Monday, May 13, 2013
Ask the Administrator: Old Dogs and New Tricks
So I have one of the most interesting adjunct problems known to man...my adjuncts are too good.
I have tried to cultivate an environment of academic excellence in teaching for the last couple of years in my position. And it is catching with some of my part time instructors; however, my full time folks (who do not have tenure) won't move off center. How do I help my full timers see the wonderful work of some of the adjuncts in such a way that they won't want to string me up?!?
Enrollment in some of the adjunct taught classes well out paces full time folks. They are missing the boat, or rather, they are missing the dock with our students in the boat on which they are captain.
As a second to this....why when exposed to the same impetus for change are my adjuncts doing so much better at adapting than the full timers? I don't want to believe that it is routine, complacency, or laziness, but the cards are beginning to read otherwise...
There isn't much at stake for the full-time faculty. We don't have tenure, but as long as they don't rock the boat too much they are pretty secure in their jobs (as evidenced by the long list of retirees that have worked for the district for over 35 years who are steadily leaving the ranks).
Most of my full-time faculty have taught their courses the same way for many years. That is what I mean about "moving off center." They are using the same instructional techniques, no integration of technology, standard assessments as evidenced by the use of the same or similar tests that they have been using for years, average student evaluations. ...and lots of sitting around complaining about under-prepared students.
I have attempted to provide professional development, research, books, articles, sending folks to teaching workshops, sharing successes, patterning though examples, etc. The pattern for this intervention seems fall into three phases, surface level acceptance of intervention, contemplation or completion of task, and resolution usually accompanied by a variation of, "Yes, this is fantastic! How do we get adjuncts to do this?" I have tried mediocre reviews on average performance evaluations, I share success of those who are touching students, I even tried an online resource center. All to no avail. Success rates for full time folks still hover around 70% where part-timers are up above 76%. And it is not because they are easier. I sit in the classrooms.
In a nutshell, most of my adjuncts are superstars hitting over .350, and most of my full-time folks are bench players hitting only .260. I feel like I should be relying on full-time folks to blaze the trail and be exemplars in the classroom. I am beginning to wonder if those expectations are misplaced.
Have a question? Ask the Administrator at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.
We don't have tenure, but as long as they don't rock the boat too much they are pretty secure in their jobs
At my SLAC, those in visiting & adjunct positions have mentioned feeling free to innovate while tenure-track faculty say they don't have that freedom. The cost of trying something new and it not working is high for the tenure-track while it is relatively low for the contingent faculty. Many of our contingent have said if they were tenure-track they wouldn't be trying new pedagogies.
Look at your reward system. Is it really encouraging full-time faculty to innovate? Or are they not rocking the boat because that is the climate that permeates the college? If so, why would they rock the boat?
The service part is also important to consider.
I'm amused about the suggestion of writing a grant, because if there were a grant to write to try new teaching methods, guess who'd be writing it...it wouldn't be the adjuncts, or the 'grant writing' people. I've worked with the latter on a few occasions and they expect the full time faculty to shoulder most of the writing duties.
There are some Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SOTL) grants out there, at least in my field. They are small, but they do exist. However, they are not always open to non-tenure people, and especially not to part-time people. Ironic.
Of course, all of this depends on how well good teaching is rewarded at your institution. If your school is an R1 university, teaching is definitely much lower down in priority than is research, publishing, and the chasing after grant support money. To full-time faculty at an R1 university, teaching is little more than an unneeded distraction. In my undergraduate days, my college had no research to speak of, and I found that the quality of the teaching that I got there was quite good. But in graduate school at an R1 university, I found that most of the faculty recognized that how well they did in the classroom didn’t really matter very much, and they simply went through the motions and did little more than read the textbook to us in class.
It's what Jack Welch would do.
I agree with Pondering Fool. If they don't move off center, they keep their jobs.
Depending on where the college is, the adjuncts might have other college choices for being an adjunct; the full-timers may not have many other college teaching choices. I agree that the rewards of moving off center are iffy.
If your grants staff do a bang-up job researching, designing, and budgeting, in addition to wading through all the other parts of the application, who is going to do the work they got funded? You? Your disengaged faculty? Your grants staff?
If your faculty don't like the perceived top-down approach to changing THEIR work--the terms of the grant and the activities and outcomes they're now committed to--who's going to be blamed? You? Your disengaged faculty? I'll give you a hint: it's the grants staff.
Tackle the problem of disengagement at the root. Make your expectations clear. Give people the resources and support to make changes. Get obstacles out of their way. Call them on inertia. Reward attempts to try, not just bounding successes. Reward your adjuncts.
--A dedicated grant director and former adjunct
My point being - how do the students of your full-time staff do in subsequent years compared to those of adjunt staff? Which kids are more likely to complete and complete well? It might not just be the actual course being taught where the impact of the teacher is felt.
(I don't have a citation for this on hand but I may be able to find it if someone really wants it.)
"The overall pattern of the results shows that students of less experienced and less qualiﬁed professors perform signiﬁcantly better in the contemporaneous course being taught. In contrast, the students of more experienced and more highly qualiﬁed introductory professors perform
signiﬁcantly better in the follow-on courses."
"Results ...show that student evaluation scores are positively correlated with contemporaneous course value-added but negatively correlated with deep learning"