What Adjuncts Really Want

With over three-fourths of all college courses being delivered by adjunct faculty today, it is imperative that institutions know how to engage and retain this increasingly important group of faculty. There are a few simple yet key steps institutions can take to ensure their adjuncts feel valued, engaged, and prepared for success.


Developing a communication plan is essential to the success of your adjunct faculty. A written communication plan often includes a definition of the audience (adjuncts), objectives, measurable goals or outcomes, available communication tools and methods, and an evaluation of the results. Institutions can use communication plans to map out the information they believe is pertinent to their adjunct faculty and the most effective channels to disseminate the information.

Adjunct faculty should be informed about performance expectations, textbook selection, syllabus requirements, grade due dates, and the like. Some institutions choose to provide an adjunct handbook or toolkit with examples of exams and syllabi and a calendar of important dates. Timely contract execution and teaching evaluations are also essential in retaining your faculty and keeping them engaged.

Training and Professional Development 

All too often the extent of an adjunct"s onboarding is something along the lines of "here are the keys, return them on May 15." In fact, 94% of adjuncts never receive an orientation to their campus or department (Embracing Your Adjuncts, ACICS). Because many adjuncts are first-time professors from professional fields, it is important they receive an informative and robust orientation to higher education. Adjunct orientation should cover the institution's mission and vision, policies, procedures, legalities, syllabus requirements, as well as training on technology, software, and LMS. 

In addition to a meaningful and engaging orientation, institutions should provide their adjuncts with on-going professional development opportunities. Some institutions offer monthly workshops or access to digital courses focused on best practices for teaching and learning, pedagogy, and classroom management. APL's digital course, Adjunct Teaching 101, prepares first-time adjuncts for success in the classroom covering topics such as designing a course plan, writing a syllabus, managing a classroom, and FERPA (learn more).

Mentorship programs can also be a helpful resource for adjuncts, especially those desiring to advance to a full-time role. Full-time faculty can help provide teaching insights based on experience as well as offer assistance and guidance to first-time adjuncts. 

Belonging and Recognition

Although adjuncts make up a large portion of faculty at many institutions, they often feel like the outsiders on campus. Historically, institutions have not put forth a great effort to include this group of faculty in their departments or campus life and culture. "Creating a sense of belonging and community will both help maintain strong relationships with adjunct faculty and improve the retention of your best adjunct instructors" (Academic Impressions). Perhaps the most meaningful and simplest ways to create a sense of belonging is to say "thank you" and assure adjuncts they are an integral part of carrying out the mission of your institution. Inviting adjuncts to department meetings, outings, and the holiday party are also kind gestures that will ultimately help to create an integrated and inclusive department.