Category Archives: Research Study

Evaluation of adjunct faculty in higher education institutions

Langen, J. M. (2011). Evaluation of adjunct faculty in higher education institutions. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 36(2), 185-196. doi:10.1080/02602930903221501

In this study Langen looks at how adjunct faculty are often evaluated through a strategic analysis project involving 155 responses (of 750 surveys sent, a reasonable 21% response rate) to college administrators in the Michigan system.  Her data shows that there are a wide number of evaluation practices for adjuncts and that many of them do not parallel that of full-time faculty.  One of the important factors in professional development for adjunct faculty (and any other group) is that of evaluation.  This report shows the disparity between institutions when applying evaluation practices.

Adjunct versus full-time faculty: Comparison of student outcomes in the online classroom

Mueller, B., Mandernach, B. J., & Sanderson, K. (2013). Adjunct versus full-time faculty: Comparison of student outcomes in the online classroom. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(3) Retrieved from

This study conducted at Grand Canyon University looks at the belief that adjuncts are less effective teachers than the traditional full-time faculty member.  The unique component of this research is that the study looks at one online course that has standardized content, activities, and assessment.  The components that can be personalized by the instructors are inclusion of supplemental course content; interaction with students; and nature of feedback.  For this one institution and this one class they did discover that students tended to successfully complete the course; were less likely to withdraw from the course; and had a higher mean average course grade in their next course; and a higher rate of both continued enrollment and end-of-course satisfaction.  The authors go on to discuss some of the issues that might contribute to these results.  These include a lack of access to training/professional development; lack of a community of practice; and lack of access to resources such as administrative and technical support. Recommendations include: fostering an integrated faculty body; targeted faculty development programming; better communication; and examining existing policies in the light of increased adjunct faculty usage by institutions.

Making a match: Aligning audience, goals, and content in online adjunct training

Shattuck, J., & Anderson, T. (2013). Making a match: Aligning audience, goals, and content in online adjunct training. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 16(3).

This article looks at alums of the MarylandOnline project’s Certificate for Online Adjunct Teaching (COAT).  The research was conducted to answer three questions – what were COAT alumni’s primary work situations; did COAT alumni teach online and did completing COAT influence that; and why alumni took the COAT course.  The focus of the study was to determine whether the participants aligned with the initial target audience of Maryland adjuncts.  The researchers found that almost half of the participants were not adjuncts (the target audience).  The creators of the course believed it to be designed and marketed for novice online instructors.  Again, this was not borne out by the research as half of the respondents to the survey had taught online prior to COAT.  Even nonteaching professional found the COAT useful in understanding the needs of online faculty training and managing online programs.  The authors developed a list of training strategies based on what they learned from this research.

Inclusion of part-time faculty for the benefit of faculty and students

Meixner, C., & Kruck, S. E. (2010). Inclusion of part-time faculty for the benefit of faculty and students. College Teaching, 58(4), 141-147.

One of a small number of studies conducted within a four-year institution looking at the experiences of part-time faculty.  This study looked at quantitative and qualitative data gathered from 85 participants serving at a mid-sized, primarily undergraduate public college.  Topics that evolved were grouped under three major themes of: receiving outreach, navigating challenges, and developing skills.  The recommendations offered may be transferable to other settings and are reasonable in nature.

Expectations, motivations, and barriers to professional development

Dailey-Hebert, A., Norris, V. R., Mandernach, B. J., & Donnelli-Sallee, E. (2014). Expectations, motivations, and barriers to professional development: Perspectives from adjunct instructors teaching online. The Journal of Faculty Development, 28(1), 67-82.

This study of 649 online adjuncts in a university system investigated the perceptions about the value, relevance, and utility of various types of faculty development programming. Using a Likert rating scale the authors targeted personal demographic questions such as age, ethinicity, and comfort with computers.  Faculty preferences for the for­mat of faculty development programming were examined and perceived value of professional development programming was assessed.  Findings included online adjuncts seek regular, but limited opportunities for professional development; attendance is often driven by format, topic, and timing.  Motivators were grouped into intrinsic and extrinsic, and not surprisingly, monetary compensation was second on the list.  Intrinsic motivators, such as personal growth accounted for four of the top six motivating factors.  The authors noted various limitations to the study that would be useful for those attempting to replicate it.

