A Review of Success Strategies for Adjunct Faculty

by Amy O’Loughlin

Success Strategies for Adjunct Faculty by Richard E. Lyons addresses the needs of adjunct professors and provides how-to strategies to improve one’s teaching effectiveness and course management efficiency. The book targets those of you who have established your part-time teaching careers, and it is intended to be a “book you will carry in your briefcase and . . . highlight or flag content that is especially critical to your needs.”

If you have been assigned to teach a large number of students in a vast lecture hall, Lyons shows you how to make a huge room of learners seem “psychologically small.” He identifies the type of class structure that college students believe facilitates their learning. Lyons also explains how to recognize when your class may benefit from a change in your teaching style, what kinds of modifications to make, and how to put them into practice.

However, there are problems with the content of Success Strategies. Sure, there’s an occasional split infinitive, the overuse of the word “markedly” and the phrase “an array of . . . ,” an ill-defined reference to actor Denzel Washington, as well as an exaggerated scenario which involves campus housekeeping staff. However, these missteps—regardless of how jarring—are minor.

One problem with the book that does compromise its usefulness is that it replicates much of Lyons’s earlier material, particularly The Adjunct Professor’s Guide to Success (co-authors Marcella Kysilka and George Pawlas, 1999). If you already carry in your briefcase The Adjunct Professor’s Guide to Success, and you pick up Success Strategies, you may experience a feeling of déjà vu early on in your reading. This is not a figment of your imagination. Chapter One of Success Strategies, along with its section “Higher Education’s Changing Environment,” uses much of the same material used in Chapter One of The Adjunct Professor’s Guide to Success. Evidence the following example from “The Changing Environment of Higher Education,” which appears in Success Strategies
Not so long ago, academia—with its trappings of ivy-covered halls and rich, colorful traditions—was perceived from both inside and outside as quite removed from the rest of society. . . .In recent years, the historical chasm between academia and our mainstream society has eroded markedly. . . . As a college degree has become more widely valued as a ticket to upward mobility, enrollments have increased significantly. . . .

The following appears in The Adjunct Professor’s Guide to Success:
Not so long ago, the culture of the typical American college or university was perceived, from both inside and outside, as quite removed from the rest of society. . . .In very recent years, the widely perceived distance between academia and the rest of society has largely evaporated. . . . A college education has become the ticket to upward mobility in an increasingly more materialistically conscious society.

The remainder of Success Strategies follows this pattern of restructured repetition. Lyons asserts that he “broaden[s] the scope and increase[s] the depth of the content” in Success Strategies. He does, but it is achieved by augmenting and protracting the text of The Adjunct Professor’s Guide, so that, essentially, Success Strategies is a chapter-for-chapter, section-for-section, word-for-word restatement of the former title.

All of this discussion then begs the question: Is there anything new in Lyons’s latest?

The answer is a cautious yes, for the new features are few in number.

One addition is testimonials from successful adjuncts that begin and end each chapter. The statements come from professors who have completed adjunct-specific courses and workshops taught by Lyons, a Senior Consultant at Faculty Development Associates in Florida, a higher education professional development company (http://www. developfaculty.com).

Templates and practice exercises appear as appendices in most of the book’s chapters. They are helpful tools to use for implementing the strategies discussed in each section. In the chapter “Formulating a Master Strategy,” a Teaching Style Self-Assessment evaluation is offered to provide insights into one’s particular teaching methodology. Lyons encourages readers to complete this self-assessment, because it “engenders a deeper understanding of your course planning, instructional delivery, classroom management, and student evaluation practices.”

Similarly, in “Managing the Examination Process,” Lyons provides a recommended Essay Question Exercise to administer to students. Because of the overuse of forced-choice testing, students’ writing and critical-thinking abilities have declined. Lyons’s advice is for faculty to encourage students to write more often by implementing essay-based assignments and testing.
In the testimonial that begins Chapter 9, an adjunct says this: “An instructor’s ability to infuse technology into the course has become a way that students measure credibility.” Lyons shows readers how to achieve this credibility and improve teaching effectiveness by utilizing “everyday technology” such as the Internet, e-mail, and presentation software.

Broadened in scope is the chapter titled “Today’s College Students”— titled “Today’s Undergraduate Students” in

The Adjunct Professors Guide—which illustrates that grouping students according to traditional/younger and nontraditional/older categories is outmoded. Instead, student populations should be classified on a generational level. Lyons reorganizes the chapter by detailing the values and learning styles of students belonging to the Baby Boomer Generation (1943-1961); the 13th Generation, or Generation X (1962-1981); and the Millennial Generation (1982-2002).

Both books also reference Dr. Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) and Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Objectives, a “concept critical to the knowledge base of any effective teacher.” In The Adjunct Professor’s Guide, Covey’s philosophy receives a one-page mention, and Bloom’s Taxonomy appears in cursory one-line citations. In Success Strategies, Lyons devotes five pages to the explanation of Covey’s seven concepts, and expands reference to Bloom’s Taxonomy with a chart that outlines the levels of cognitive complexity and specifies guidelines for course development, application and management.

At $33, Success Strategies is costly, in particular if you are already familiar with Lyons’s publications. Adjunct faculty would do better to visit Lyons’s Web page, http://www.developfaculty.com, where visitors will find a comprehensive list of resources geared toward adjunct needs. On the other hand, if you are new to teaching as a part-time faculty member, Success Strategies is a worthwhile investment.

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