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Report Highlights Importance of More Fully Engaging Part-Time Faculty at Community Colleges

Despite the fact that, compared to full-time faculty, community college part-time faculty have less teaching experience, hold fewer advanced degrees, and are not on a tenure track, they are most often assigned to teach students who require more help, says a new University of Texas at Austin report.

According to “Contingent Commitments: Bringing Part-Time Faculty Into Focus,” part-time community college faculty members teach more than half of all credit-earning students and three-quarters of the developmental education classes, yet they tend to be less experienced than full-time faculty members.

The College of Education’s Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) produced the report drawing on data from more than 70,000 faculty survey responses and more than 30 focus group discussions with part-time and full-time faculty members, administrators and staffers at community colleges nationwide.

“In addition to having fewer years of experience and formal training, part-time community college faculty often face the frustration of feeling marginalized on campus and unaccepted as full partners in the college’s work,” said Kay McClenney, CCCSE director.

Many part-time faculty members report they feel like outsiders on their own campuses because they often:

  • Do not know whether they will be teaching until just days before the term begins.
  • Have limited or no access to orientation, professional development, college services or office space where they can work and meet with students.
  • Rarely, if ever, are invited to join in campus discussions about things the college can do to improve student learning, persistence and completion.

Past CCCSE reports have identified several high-impact practices that, when properly implemented, are proved to boost community college student engagement. Center data analyzed last year revealed the use of these high-impact practices is low across the board, and this latest report shows that part-time faculty members are using the high-impact strategies even less frequently than full-time faculty members.

“With this report we aim to give college leaders tools to better engage part-time faculty so more students have access to the educational experiences and supports they need to succeed academically,” said McClenney.

The report offers college leaders examples and discussion tools in the areas of hiring, setting expectations and orientation; professional development and support; evaluation and incentives; integration of part-time faculty members into student success initiatives; and creation of an institutional culture that embraces the role of part-time faculty members.

“What matters most? Students,” said McClenney. “Providing effective instruction from all faculty and support for the students should be at the heart of community college work.”

The report is part of “Keys to Student Success: Strengthening the Role of Part-Time Faculty in Community Colleges,” a CCCSE initiative funded by the MetLife Foundation. The center is a research and service initiative of the Department of Educational Administration’s Program in Higher Education Leadership.

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