A portrait of part-time faculty members

Coalition on the Academic Workforce. (2012). A portrait of part-time faculty members [electronic resource] : A summary of findings on part-time faculty respondents to the coalition on the academic workforce survey of contingent faculty members and instructors. Retrieved from

This report looks at demographics, compensations & benefits, and professional support of over 19,000 survey respondents.  Much of the qualitative data was gleaned from the over 30,000 responses to two open-ended comments.  The report found that a higher percentage of women and a lower percentage of minority provided information as compared to the distribution shown in the 2009 NCES data.  The data also raises questions about the belief that part-time faculty are either young, up and coming faculty or those teaching in a second, part-time career as more than 70% were in their prime earning years (ages 36 – 65).  Community colleges and master’s institutions were where the most courses were taught.  Additional demographic areas of questioning include length of service, desire for full-time work and teaching load.  The section on compensation and benefits held no surprises, pay is low, with unionized institutions paying slightly better.  There is little variation by gender, but significant variation by race or ethnicity.  Institutional support was also investigated and found to “paint a dismal picture”, showing that there is little support for part-time faculty.  The tables appended to the report and the notes and works cited are valuable components of this work.

Adjunct faculty morale and faculty development

Colasanti, L. M. (1991). Adjunct faculty morale and faculty development. Burlington, VT: Burlington College, VT. Retrieved from

This 1991 FIPSE grant report details how the administration at a small (200 students), all-adjunct faculty, college investigated morale and development among the adjunct faculty and developed a program to improve both. Using a series of ten interdisciplinary seminars to bring together 32 faculty to discuss issues in teaching and learning across the curriculum.  In addition, 53 faculty were given a questionnaire asking them to rate on both the importance and satisfaction they had with 41 different items. The research identified areas of faculty morale and development that could be improved.  Just as importantly they identified where the gaps between faculty expectations and satisfaction were. The resultant changes in the institution’s support for their faculty and faculty development have proven beneficial.

Online human touch (OHT) training & support

Betts, K. (2009). Online human touch (OHT) training & support: A conceptual framework to increase faculty and adjunct faculty engagement, connectivity, and retention in online education, part 2. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 5(1), 29.

In describing how Drexel University’s Master of Science in Higher Education (MSHE) Program in the School of Education realized a student retention rate of 83% and a three-year faculty retention rate of 93% Betts outlines the conceptual framework for Online Human Touch (OHT).  Initially developed to increase student engagement and satisfaction, the concept has been developed to  engage, connect, and retain online full-time and part-time faculty. A brief review of the literature reveals that attrition rates are often as high as 70%-80% for online programs for students.  Studies are lacking pertaining to the attrition rates of faculty and even fewer studies look at full-time vs. part-time or online vs on-campus programs.  The article details, in quite detail, the components of OHT and how it was implemented at Drexel University.  Components discussed include faculty engagement, community development, personalized communication, faculty development, data driven decision-making. The OHT premise is that beginning with the recruitment and hiring process and continuing throughout their teaching careers online faculty realize they are part of a larger team and experience the support needed through extensive online communities. Comparative data between online and on-campus programs do not exist because an on-campus program for MSHE does not exist.

American academic: A national survey of part-time/Adjunct faculty

AFT Higher Education. (2010). American academic: A national survey of part-time/Adjunct faculty. volume 2. Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers. Retrieved from

This 2010 telephone survey of part-time/adjunct faculty conducted by Hart Research Associates on behalf of AFT looked at 500 part-time and adjunct faculty members.  Participants were currently employed as part-time/adjuncts in either a 2-year or 4-year institution (public and private, union and non-union).  Some respondents held full-time positions at other institutions, or outside of higher education.  One notable group not included in this survey were the part-time/adjunct faculty for graduate studies. The survey looks at areas such as attitudes towards part-time teaching; preference for full-time over part-time work; job conditions, including compensation, benefits, work-loads, and support; and motivational aspects such as professional support and advancement opportunities.  Demographically the survey looked at the type of institution; type of employment (teaching jobs or non-teaching jobs outside of the adjunct position); and factors such as sex, seniority, race, and income. While most percentages are well within the realm of expectation, the overwhelming number of respondents that identified as white non-Hispanics (84%) does not speak well to the hiring of a racially diverse teaching force.