What Colleges Should Do When They Hire New Adjuncts

And What New Adjuncts Should do if Colleges Don’t do It

When a new term is approaching college administrators may need to scramble to staff all of their courses.  This provides excellent employment opportunities for those seeking their first college teaching job.  However, if you are one of them, and you are not careful, it could be your last teaching assignment in higher education.

Why Colleges Hire Adjuncts on Short Notice

Enrollments are up at many colleges.  Most of the community colleges in my area have seen an increase of more than 10 percent each of the last two years.  In response, colleges add new course sections, but these are seldom taught be full-time faculty, at least not in the short term.  It is not uncommon for colleges to hire adjuncts to teach more than half their course sections.

The courses that seem to be most in demand are general education courses in areas like English, mathematics, science, arts and humanities.  These are the courses that usually require a master’s degree, but not even a Ph.D. will automatically translate to success in the classroom.

Advice for Hiring New College Adjuncts

As the start of another school year rapidly approaches, college administrators confront the employment challenge of filling unstaffed courses.  This often requires hiring new adjuncts on short notice, sometimes leaving them just a few days to prepare for their first class.  As a result, some new instructors are set up for failure.  Here are some pieces of advice I would offer those who are new to this last minute hiring frenzy, especially when they are considering candidates with no prior higher education teaching experience:

  • Explain to candidates the amount of time and effort that is required to successfully prepare to teach a new course, and ask yourself if they realistically are willing and able to put in that effort.
  • Emphasize the importance of being prepared and organized.
  • Identify the pitfalls that have challenged new faculty at your institution, and make them aware of what they should do to avoid them.
  • Provide them with sample syllabi, and have them submit their syllabi for you to review prior to the first class.
  • Give them sample lesson plans that illustrate methods to engage students, create rich learning experiences, and avoid the “sage on the stage” syndrome.
  • Encourage them to have their students complete one-minute papers.
  • Follow up with them after the first week, keeping in mind that much like their students, many of them will not come to you to ask for help.  In some cases they won’t even know they need help.

Advice for New College Adjuncts

Think about my advice for those who are hiring you.  If you don’t have the time to prepare don’t accept the assignment.  You would be setting yourself up for failure.  And if you are not provided with the information and resources you need, ask for them.  It is not a sign of weakness.

Also, know that some students are much more likely to complain to your dean or department chair than voice their concerns directly to you.  Therefore, have your students complete one-minute papers so you won’t be blindsided by students who are afraid to share their issues directly with you.

Want one more piece of advice?  No?  Well, here it is anyway.  Read my prior articles.  🙂

© 2010 Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

Posted August 1, 2010

About Dr. Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

My name is Paul Hummel, and I often introduce myself to others as a recovering engineer. If you are familiar with the Dilbert cartoons, let me simply say that I lived all of that. I started my college saga at Illinois Institute of Technology. Eventually, I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management. I worked for many years in industry, and during this time I did some college adjunct teaching. During my career I held several managerial positions in industry, the last as Director of Technology of a division of a Fortune 500 corporation. Then, in 1996, with minimal planning or forethought, I found myself working as a manufacturing consultant on behalf of Elgin Community College (ECC). My career in higher education began to take shape. I fell in love with ECC and with the mission of community colleges in general. I worked fulltime and occasionally taught college courses for my institution and two other colleges. After a couple years I set a goal to move over to the “credit side of the college” and eventually become a college administrator. In 2006, having earned my doctorate in education, I achieved that goal. I was hired by Waubonsee Community College as Dean for Technology, Mathematics and Physical Sciences. I have had the great fortune of working at two excellent colleges. The insights I want to share are drawn from the various college positions I have held. At ECC, in addition to my consulting role, I coordinated non-credit professional development training programs for three years and spent four years advising students in the TRiO Student Support Services program. That position helped me understand college education from the perspective of today’s college students. After seven years at Waubonsee, I retired April 30, 2013. I now devote my knowledge and skills to upgrading and expanding the websites I created beginning with Adjunct Assistance. I have three other websites: College Teaching Tips, Keys for College Success and Lighthouse for Learning. A lot of work lies ahead for me in terms of upgrading and expanding each of these websites, but I could not be more excited about fulfilling the vision I have for helping college instructors and their students succeed.

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