Last updated on February 29th, 2024 at 02:18 pm

This blog has been excerpted from the book “Put Me In The Game Coach:  A Practical Guide to Becoming an A+ Adjunct and Facultypreneur” (Dr. Tim Glaid & Dr. Ken Knox, 2017, Dog Ear Publishing, Indianapolis, IN).   

Introduction:  The purpose of the book is to share experiences in identifying teaching opportunities, preparing and meeting the academic and professional requirements of various schools and universities, mastering technical competencies, and show examples of stipends earned.  Most importantly, we emphasize the importance of maintaining a positive attitude, loving what one does, and being passionate about helping students learn while always meeting and exceeding academic and accreditation measurements. The readers learn how to maintain the personal value and competitive advantage in designing and operating one’s own destiny through college and university teaching.

Opportunity Created … Shift Towards Adjunct Faculty

According to Adrianna Kazar (2013, para. 1), in 1970, adjuncts made up 20 percent of all higher education faculty.  Today, they represent half.”  Being a part-time adjunct at several schools is the way many instructors cobble together full-time employment in higher education (U.S. House of Representatives, 2014).

Adjunct faculty members are open to new ways of teaching, including the use of new technologies and various modalities.  Furthermore, the faculty must always bring his or her “A game,” and never appear complacent or boring in the classroom.  Students should be considered the customers of the college or university, and they often get to vote on their faculty through some form of end-of-course-survey.  Faculty who score well on the surveys will have a higher probability of being asked back to teach at that school, whereas faculty scoring lowly may not be invited to return.

Preparing Academically and Professionally

The purpose of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by the institutions of higher education meets an acceptable level of quality.  Accreditation in the United States involves non-governmental entities as well as governmental agencies (US Department of Education, 2015).  Functions of accreditation include verification that the institution or offered programs meet established standards, assist students, transfer credits, invoke the faculty and staff in institutional evaluation and planning, and determining eligibility for Federal assistance. Specialized or programmatic accreditation applies to programs, departments, or schools that are part of an institution.  Examples may include specific accreditation for the business programs or the nursing programs that are a part of the college or university (US Department of Education, 2015).

The earned degree itself does not wholly prepare or pave the way for an individual to teach at the college level.  Each accrediting agency will define qualifications on the requirements of faculty to teach within the institution, and/or the specific program.  In general, many teaching excellent institutions will look for three qualifications including:

  • the degree in the subjects being taught
  • practical experience working in the areas of the subjects being taught
  • prior teaching experience.

Foot-in-the-Door Strategy

One scenario plays out quite often, and can cause heartburn to the faculty chair responsible for staffing faculty into courses, is realized when assigned faculty cancel at the last moment.  Many reasons can cause situations such as these, but the one that surfaces most often is due to the faculty who has lost a job and is desperate for some or any work (and income), and by the time the class is set to begin, has found another job.  All too often this person neglects to inform the faculty chair of the change in heart, or the lack of availability, thus leaving the faculty chair with the challenge of staffing the class just days before it is set to begin.

The example above is intended to emphasize the considerations the new faculty member may wish to jump on as golden opportunities to get a “foot in the door” of the program, school, college or university in which he has targeted as a preferred long-term employer.  Making such compromises and sacrifices, and saving the Dean, Scheduler, or the Program Chair from student embarrassment or student complaints will be long remembered by those making the adjunct assignments.  Moreover, when the next courses become available, there may be a preference to reward the individual faculty who came to the rescue, in such times of need.

The Benefits of Networking

It is suggested the faculty candidate prepare a full professional vitae, which typically includes a resume highlighting professional background and accomplishments, a listing of teaching experience, student feedback and end-of-course survey results, any contributions made to colleges and universities (such as course development, presentations, committees served, etc.), unofficial or official copies of one’s college transcripts, all certifications, listings of publications, a statement of teaching philosophy, and letters of recommendations (especially if any of the letters of recommendations derived from individuals that are part of the hiring college or university) from network contacts.

The potential faculty member should organize his or her portfolio, which may be used for several purposes including position qualification, placement, salary determination, rank or level, and orienting the entire existing team members to the background, qualifications, and accomplishments of their newest faculty team member (on-boarding).

Networking among contacts, acquaintances, and academic staff and leadership, can open doors of opportunity to those seeking to teach.

