Submitted By: Jennifer Walsh, Program Manager, Continuing Education/Business SolutionsProgram Contact: Jennifer Walsh, Program Manager, Continuing Education/Business SolutionsEmail:
Higher education is becoming more reliant upon part-time or adjunct faculty. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has this number at 40% today, which is a significant increase from 24% in 1975. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) states that across all institution types 47% utilize adjunct faculty, 67% at Community Colleges are adjuncts. While there are many benefits that come with adjunct faculty—including current industry expertise, flexibility in scheduling and lower costs—many adjuncts enter the education field with little to no formal study of andragogy. This provides a series of challenges for institutions to adequately train adjuncts on policies, procedures and systems, with teaching methodology often left unaddressed.
Given this reality, College of DuPage Continuing Education in Glen Ellyn, IL worked with the Office of Adjunct Faculty Support to create an innovative professional development program to address those in industry becoming college faculty, called the Adjunct Faculty Training Institute (AFTI). The purpose of AFTI is to provide a comprehensive program of professional development for adjunct faculty delivering best-practice teaching strategies designed to increase student achievement, while reducing student attrition rates. In 2016, the first course—Introduction to College Teaching—was offered in hybrid format and covered both the logistics and methodology of teaching.
This introductory course is now also available in a fully-online format, and has been supplemented by three additional online offerings: Assessment of Student Learning; Learner-Centered Teaching; and Diversity, Social Justice and Inclusion in the Classroom. Introduction to College Teaching For those interested in becoming an adjunct faculty or those new to the field, this program provides basic and advanced techniques for college level teaching. Instruction includes syllabi preparation, classroom management, and formative and summative assessments. Learner-Centered Teaching This advanced teaching course supports faculty in transforming students from passive listeners to active learners while improving learning outcomes and deepening understanding. Participants gain strategies and techniques that can be used in face-to-face, hybrid and online courses. Diversity, Social Justice, and Inclusion in the Classroom This course explores diversity and social justice, specifically in the context of the college environment. Concepts covered include race/ethnicity, gender, class, and individual and group experiences.
Participants will discuss equity in education, access and inclusion, and diversity in the classroom, and explore strategies for mitigating the problems faced by marginalized groups, particularly in regards to educational settings. Assessment of Student Learning This course focuses on student learning as the central goal of quality instruction. Instructors will learn strategies to measure the degree to which students are meeting course objectives. Colleges and universities are called upon to measure learning outcomes and utilize data for continuous improvement as a requirement for accreditation. Participants learn to align instructional activities to the learning objectives of the program; to implement multiple assessment methods.; and to examine elements of an effective assessment plan as well as strategies for teaching and learning through a lens of core questions: "What will students be able to know or do?" and "How will I know that they can do it?"
Collectively, these courses were developed to prepare both new and experienced educators to teach at the college and university level. One recent student notes, “I benefited from the individualized feedback on each assignment. Going forward, I will be shifting more of the responsibility for learning to the students so that class time is spent in a workshop setting. The goal is to spend less time lecturing and more time engaging in meaningful activities.” Another student remarks, “This course has provided the necessary tools to creatively deliver curriculum differently for each class that today’s students can relate to.” This program is one that is truly unique and innovative because the main objective of the AFTI is to increase student success. Each of the courses are designed to improve student success by equipping instructors with best-practice teaching strategies and techniques. The number of offerings will continue to increase as do relevant topics in higher education. Each class is offered online and the Introduction to College Teaching is offered as a hybrid course also where students meet on campus twice during the term. Participants work in cohorts to complete assignments and projects. Cohorts are generally characterized as growth oriented, cooperative in nature and intensively and exclusively program focused. Students work together to achieve set goals and experiences. Cohort members tend to collaborate, interact, exchange resources, share information and support one another in and out of the classroom. (Callaghan, 2014).
A Resource for Excellence grant was awarded for program development of the Adjunct Faculty Training Institute in 2016. The purpose of the AFTI is to meet the critical need to develop the increasing number of adjunct faculty in colleges and universities. The Adjunct Faculty Training Institute was recognized again in 2019 by the College of DuPage Foundation with a $12,000 Resource for Excellence grant to offer scholarships to the industry experts with the ultimate goal of increasing student outcomes.
Building on the beginning courses offered through College of DuPage, schools can replicate by developing next level trainings to meet their unique challenges. Surveys can be sent to employees who have developed their skills through AFTI and identify the unique requirements to be successful at their schools. Current trainings do not need to be duplicated, but should reflect the unique needs of each region and student population. Time and resources can be spent developing more advanced courses specific to each region’s distinctive needs.