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Addressing Adjunct Faculty Needs at Anne Arundel Community College

February 2012, Volume 15, Number 2                   

By LaTanya K. Eggleston, A. Lawrie Gardner, Lisa M. Starkey, and Trish Casey-Whiteman

Through Anne Arundel Community College’s (AACC) shared governance of faculty and administrative and professional staff, a faculty group supported by the manager of Institutional Professional Development comprises the Part-Time Faculty Affairs  Committee (PTFA) . This committee monitors factors impacting the welfare of our adjunct faculty. With its membership of both full-time and adjunct faculty, it also gives our adjunct colleagues a voice.

Annual committee goals are centered on the “one college” concept that promotes inclusion of all faculty classifications: full-time tenured, term, and adjunct faculty. The committee’s specific goals include enhancing communication between the college and adjunct faculty, providing professional development opportunities for adjunct faculty, and recognizing professional service of adjunct faculty. From 2009 through spring 2011, the main thrust of the committee’s actions was to develop and administer a survey to all adjunct faculty members to gain feedback related to their satisfaction levels.  

The idea of the AACC Part-Time/Adjunct Faculty Survey grew out of the committee’s vision to develop a document that would provide college leadership with feedback from adjunct faculty to determine the current adjunct climate. This, in turn, would allow the college to develop a baseline from which to evaluate and change, if necessary, operations relating to adjunct faculty. In addition, survey results would be used to develop action items related to the broad goals of the PTFA.

The purpose of the survey was to collect data to help leadership and the PTFA make improvements to support the three goals. The committee also sought to optimize adjunct faculty response to the survey. The committee and the administration wanted results of the survey to be presented in a format useful for future decision-making.

Cross Collaboration

The entire survey process, from development through final results analysis, was performed in a collaborative manner. The development of the survey involved members of the PTFA; the Council of Instructional Deans (COID); the Vice President for Learning; the Office of Planning, Research, and Institutional Assessment (PRIA); and the Institutional Professional Development Office. COID and the Vice President for Learning endorsed the survey project and provided an approval mechanism for the final survey. The PTFA collaborated with full-time and adjunct faculty members to develop questions and a survey format. PRIA was instrumental in finalizing the actual online survey administration by initially piloting the survey to various PTFA members and then administering the final survey to all adjunct faculty members.

Survey Findings

All adjunct faculty members working at AACC in the spring 2011 term, approximately 1,100, were asked to participate in the AACC Part Time/Adjunct Faculty Survey. The data collection period was 10 weeks and the survey response rate 51 percent. Highlights of the survey are outlined below.

In general

  • Fifty-six percent of respondents taught credit courses in the last two years; 28 percent taught non-credit courses (continuing education and contract training); and 13 percent percent taught both.
  • Factors motivating respondents to continue teaching at AACC included personal fulfillment (87 percent), enjoyment of teaching (89 percent), and enthusiasm for teaching the subject matter (46 percent).
  • Respondents rated their satisfaction with all aspects of their job and teaching at AACC as indicated in the chart below. Significantly, 90 percent of respondents selected “very satisfied” or “satisfied.”

 

LA022012

 

In the area of communication

  • Sixty-eight percent of respondents agree or strongly agree that AACC effectively communicates major collegewide initiatives to adjunct faculty.
  • Seventy-one percent of respondents agree or strongly agree that they can find information quickly using college resources.

In the areas of professional development and recognition

  • Over half of respondents indicate that current professional development opportunities are sufficient for their learning needs.
  • Sixty-eight percent agree or strongly agree that they feel recognized and appreciated within their department.
  • Thirty-two percent of respondents would value recognition for their length of service at AACC; 42 percent were neutral on this issue; 26 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

Responses to Open-ended Questions

The survey included two prompts with open-ended responses, one focused on improving teaching and learning, and the other focused on benefits and working conditions. The first of these items asked respondents to “provide any additional comments that you wish to contribute to our efforts to improve teaching and learning and the adjunct faculty experience at AACC.” Of 71 responses to this question, over 40 percent communicated complete satisfaction with the teaching and learning experience at AACC. About 14 percent articulated a desire to participate more with college and department committees, to be more involved with department planning, and to have more information about departmental issues. Since this survey, one department has moved forward with developing a mentorship program to enhance inclusion of both full-time and part-time colleagues.

