Increased hiring of part-time college faculty means that colleges and universities have pressure to find ways to support larger numbers of adjuncts and instructors. A new study in the Journal of Higher Education shows that institutional support, from office space to respect from full-time peers, is linked to part-time faculty members’ job satisfaction.
With part-timers making up half of all college faculty – 49.3 percent as of 2009 – it’s important to understand their role in teaching. Some instructors choose to teach part-time, allowing them to share experience from primary careers in business, law, journalism or other specialized fields. But most part-time faculty want full-time academic appointments in lieu of teaching part-time, often at several colleges, where they may be instructors for 101-level courses with large enrollments.
“We’ve done a lot of research about how student success is linked to the type of faculty providing instruction, but we don’t really know that much about part-time faculty themselves,” says co-author Audrey Jaeger of North Carolina State University, a higher education professor who has published frequently on issues affecting adjunct faculty. “The trend of hiring part-time faculty isn’t going to reverse anytime soon, so we need to understand how part-time faculty members are thinking about issues, how they’re connected to the university and how we can better support them so they can do their best work with students.”
Jaeger collaborated with UCLA’s Kevin Eagan, managing director of the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI), the sole source of national survey data for part-time faculty since a federal effort ended 10 years ago. They analyzed HERI survey data from more than 4,000 part-time faculty working at nearly 300 colleges and universities in 2010-11.