Response to 2005 Recommendation Two

The second major recommendation of the Northwest Commission concerns part-time and adjunct faculty. This recommendation has two parts. The first is formalizing and implementing a policy for evaluating adjunct faculty. The second is enhancing the mentoring and professional development of adjunct faculty. WSU’s response addressed both aspects of the recommendation. It is important to note that while WSU utilizes approximately 439 adjunct faculty, only 4 part-time faculty are presently employed. For the remainder of this report, the term “adjunct faculty” will be used to describe both adjunct and part-time faculty, and all the actions taken are relevant for both adjunct and part-time faculty.

I. Background

After the Northwest visit, WSU formed an Adjunct Faculty Task Force that met throughout the 2004-05 academic year. The Task Force solicited input from department chairs and college deans as well as making recommendations themselves. The recommendations that have been implemented are discussed below.

II. Formalizing an Evaluation Policy for Adjunct Faculty

In response to the observation that, “Evaluation of part-time faculty is not governed by university-wide policy.” The 2005 recommendation of the NWCCU was to develop “clearly articulated policies” for this evaluation. WSU policy 1-18 was amended to expand department chairs’ duties to include both the evaluation of adjunct faculty and the professional development of adjunct faculty.

The department chair, in conjunction with program coordinators where appropriate, shall...
...VII. Oversee the recruitment, hiring, ongoing professional development and regular evaluation of staff and adjunct faculty, contract faculty, and tenure-track faculty.

Our next step was to monitor the effectiveness of this policy change. In preparation for the 2004 Self-Study Report, a survey was administered to full-time and part-time faculty. The results of this survey indicate that 58 percent of WSU’s adjunct faculty felt they were evaluated on an ongoing basis. A similar question was posed to adjunct faculty in January 2007. Responses to the 2007 survey indicate that 70.4 percent of the adjunct faculty felt they were evaluated on a regular basis.

III. The Mentoring and Professional Development of Adjunct Faculty

In response to NWCCU’s recommendation, WSU has significantly expanded professional development opportunities for adjunct faculty. As with the assessment, WSU policy 1-18 was amended to clarify that the primary responsibility for this role lies with the department for which the adjunct is teaching.

The department chair, in conjunction with program coordinators where appropriate, shall...

...XII. Foster good teaching within the department, encourage faculty to be involved in scholarly activities, promote faculty involvement in service to the institution and/or profession, and assist regular and adjunct faculty in their professional development.

IV. Departmental Mentoring and Professional Development

The rationale for approaching mentoring of adjuncts as a departmental responsibility was driven by the patterns of adjunct employment at the university. At WSU two-thirds of all adjunct faculty are employed in 12 departments. The English Department uses the largest number of adjunct faculty and the support the English Department provides for adjunct faculty is being used as a model for other programs:

  • There is a department Handbook for all English adjunct instructors, most of whom teach composition.
  • In August of every year, all English adjuncts are required to attend a day-long orientation session. The orientation is conducted like a mini-conference. There is an informational session at the beginning followed by a series of breakout groups on a variety of topics, all of which discussions are facilitated by adjuncts and for adjuncts.
  • Each semester, the English Department offers three adjunct “workshops.”
  • Adjunct Handbook materials, textbook lists, program information, syllabus archives and contact information are online at: http://www.weber.edu/composition/instructor.

The Communication Department also uses a large number of adjunct faculty and has put a similar program of support in place:

  • A full-time faculty member is designated as coordinator of the adjunct faculty. In that capacity, the coordinator makes an effort to visit each instructor's classroom once during the semester to ensure that things are going well and to offer any needed assistance.
  • All adjuncts are given a copy of the Communication Department’s minimum requirements for each course, sample course syllabi, handouts, packet materials, and sample test questions.
  • Most Communication adjunct faculty teach Communication 2110. These adjunct faculty must train for one semester prior to being hired. The training consists of attending the 2110 course with an approved instructor for the purpose of becoming aware of content information and observing teaching and instructional strategies. They also assist in teaching and assessment in the course and their teaching abilities are observed by the approved faculty member. These adjunct faculty are also required to attend a day-long fall meeting just prior to fall semester.

All departments with significant numbers of adjuncts are implementing similar support. For those departments using a smaller number of adjunct faculty, we recognize that a smaller range of professional development opportunities may be provided at the department level, consequently, additional support is provided at the university level.

V. University-Wide Adjunct Faculty Professional Development

Professional Development Retreat

One of the most important university-wide efforts is a series of day-long, professional development retreats for adjunct faculty. Assisted by the Teaching and Learning Forum, WSU has instituted ongoing retreats that focus on enhancing teaching skills and successfully using campus resources.

Each of the retreats has been attended by approximately half of the 480 adjuncts. The instruction has been offered by the president, vice presidents, deans and senior departmental faculty. Adjunct faculty evaluations of the retreats have been overwhelmingly positive. Comments taken from the evaluations indicate that:

  • The vast majority found the workshops and seminars provided to be very useful.
  • They thought the retreat demonstrated that WSU values adjunct faculty.
  • The retreat served to motivate them and increase their excitement about teaching.
  • The retreat helped to foster a sense of community among adjunct faculty, full-time faculty and administrators.

Seminars on Instructional Design

The retreat format has been expanded to include a series of two-hour per week seminars for a period of eight weeks that focus on instructional design. The response has been so positive to this training that the available seats have been doubled to accommodate demand.

Adjunct Faculty Research Awards

Adjunct faculty research awards have been developed and awarded with funding from the same donor that provides similar awards for the Online Resources for Adjunct Faculty.

Adjunct Faculty Websites

Because adjunct faculty spend a limited amount of time on campus, the Adjunct Faculty Task Force recommended providing focused and specific information for them via the Internet. An Adjunct Faculty Web site directs adjunct faculty on negotiating the physical campuses and locating useful resources.

Taken together, we believe the actions detailed in this report demonstrate meaningful progress toward addressing the recommendations of the Northwest Commission. Further, mechanisms are in place to insure continued improvement and compliance with the Northwest accreditation standards.