ERIC Identifier: ED477910
Publication Date: 2002-11-00
Author: Carducci, Rozana
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Community Colleges Los Angeles CA.
Understanding Faculty: A Step Toward Improving Professional Development Programs. ERIC Digest.
A study by Huber states that "community college faculty constitute 31% of all
U.S. higher education faculty, teaching 39% of all higher education students and
46% of all first-year students" (as cited in Editors notes, 2002, p. 1). Given
the strong presence of community college faculty in the academy, it is essential
that colleges develop institutional programs and policies that enhance community
college teaching and learning. To be effective, these programs need to take into
account the differing backgrounds, perspectives, and goals of community college
This Digest, drawn from "Community College Faculty: Characteristics,
Practices, and Challenges"(New Directions for Community Colleges, Summer 2002),
summarizes research findings on the similarities and differences among community
college faculty groups and concludes with a discussion of how this information
can be used to increase the relevance and effectiveness of faculty development
initiatives. The research findings of this NDCC are drawn from the Center for
the Study of Community Colleges' 2000 National Faculty Survey and the 1993 and
1999 National Survey of Post-secondary Faculty.
A COMPARISON OF PART-TIME AND FULL-TIME FACULTY
to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 65% of faculty at
public two-year colleges were part-time in 1995 (as cited in Leslie and Gappa,
2002). Given the large size of this community college faculty sub-group, it is
useful to determine if there are significant differences between full- and
part-time faculty with respect to instructional practices, student
relationships, and professional development needs. If differences exist, this
information may assist community college administrators in designing orientation
and professional development programs that meet the distinct needs of both full-
and part-time faculty.
Analyses of data collected in two national studies of community college
faculty reveal a number of shared characteristics between full- and part-time
faculty. Leslie and Gappa (2002) and Schuetz (2002) summarize these findings.
Schuetz notes that both faculty sub-groups indicate similar patterns of
instructional activities (43% lectures, 15% class discussions, and 11% for
quizzes and examinations) and both groups express a desire to participate in
professional development opportunities within the next five years (83% of
full-time faculty and 76% of part-time). On a related note, Leslie and Gappa
report no statistical difference between full- and part-time faculty with
respect to professional development reading. They also cite research results
that indicate there is no difference between part- and full-time faculty
members' rating of their "working environment in general" and their relatively
high levels of job satisfaction (85% of part-time and 84% of full-time faculty).
These findings support Leslie and Gappa's assertion that "part-timers in
community colleges look more like full-time faculty than is sometimes assumed."
(p. 65). In addition, the research highlights both full- and part-time faculty
interest in development programs that enhance their professional knowledge base
and instructional effectiveness.
Schuetz (2002) and Leslie and Gappa (2002) did uncover several noteworthy
distinctions between full- and part-time faculty. Both studies cite findings
from a 2000 Center for the Study of Community Colleges faculty survey, which
indicate that part-time faculty were less likely than their full-time
counterparts to have engaged in the following instructional or professional
Revised a course syllabus within last three years (88% vs. 97%)
Prepared a multi-media presentation for class (42% vs. 53%)
Co-taught a class with someone from outside their department (15% vs. 24%)
Developed extracurricular activities for students related to their fields (60%
Attended a professional conference in the last three years (67% vs. 89%)
Received an award for outstanding teaching (24% vs. 39%)
Schuetz (2002) identifies a few additional differences with respect to full-
and part-time faculty participation in professional development activities.
Full-time faculty are more likely to have joined national or regional
nondisciplinary organizations (46% vs. 26%), disciplinary organizations (52%
vs.32%), and community-college specific organizations (22% vs. 13%). Full-time
faculty were also more likely to have attended professional organization
meetings (22% vs. 13%). One of the implications for these findings, according to
Schuetz is that, "this relative lack of interaction with professional colleagues
may put part-timers at a disadvantage with respect to enhancing their
instructional practices over time" (p. 43).
While these findings do help to illustrate differences between part- and
full-time community college faculty behaviors, Leslie and Gappa (2002) caution
readers against the inclination to employ these findings as evidence that
part-time faculty are less dedicated and competent than their full-time
colleagues. They point out that many of these differences could be attributed to
institutional policies that mitigate against part-time faculty participation
(e.g., no institutional funds for professional association memberships or
An analysis of community college
faculty practices by academic discipline also reveals a number of commonalities
and differences. Palmer (2002) asserts that, given the disciplinary structure of
higher education, "it is reasonable to expect that faculty work will vary across
academic fields" (p. 9). Drawing upon data collected in the 1999 National Survey
of Post-Secondary Faculty (NSOPF-99), Palmer identified disciplinary variation
along four lines: 1) academic and employment histories; 2) approaches to
instruction; 3) methods used to access student work; and 4) scholarship outside
of teaching. This Digest summarizes Palmer's findings in two of the four
dimensions, given their relevance to a subsequent discussion of professional
development programs as a means of improving community college instruction.