On-Boarding for Success

Policies and procedures are critical to the adjunct faculty in complying with the expectations of the institution, school, department, and/or degree discipline.  The faculty must understand the importance of posting student attendance, and its relationship to the financial aid eligibility of the student, coupled with any eligible payouts to the institution.  Schools place a high priority of timely attendance posting, and all faculty must learn and meet these expectations.  Additionally, student retention (or holding on to current students) is paramount to the revenue source of the school, and the faculty should inquire to any “early alert” processes employed by the school, along with any tutoring or remedial assistance offerings afforded to the students to assist in their learning success.

The faculty should understand the standard or accepted practices for dealing with disruptive students. This would include reporting such behavior to an individual responsible for documenting and archiving such instances.

Faculty must fully understand the how, where, and when the submission of final grades are required for their course.  As previously stated, there may be financial incentives to promptly post final grades, as schools commonly link faculty payment with the receipt of the grades.  Missing timely grade submissions can also adversely impact student satisfaction, academic probation status, and timely release and receipt of financial aid payment to the student or college.

Finally, the faculty should use the onboarding training to learn the administration and the logistics of the courses scheduled to be taught.  Academic calendars will be necessary to identify holidays and other exceptions to the course days and hours of meeting time.  Knowing who schedules classrooms can be important, especially if the special technology is required to facilitate the course materials adequately.  If laboratories, huddle rooms, speakerphones, smartboards, or other resources are required, the faculty should discuss these requests during his on-boarding training.  Getting off to a strong start with the institution will position the adjunct faculty to earn the reputation and brand as a reliable “go-to person.”

Becoming a “Go-To” Person

Flexibility can be demonstrated by the faculty in a myriad of ways, including the willingness to teach at multiple sites, as many schools maintain the main campus, which may be augmented with one or more satellite learning sites.  Traveling to distant locations, and teaching online courses, can lead to engagements at the main campus.  Furthermore, teaching evenings and weekends can help the adjunct faculty earn the desired reputation as a reliable go-to team player, and over time, may be in a position for more desirable assignments.

Behaviors, styles, and teaching approaches can also influence how willing and how often a faculty is commissioned to teach within a designated program.  As the national trend is currently reflecting a decline of enrollment in college courses, institutions are making more of a priority in engaging and sustaining student enrollment census.  Therefore, the faculty who demonstrates his ability to nurture student success will be selected to teach over the faculty who may be impatient and gruff with the students.

Earning the reputation as a “go-to” faculty member may take time. However, the benefits can last for several semesters and years.  Moreover, a “go-to” faculty will be poised to maximize earning rewards.

Technology … Explore, Embrace, and Utilize

Faculty who are intimidated by or refuse to embrace technology in support of their classroom teaching will severely hamper their employment at the college or university.  This is especially profound as today’s college students are the most familiar and comfortable using technology in every facet of their lives, including their college learning experience.  College students expect push-button access to electronic textbooks, electronic library services, electronic Internet resources, electronic writing and math tutors, text messaging, faculty with virtual office hours, instant communication and feedback, social media access, voice, data and video connectivity, and all from any place and available at all times (24X7).  The faculty who is unwilling to answer these technological challenges will suffer classroom extinction. The faculty should equip the home office with all necessary technologies, including the embrace of contingency or backup systems to be always available to students, fellow faculty, and hiring managers.

Team Player and Individual Gain

Faculty can contribute to team success in a variety of other ways other than teaching courses in the classroom.  For example, many times faculty possess specific skills and practical experiences, which enable their ability to develop new courses and program offerings.  This combination can accelerate the introduction of new offerings, which lead to the attraction and enrollment of new students into the institution.  Moreover, new and different program offerings can also lead to new and different career tracks for the students.

Faculty can be instrumental in the identification and recruitment of new students into a college or university.  Having the faculty involved in recruitment events, such as addressing potential students and/or conducting a question and answer seminar with the potential new students can go a long way to reducing student anxiety, building their confidence, impressing them towards a specific area of study, and attracting the student to the school or program of study.

Faculty can contribute to team success by agreeing to sit upon or to chair a program or discipline committee.  It is a common practice that a college or institution will have established a community-based committee, whose overall mission is to guide the most current curriculum of the programs being offered by the school.

Many adjunct faculty have compiled extensive experience in their designated field, including the compilation of a network of contacts within the industries in which they work.  The faculty can contribute to the school’s success through their willingness to tap into their contact network and to help counsel and place graduating students into professional positions, either through internships, temporary or full-time job positions.

