Date of Award

2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Department

Education

First Advisor

Kathy Peno

Abstract

The postsecondary landscape has changed drastically in the past 40 years, with one of the most obvious changes being the increased reliance on adjunct or part-time faculty. Approximately 50% of the current faculty employed by postsecondary institutions are categorized as part-time faculty, up from approximately 25% in 1975 (American Association of University Professors, 2017; Snyder, de Bray, & Dillow, 2016). While there is literature surrounding the impacts of this phenomenon, the majority of studies are entrenched in a positivist framework, utilize quantitative methods, and many use large datasets to distill down whether students are more or less successful when taught by part-time faculty. Very few studies utilize the voices and examine the lived experiences of part-time faculty, especially in regards to how they develop their pedagogical skills as teachers.

A retrospective case study methodology was utilized to fill this gap in the literature. Seven part-time faculty members who teach in the natural sciences from various four-year institutions located in Southern New England were interviewed regarding their teaching experiences throughout their career, as well as their experiences with professional development through this time. The Novice to Expert Skill Model (Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1980) was used as a theoretical framework. During analysis of the interview data, several key findings emerged.

Based on the experiences of the participants, part-time faculty teach fairly similarly to full-time faculty: They want to make science relevant to their students, teach using alternative teaching practices, and make personal connections with their students. It was also found that part-time faculty proceed along the Novice to Expert Skill Model as it is described, with the exception of their beginning stage – many of the participants identified as more developed than the Novice stage when they began teaching. Several of the female participants showed a reluctance to admit they self-identified as Experts, while other participants were overly confident in their development. Participants identified peer interactions, self-drive, and funding as positive impacts to their pedagogical development. Participants identified “being thrown in the classroom” with no support, spotty observations by superiors, mechanical and forgettable workshops, and feeling like a “second-class citizen” as having a negative impact to the development of their pedagogical skills. Participant experiences point out a need for institutions and departments to recognize the motivations and needs of the adjunct faculty they have on staff currently, without making assumptions of adjunct faculty in general. Recommendations for institutional and departmental professional development policies are included.

Share

COinS