In an examination of instructional strategies, 88% of all faculty report that
their primary method of instruction is lecture/discussion. Disciplinary
differences emerge when it comes to the use of distance learning technologies
(nearly one-third of engineering and computer science faculty utilize this
technology) and the use of labs, clinics, or problem sessions (humanities,
mathematics, and the sciences report significantly lower use in comparison to
vocational disciplines). Mathematics and science faculty demonstrate two
important differences in their attitudes towards assessment of student work.
Compared with their colleagues in the humanities, education, health sciences,
business, and social sciences disciplines, faculty in the math and physical
sciences are less likely to require term papers and less likely to utilize peer
evaluations as a form of student assessment.
Palmer asserts that recognizing disciplinary variations among community
college faculty "counters the tendency to discuss the community college
enterprise as a homogenous culture, thus guarding against the naive application
of faculty development programs that press the same instructional nostrums
across disciplines" (p. 18). Given the documented existence of disciplinary
differences with respect to instructional practices, it appears appropriate and
desirable to create faculty development programs that focus on
disciplinary-specific strategies for improving community college teaching.
COMMUNITY COLLEGE FACULTY DEVELOPMENT
Both Outcalt (2002)
and Murray (2002) emphasize the importance of faculty development initiatives as
a means of fostering community, increasing the professionalism of faculty, and
imparting the skills and knowledge necessary to address the growing diversity of
student demographics, learning styles, and goals. According to Outcalt, "Administrators would do well to create professional development programs meant
to bring faculty together in interaction with one another. These programs,
particularly if they are oriented toward improving instructional abilities,
would benefit not just the faculty but their students" (p. 113).
In an overview of community college faculty development programs, Murray
cites three related themes that diminish program effectiveness: 1) few community
colleges link faculty development programs to the community college mission; 2)
few colleges have formalized evaluation plans and criteria; and 3) minimal
faculty participation. Community college faculty are not eager to participate in
development programs that they perceive to be irrelevant, inefficient, and
One strategy for increasing participation in professional development
initiatives is to recognize the heterogeneity of community college faculty and
create individualized programs tailored to the unique needs and interests of
distinct sub-groups. For example, an in-service opportunity on collaborative
instructional strategies should be targeted toward part-time faculty who
demonstrate a lower tendency to co-teach courses or utilize collaborative
techniques in the classroom (Shuetz, 2002). A program on distance learning
technology might be most effective if geared toward faculty in the humanities
and social sciences, given that these two disciplines have been slow to
incorporate distance learning in their curricula (Palmer, 2002).
An exploration of research data pertaining to
community college faculty demographics, attitudes, curriculum and instruction
practices, job satisfaction and professional development activities will assist
in the creation of a more accurate portrait of the community college
professorate and provide educators and administrators with the knowledge
necessary to design programs that will facilitate the improvement of community
college instruction and learning. One of the most damaging myths concerning
community college faculty is the perception that they are a homogenous group of
individuals with similar backgrounds, attitudes, and aspirations. A "one
size-fits-all" approach to faculty development initiatives ignores the unique
challenges, needs, and goals found among community college faculty. While the
research presented in this Digest does confirm the existence of several common
faculty characteristics, of greater importance is the recognition of differences
and unique qualities based on membership in distinct community college
sub-cultures. Recognition of these similarities and differences, and the
utilization of this information to inform faculty development programs, is a
critical step in the process of maximizing the educational potential of
Editor's Notes. (pp. 1-5).
Leslie, David W. and Judith M. Gappa. Part-Time Faculty Competent and
Committed. (pp. 59-67).
Murray, John P. The Current State of Faculty Development in Two-Year
Colleges. (pp. 89-97).
Outcalt, Charles L. Toward a Professionalized Community College
Professoriate. (pp. 109-115).
Palmer, James C. Disciplinary Variations in the Work of Full-Time Faculty
Members. (pp. 9-19).
Schuetz, Pam. Instructional Practices of Part-Time and Full-Time Faculty.