Book by Richard E. Lyons
Review by Jan P. Eriksen
School of Letters and Sciences
Viterbo University, La Crosse, Wisconsin
Editor Richard Lyons begins the book with the staggering statistic that adjunct instructors teach one-half of the course sections offered at many institutions. Part-timers, known as adjunct instructors, are frequently employed to instruct lower-division, entry-level courses in English and mathematics for first-year students. As advisors are well aware, these are the most crucial courses for entering students because these classes should provide a positive introduction to college work as well as help students build a solid foundation for future learning. Yet, adjunct instructors are often “the invisible faculty” (p. 6) who receive little or no training or support from their hiring institutions.
In this book Lyons has assembled a compendium of articles about the training and mentoring of adjunct faculty. Kevin Yee, the contributor of Chapter 2, identifies four types of adjunct instructors: 1) specialists, experts, or professionals, 2) freelancers, 3) career enders, and 4) aspiring academics (pp.13-14). Faculty members in each group will greatly benefit from support strategies suggested in this text.
Best Practices for Supporting Adjunct Faculty includes programs and activities implemented by a variety of post-secondary institutions – technical and community colleges, an upper division university, liberal arts colleges, comprehensive universities, major research universities, and even a consortium of several institutions – that provide examples applicable to all types of colleges and universities. Many chapter authors suggest, however, that administrators survey adjunct faculty to determine their needs prior to designing and implementing training programs.
Support plans described in the book range from mentoring to multi-year complex strategies. Mentoring programs usually involve a full-time faculty member, or experienced part-time faculty member, who works with a relatively new adjunct instructor. Mentor/mentee teams can self-select or are pre-assigned; the dyads generally meet weekly and observe each other’s classes. Some institutions offer a class or a series of workshops for part-time faculty. The training can include micro-teaching experiences, discussions on active learning and student-centered teaching, evaluation and assessment, institutional policies and procedures, and other topics. In most cases adjunct faculty members receive a stipend and/or a salary increase for completing a series of training sessions. Some institutions even elevate part-time instructors to “associate faculty” status upon their achievement of specified learning outcomes (pp. 52-54, 132-142).
Technology also plays a role in supporting adjunct faculty. Some institutions use online training to supplement face-to-face instruction or as a convenience for part-time faculty unable to attend workshops at the times they are held. Participant evaluations, however, from a group that completed its training online indicated that the adjuncts would have preferred face-to-face instruction because of the opportunity to more closely interact with full-time faculty and other part-timers and thus build a sense of community. Another training technique is the use of electronic portfolios for part-time, and sometimes even full-time, faculty members. Adjunct instructors can use these portfolios in job searches, while full-time professors can include the documentation in their applications for promotion and tenure.
Editor Richard Lyons, in the book’s preface, indicates that “Best Practices for Supporting Adjunct Faculty is not designed to provide a template for what should be implemented at your institution” (p.xiii). However, the book does offer a wide array of ideas and even includes detailed appendices with examples of survey questions, workshop handouts, checklists, evaluation forms, syllabi, and other useful documents. This may be just what an institution needs to begin a program for adjunct instructors or to add new components to an existing plan.
Best practices for supporting adjunct faculty. (2007) Book by Richard E. Lyons (Ed.). Review by Jan P. Eriksen. San Francisco,CA: Jossey-Bass. 280 pp. $40.00. ISBN 978-1-933371-27-6