nearly two-thirds (65%) listed the “flexible schedule” as a key benefit, and 58% cited the ability to “teach near where I live.” For those who want or need to live in a particular area, or who must work their teaching around other jobs or responsibilities, the adjunct role presents a valuable opportunity to teach while still maintaining those commitments.

Continuing through the results, we see that a good number of instructors see the adjunct role as a chance to build, refine, and “flex” their teaching skills. Over half (52%) say that they benefit from the ability to “gain teaching experience,” and 39% appreciate the “opportunity to teach online.”

Notably, only 27% of adjuncts selected “interactions with colleagues” as a top benefit of their teaching experiences. The number is low, but it also speaks to the challenges that adjuncts have in making connections on campus (a topic we’ll explore in future blog posts in this series).

In reviewing these responses, it’s clear to us that adjunct instructors are committed to their roles and take great pride in their work. However, if you’re an adjunct instructor and you want to reap more of the benefits of your role, consider the suggestions we’ve made below.

Ways to make the most of your adjunct teaching experience

Want to gain maximum enjoyment and fulfillment out of your current role as an adjunct instructor? Review these suggestions for making the most of your teaching experience, which are connected to the top factors that adjuncts listed as key benefits of their position.

1. Communicate your passion and enthusiasm for the field.

As an instructor, you have a unique opportunity to inspire students and demonstrate how your course content connects to the types of experiences and situations they’ll face in their professional and personal lives outside of college.

When you plan your lessons, consider how you can weave in inspiring stories and true-to-life examples that will make students laugh and think.

Don’t be afraid to share common challenges, too. Knowing that someone else has faced—and overcome—those struggles can be a huge encouragement and motivator. Your “real-world” insights can prepare students for the realities of what they’ll encounter as they pursue their own careers.

2. Discover new ways to engage students.

Your energy and enthusiasm as a lecturer can go a long way in keeping students engaged in your topic. But beyond being an energetic, enthusiastic lecturer, what can you do?

Keep your mind open to proven and creative ways to motivate students and keep them engaged and attentive during the class session. Open class with an activity or question that sparks student dialogue. Use digital learning tools that boost student engagement. Try out a game that sparks learning and engagement. And, as instructor Audrey Wick points out, even exercise can be used as a way to engage students in the daily lesson.

Want more ideas? Look for faculty development opportunities that will help you pick up additional strategies and techniques for success. You might also want to listen on the techniques that students say engage them in the learning process.

3. Look at this job as an opportunity for professional development.

Is this your first time teaching in the college or university setting? Your adjunct role is an excellent opportunity for building skills that you can use throughout your career as an instructor.

Even if you don’t want a permanent job teaching in the university setting, your teaching experience will still pay off in your other place of employment. The skills you’ll need as an adjunct instructor are also the skills that can help you in your day-to-day role. Consider how this might apply to you: as you gain more comfort with speaking in front of students, you’ll also become more comfortable speaking in front of, or training, colleagues. As you lead classroom discussions, you’ll become more adept at facilitating conversations that take place during meetings at work. Many of the techniques you use to plan class sessions will come in handy as you set agendas for, and run, meetings.

4. Develop the skills needed for teaching online. 

As you look for teaching jobs, you may find that more and more of those positions are for online courses. Or, if they aren’t for online courses, many of these jobs will require instructors to be able to use learning management systems or otherwise incorporate technology into their teaching.

Thus, it can (quite literally) pay for you to acquire skills related to the role of an online instructor. Become an expert on facilitating online discussionscreating engaging videos of your lectures, and using learning solutions and apps that enhance students’ online experience. Learn about the “flipped classroom” and how it has an impact on student learning and engagement.

For additional tips on teaching with technology in the college classroom, listen to our “Who Moved My Chalkboard?” podcast series and webinar. We also invite you to join TeamUP, Cengage Learning’s peer-to-peer faculty development group, for the free Wired and Inspired! mini-conference this August.


Are you an adjunct instructor? What are your thoughts on the benefits of working as an adjunct? What tips for success would you pass along to fellow adjuncts? We value your insights! Please share them in the comments.