The 1st of 7 Principles of Good Teaching

Frequent Student-Faculty Contact


David Royse (2001) (see my References page) gives an especially good summary of Chickering and Gamson’s findings after many years of research into teaching and learning. Here are the seven principles as paraphrased by Royse:

  1. Frequent student-faculty contact;
  2. The encouragement of cooperation among students;
  3. Active learning techniques;
  4. Prompt feedback;
  5. Emphasize time on task;
  6. Communicating high expectations; and
  7. Respecting diverse talents and ways of learning.

One of the major complaints I hear from students is that their instructor has not responded to their emails or returned their phone calls.  Most adjuncts are not required to hold office hours, which only makes sense since most adjuncts don’t have offices.  Email and phone calls are often the only way students can contact you outside of class.

I “suggest” to adjuncts that checking their email anything less than three times a week is probably not frequent enough.  This garners a snicker from many.  It seems I have quite a few OCD adjuncts who confess they check their email more than three times a day.  Most of them make a serious attempt to arrive at school well before class and stay late to meet with students.  I have had a few who schedule meetings with students at other times.  A couple years ago, I had a statistics instructor who held “office hours” each weekend at the local Caribou Coffee shop.

My Advice

I tell my adjuncts exactly how often they need to check their email.  “Exactly,” I say, “often enough that your students never come to me to complain that you have not responded to their email.”  Adjuncts at my college also have a voice mail box.  I bet you can you guess how often I tell adjuncts to check their voice mail.

There are other ways to effectively communicate with your students.  At my college, every course has a course shell, which is accessible to students and their instructors through our portal.  Not all colleges provide this, but it does make for a good communication tool.  Several of my adjuncts set up a more elaborate online presence using Blackboard, and a few use social networking tools like Facebook.  I am not sure that these are as effective as email or phone calls when a student is in urgent need of assistance.  Nevertheless, these are all good ways to promote frequent student-faculty contact.

Additional Thoughts

The problem for many adjuncts is that they are so busy.  I know a few who teach courses at two or three colleges, sometimes totaling more than a full time load.  Many others have full time jobs.  Then too, adjuncts have busy private lives – family, church, hobbies, clubs, recreational activities, and maybe even their own schooling.

But wait.  What about students?  Aren’t many of them equally busy?  I know students who carry a full time load and work and have a family.  When was the last time you told a student how sorry you were that he didn’t have the time to complete his paper and then give him another week?  My guess is probably never, at least not without deducting from his grade.  So don’t expect your students to feel sorry for you with your busy schedule.  Don’t expect them to give you a week to answer a question or give them help with a problem. And never forget the GOLDEN RULE 🙂

© 2010 Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

Posted March 21, 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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