A Win-Win Scenario: Providing Support to Adjunct Faculty

In a guide for the American Council on Education, Dr. Nancy Lightfoot Matte, chair of the English Department of Phoenix College, notes the importance of providing support, training, and professional development to adjunct faculty, and it seems that campuses are heeding her call with the recent growth in adjunct faculty. Colleges and universities are giving support and resources to adjuncts in a few ways, including creating centers and offices geared towards adjunct support, developing handbooks and guides, and offering professional development opportunities.

First, many colleges and universities have created centers or offices to support adjunct faculty in improving their teaching and communicating with students. To illustrate, Estrella Mountain Community College has created an office for Adjunct Faculty Support Services which provides adjunct faculty with professional development opportunities and tools to improve their teaching abilities. For Estrella Mountain, the office provides a central location for adjuncts to get support. Many other campuses have similar centers for adjuncts to improve their skills and get feedback. For example, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College's Adjunct Faculty Center provides support and workstations to adjunct professors. In addition, the center facilitates interactions with students and adjunct faculty through providing a space for adjuncts and students to meet and discuss class work. Many of the resources discussed later are provided through these centers at campuses across the country.

A second way that campuses have provided support to adjunct faculty is through the development of handbooks and guides for adjunct professors. For example, North Virginia Community College has developed handbooks specifically for adjunct faculty regarding their rights and best practices for teaching and learning. Other universities have followed suit: Saginaw Valley State University's Office of Adjunct Faculty Support Programs provides a thorough guide for their adjunct faculty in order to increase communication and make clear what is expected of adjunct employees.

Another key area that colleges and universities have stepped up to the plate is in providing professional development opportunities for their adjuncts. Some campuses provide evaluations of their adjunct professors to ensure quality and provide their faculty with the tools to improve their performance. An example of a school with regular evaluations is Harper College, whose Center for Adjunct Faculty Engagement (CAFE) provides evaluations to adjunct faculty in three ways, selected by the adjunct: (1) goal-based self-evaluation, (2) reverse peer observation, and (3) traditional classroom observation. Other schools such as the University of Central Florida provide classes and workshops for adjuncts on creating rosters, course design, cheating and plagiarism, diversity, and lesson plans.

Adjuncts new to a campus should make it a priority to seek out these services and centers; just ask your department chair or program director where to find these resources. Even if there are not support services specifically for adjunct support most campuses have teaching resources to help professors at every rank.