Research has shown that professional development is one of the top 3 resources adjuncts want most from their institutions. As institutions continue to rely on adjuncts to teach 75% or more of their courses each year, it is imperative to create a strategy around providing professional development to part-time faculty.
Providing professional development does not just benefit the faculty but ultimately the students. Teaching the majority of courses, this faculty has the ability to make a tremendous impact on students' learning outcomes. Part-time faculty that have been provided with professional development opportunities are more likely to use evidence-based teaching practices that produce positive student outcomes than those with no training or development (Eagan et al., 2014).
Offering professional development opportunities that focus on sound pedagogical practice and highlight institutional services, policies, and procedures will help ensure students are receiving a high-quality education (Adjunct Faculty: Engagement and Community through Professional Development).
Professional Development Topics
Prepare your faculty for success in the classroom by providing programs that address institutional practices and services that support student success, pedagogy, and best practices for teaching and learning.
Ensure your adjunct faculty is educated about student services your institution offers including the writing center, career center, and tutoring programs. It is important that faculty members know how to support all aspects of the student experience, engage students effectively in their learning, and point them to appropriate student services (Adjunct Faculty: Engagement and Community through Professional Development).
In a recent study, Cengage and Zeldis Research Associates found that "adjuncts value broader professional development opportunities related to pedagogy - including opportunities that help them understand how to better engage and connect with a diverse range of students through technology, digital course materials, and other strategies. The priority placed on these topics related in part to the recognized need to lengthen the span of students' subject matter interest, and to keep up with millennials and the changing way in which students learn" (Experiences, Challenges, and Perspectives of Adjunct Instructors).
Platforms and Participation
It is important to think about the most effective and efficient ways to deliver these programs to your faculty. Many adjuncts teach at multiple institutions (44%) and balance full-time positions outside of academia (5 Key Faculty Development Strategies for Adjunct Instructors). However, this does not mean they are not interested in adding professional development activities to their busy schedules. 67% of adjuncts - the majority of whom say participation is optional - take part (Experiences, Challenges, and Perspectives of Adjunct Instructors).
Professional development can be offered in a number of formats including orientations, seminars, workshops, webinars, and mentorship programs. Webinars and eLearning activities are an excellent option to provide to adjunct faculty due to their flexible nature. 70% of adjuncts said they have attended webinars, with many saying that the recording feature of webinars is a valuable asset (Experiences, Challenges, and Perspectives of Adjunct Instructors). Online courses which adjuncts can access on their own time and return to for reference are also helpful options for busy adjuncts.
Providing professional development programs is a win-win scenario. A win for adjuncts who desire to learn about best practices for teaching and institutional resources, and a win for students who in turn receive a higher quality education from a highly prepared and knowledgeable instructor. Research indicates that effective teaching improves students' critical thinking and persistence and that "when faculty improve their teaching, students learn more, and their performance on course work improves"(Condon, Iverson, Manduca, Rutz, & Willett, 2016, p. 125). The evidence is clear: effective instruction results in student success.