The faculty can add to the team by providing skill seminars such as how best to conduct scholarly research.  Alternatively, how to write in an academic manner, and to specific formatting guidelines such as those prescribed by the American Psychological Association (APA).  The faculty can also engage in student presentations, either as an interested and impartial judge in student events, and/or as a mentor providing guidance and constructive critique.  Additionally, the faculty can pay tribute to the students by attending each graduation ceremony.

Finally, the faculty can add to the scholarship and body of knowledge resident within the college or university through the publication of journal articles, books, programs, and other artifacts that are released in affiliation with the designated institution.

Going “above and beyond” the call of duty can position the adjunct to forge long-lasting relationships with the colleges and universities.

Exceeding Expectations Above and Beyond

In order to stand out from the competition, the adjunct faculty must go above and beyond the call of duty, in order to differentiate oneself from all other faculty who are also vying for courses, and to create a “value proposition”, or a strong reason why this person should be selected to teach a course over all others.

Their initial advice is to ensure there is never a reason for a hiring manager (e.g., Dean, Program Chair, Academic Scheduler, etc.) NOT to want to hire the faculty.  In other words, the adjunct faculty must work doubly hard to exceed all expectations on the basic fundamentals of faculty responsibility, including reporting student attendance BEFORE it is required, submitting grades BEFORE the imposed deadlines, and answering student concerns and appeals fairly while making every effort to resolve issues before they become escalated to other university personnel.  After all, a school Dean often has many other irons in the fire, and need not become entangled with an irate or dissatisfied student customer.  Once again, maintaining a stellar reputation is paramount to having an institution WANT to hire you on a regular basis.

Faculty should also provide exceptional service to the students, at all times.  Course syllabi should be clear to the students, as they set the expectations throughout the course.  Faculty should prepare each lesson, and demonstrate such planning by having an agenda for each course session, combined with learning goals and objectives.  Faculty must remain flexible, and realize that life sometimes does get in the way of students’ academic success, and during those times, the students may need to be provided added assistance.

Each course session should be a positive learning experience for the students.  The students’ learning can be fun, but it is up to the faculty to make it a fun experience for the students.  Mixing lectures with hands-on demonstrations, student projects, outside speakers, practical examples, and field trips may be a great start to creating such a positive experience.  The faculty should strive to create a classroom environment in which the students WANT to attend each class session.  By doing so, the adjunct should give a reason for every student within his class to march into the dean’s office and demand that their instructor is hired over and over to teach future courses within their program.  Student-end-of-course surveys will also rise by following these suggestions, which is a quantitative measurement often examined by the hiring managers of adjunct faculty within colleges and universities.

Previously stated were the benefits of joining committees, attending graduation ceremonies, helping to develop courses, providing tutoring, remedial training sessions, and workshops to students and staff.  Faculty can also demonstrate their commitment to the school and program by becoming a “cheerleader” and a “spokesperson” representative for the school by promoting its good name to potential new students.

Faculty must make students comfortable knowing they are approachable, as well as available to help in their learning journey.  For example, when hired as an adjunct faculty, it is suggested that before each class session, the faculty not “hide” from the students by working in an enclosed office.  Instead, the adjunct faculty should make it a routine to sit in the cafeteria, student lounge, the assigned classroom, or another open area so that the students become accustomed to being able to dialogue and get to know their faculty on a professional basis outside of the formal classroom setting.

Continuous Personal Improvement

Institutions must ensure all faculty is updating course materials in ways that align curriculum with the needs of the industries in which students are preparing to enter.  Committee input and guidance that includes panel membership working in specific industries is one such method of designing relevant-based programs.  Working with book publishers, such as Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Cengage, which offer a full array of the most current textbook product offerings can also contribute to modern theories, concepts, examples, and learning methodologies.  Moreover, as more colleges are embracing virtual classrooms and electronically-mediated communications, the faculty must be prepared to lead the classroom learning experiences, by becoming an expert in the use of such technologies.

Some academic disciplines have “built in” mandates, in which professionals remain current if they are to practice or teach in their area of expertise.  For example, the attorney who seeks to continue practicing law while teaching law courses in either a business school or law school will have to satisfy the annual continuing education (CE) requirements mandated by the governance boards of one’s license.  Additionally, the accountant who holds the status of Certified Public Accountant (CPA) must also maintain his or her license by completing the required CE credits.