The second item asked, “What (if any) additional benefits or enhancements to working conditions would make teaching at AACC more attractive and rewarding to you?” Not surprisingly, the major area of interest for benefits or enhancements was compensation. Of the 243 responses to this question, 32 responses specifically addressed improvements in salary and offered ways to increase salary based on such factors as time in service, length of contracts, and educational background. Twenty-seven responses included a request for medical benefits, particularly related to health care, dental care, and prescription drugs. Six respondents included requests for a retirement plan or opportunity, and 16 responses related to reimbursement for various professional development and continuing education opportunities. Interestingly, 12 respondents suggested that compensation should also cover costs for preparation time, late-canceled classes to recover preparation time, and similar issues. Tuition waivers for dependents (n=9) and for other state schools (n=5) were mentioned as possible enhancements.

Adjunct faculty also mentioned specific services that are important to them, including greater access to adjunct faculty offices for the use of storage and computers (n=15) and deficits in the classroom, such as poor lighting, too much noise, and insufficient white board space (n=13). Fourteen respondents requested an increased class load, and six mentioned possible access to full-time opportunities. Responses also include a range of requests for support services, such as staff help, full-time faculty members’ assistance, ANGEL/Blackboard training, and special project opportunities.

Although the survey generated more than 250 comments, including some with multiple elements, the responses fall into typical categories. The comments are thoughtful, reasonable, and continue to demonstrate the adjunct faculty commitment to student success.

Moving Forward

The Part Time/Adjunct Faculty Survey was the first step in improving communications, a PTFA priority goal, between the college and our adjunct faculty who teach almost 50 percent of the credit classes and all of the continuing education courses offered at AACC. In addition, the administration, with the help of the PTFA, has devised a plan of service recognition for adjunct faculty, another PTFA goal. The first recognition ceremony was held at the spring 2011 Academic Forum of all full time faculty, administrators, and instructional staff, an event which was well received. After the award ceremony, the vice presidents hosted a reception to further recognize the work of the adjunct faculty. Finally, survey outcomes have informed the administration of professional development opportunities requested by adjunct faculty. This allows for budget planning in the office of the Vice President for Learning. As a result, adjunct faculty members have opportunities to participate in various professional development activities, thus meeting the third PTFA goal. These opportunities include:

  • Workshops offered through the college’s Institutional Professional Development and Adjunct Faculty Development office;
  • Collegewide convocations, conferences, and summer institutes;
  • Departmental orientations for new adjunct faculty;
  • Tuition waiver for AACC courses; and
  • Sponsorship for attendance at the Maryland Consortium for Adjunct Faculty Professional Development (MCAPD) conference.

As a result of PTFA efforts and survey responses, the committee can now focus on targeted areas of improvement for the adjunct faculty in our college community. The committee has been assured that the college administration plans to use this information as a point of departure to further develop opportunities for our adjunct colleagues. These gains have strengthened the college; we have learned that our institutional strength depends upon the strength of all its valuable contributors, especially that of our adjunct faculty.

For additional information, please contact Lisa Starkey at lmstarkey@aacc.edu.

LaTanya K. Eggleston is a member of the Communications Faculty; A. Lawrie Gardner is a member of the Business and Public Administration Faculty and serves as department chair;  Lisa M. Starkey is a member of the Computer Technology Adjunct Faculty and manager of the Office of Institutional Professional Development; and Trish Casey-Whiteman is Associate Vice President for Learning at Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland.

Opinions express in Learning Abstracts are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the League for Innovation in the Community College.

Posted by The League for Innovation in the Community College on 02/06/2012 at 3:37 PM | Categories: Learning Abstracts -