Associations are supporting each of the major disciplines existing in today’s colleges and universities all over the world.  Many of these specialties open their membership to faculty, either on a fee-basis, or pro-gratis. Furthermore, it is quite common for the association to conduct periodic or annual conventions, workshops, and seminars, in which the membership is invited to present new and exciting research in their disciplines, and/or to participate in committees dedicated to furthering the study and legitimacy of that subject.  Participating in seminars and conventions is a great way for the adjunct and full-time faculty to update their area of expertise through the exposure of what is new in that discipline.

Attending faculty meetings on a regular basis is another avenue for the adjunct faculty to learn of the revisions to program changes, curriculum updates, specific course modifications, and other college policies and procedures.  Furthermore, the adjunct can learn directly by forming a relationship with the full-time faculty who serves as the course manager, and thus holds responsibility for the course contents, course learning objectives, and the capture of accreditation statistics.

Subscriptions to popular magazines, scholarly journals, social media and news feeds, and user groups and blogs can also add greatly to the faculty learning experience.  The adjunct should encourage students never to lose their enthusiasm for learning, and faculty can model the way by adopting the same practice and philosophy.

One of the benefits of working for colleges and universities may be realized in the form of being able to enroll in courses at a discounted rate.  In reality, some schools offer their employees a total waiver of the tuition cost, depending on position and tenure of the employee. The adjunct should jump on the opportunity to expand his or her knowledge base by attending such courses.  Such experiences can introduce the faculty to new ideas, new research, new experiences, and new ways of teaching and learning.  These exposures can then enable the faculty to emulate “best practices” within each classroom.

Becoming an Effective Teacher

Natasha Walizer writes in the Huffington Post, “a teacher is the one who listens to the “strange” boy talk about his fascination with dragons and [SIC does} not judge.”  She continues, “A teacher believes there are no bad students, just challenging ones.”  “A teacher will question and teach her students how to question.” “A teacher can take criticism from students.  A teacher will stay up until midnight to change the next day’s lesson plans because the students said they needed to be taught in a different way than previously taught.” “A teacher can never leave his work at the office.”  “A teacher teaches students, not a subject matter.”  “A teacher never gives up.” (Huffington Post, July 1, 2014).

Teaching is not only an art; but it is also a science that requires total commitment to self-improvement. It was not enough to go into a classroom, put on a “show” and share course concepts. Faculty need to understand the nuts and bolts of learning and teaching.

Like any business, continuous adjustments and changes must be considered so that the adjunct faculty’s operations can continue to expand and grow in alignment with his or her teaching aspirations.  One should proceed aggressively, but with the realization that sometimes the best-laid plans require adjustment due to life happening.

Life Happens

Low enrollment census can force a college to discontinue course or program offerings.  Likewise, scheduling changes can create a last-minute conflict for the adjunct faculty, which may cause one to cancel teaching commitments made to other schools.

In most schools, the full-time faculty is under contract to teach a prescribed number of credit hours in a semester (or school year) basis.  Whether the full-time faculty’s initial course selections were dropped from the schedule or one’s preferences change, it is a common practice for the full-time faculty to bump the adjunct faculty from the specific course or courses the adjunct expected and planned to teach.  The adjunct must remain flexible, and not take offense to the realities of the situation. The staffing official is merely performing his or her job, and it not intentionally “shafting” you.

Faculty may become perceived as stale and obsolete in his teaching lessons, style, and methodologies.  As indicated and suggested previously, running any business requires continuous improvement, and the adjunct should invest in his or her future in every way possible to avoid such obsolescence.  Continuous improvement will sustain the value one brings into the classroom for the school and the students.

Like a fine-tuned machine, adjusting to adversity in one’s profession will enable the ability to enjoy the fruits of labor for years to come.

Enjoying the Fruits

One’s work is going to fill a large part of one’s life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. (Steve Jobs, Stanford University Commencement Address, June 12, 2005)

The faculty must come across to students as enjoying the experience, which will thus create a pleasant classroom and learning environment.

A faculty who encourages full participation-facilitated discussions, and a healthy exchange of scholarly ideas, debate, and discourse, stands the opportunity to learn as much from students, as the students may learn from the faculty’s teaching.  Teaching college students can be a fun and interesting way for the faculty to acquire new technologies, new ideologies, and new methodologies, which can help to bolster that faculty’s practical value in the classroom.  Furthermore, learning from one’s students can contribute to keeping the faculty thinking young.

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