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ERIC Identifier: ED270180
Publication Date: 1986-07-00
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Junior Colleges Los Angeles CA.

Approaches to Staff Development for Part-Time Faculty. ERIC Digest.

The increased use of part-time faculty (who made up 42 percent of community college instructors in 1960 and 56 percent in 1984) has left in its wake a large literature on the problems posed by part-timers and on the need to address these problems through staff development programs. Williams (1985) presents a thorough review of this literature, noting several areas of concern: recruiting and hiring procedures that are more relaxed than those employed for full-time staff; the limited teaching expertise that part-timers bring to the classroom; the tendency of full-time staff to look down upon and alienate their part-time colleagues; and the unfavorable working conditions imposed by inadequate incentives for improved performance and by the limited access part-timers have to office and support services. The literature, he argues, tends to the conclusion that the "problems inherent in employing large numbers of part-timers . . . outweigh the advantages" and improved inservice activities are needed to ensure instructional quality (p. 38).

How have community colleges addressed this need? The following paragraphs discuss four approaches that have been used to provide staff development for part-timers. The first is based on a curriculum development model and focuses on the formation of in-service training programs. The second rests on peer support through a network of peer consultants. The third is a personnel management approach that combines hiring and orientation procedures with in-service training to maximize the productivity of part-time instructors. And the fourth draws upon theories of adult education to involve part-timers in identifying and solving the problems they face on the job.


In many cases, staff development is conceptualized as a set of in-service workshops and courses that complement the part-timer's subject expertise with pedagogical skills and background information about the community college. The staff development process, then, becomes one of designing a series of courses or workshops, administering those courses, and providing students (in this case part-time instructors) with support services. The steps in the process, outlined by Pedras (1985), include (1) assigning the administration of the staff development program to one person; (2) surveying part-time faculty to determine training needs; (3) using a prioritized listing of these needs to develop the training program and write course syllabi; (4) determining what format classes should take and specifying when, where, and how often they should be offered; (5) securing adequate funding; and (6) supplying necessary support services, such as a handbook for part-timers. Pedras cautions that program success depends largely on the degree to which part-timers themselves are involved in the planning process.

The instructional program for part-timers at Hinds Junior College (Mississippi) illustrates the curriculum development approach. Described by Rabalais and Perritt (1983), the program consists of four one-day modules through which part-time faculty progress over a period of four semesters. The first module is an introduction to the college itself and provides information on the college's programs, mission, students, instructional policies, and instructor evaluation procedures. The second module deals with testing, covering topics such as testing objectives, test construction, recommended practices in testing, and grading procedures. The third module covers the use of instructional media, including films, slides, and requisite equipment. Finally, the fourth module deals with students; it provides information on enrollment in various programs, student educational goals, and student ratings of instruction, grading, testing, and course content. The modules are developed and taught, respectively, by the academic dean, the instructional development officer, the director of the media center, and the dean of student affairs.


Another approach to staff development is the formation of peer support networks through which part-timers share experiences and help each other. When such networks are developed, instructors can turn to their peers for assistance in problems not covered in orientation sessions or in the established staff development curriculum. Furthermore, these networks can establish a rapport among instructors and alleviate the sense of alienation that part-timers often feel.

Vista College, a noncampus community college in California whose faculty consists primarily of part-timers, incorporates peer support as a major component of its faculty development program. Besides the provisions of orientation sessions, a faculty handbook, periodic newsletters, and annual seminars on teaching and learning, the college has organized a cadre of part-timers to serve as "peer faculty consultants on teaching and learning." The cadre includes part-timers who are competent in special pedagogical areas (such as curriculum development or testing) and who represent all of the college's major instructional areas. The consultants provide mini-seminars on teaching problems to peers within their own departments and have often been approached by individual faculty members for advice. Additional information on the administration and progress of the peer consultant program at Vista College is provided by Elioff (1983).


Some colleges approach faculty development through personnel management policies that not only cover the legalities of hiring and firing, but also promote instructional improvement. Since all faculty members are subject to the college's recruitment, hiring, and evaluation policies, it stands to reason that these policies should be developed with improved instruction in mind.

Parsons (1980) provides an example of the personnel management approach as it has been developed at Hagerstown Junior College (HJC) in Maryland. Staff development for part-timers at HJC has six components. The first is recruitment, which is formalized through a search committee that rigorously seeks out and screens potential part-timers; this assures that part-timers at HJC are not haphazardly selected. The second phase consists of orientation activities, including workshops, campus tours, and interview sessions that open communication links between new part-timers and administrators and full-time instructors. These communication links are fostered in the third staff development component, which consists of a weekly information bulletin for part-timers and the maintenance of an "evening duty calendar" that places administrators and counselors at the disposal of part-time instructors who teach in the evening. Support services make up the fourth component and are designed to assure the availability of office space, clerical assistance, and instructional materials and media. These support services are augmented in the fifth component by a series of instructional clinics that provide part-timers with information on such topics as competency-based module development, sex equity in instruction, and other pedagogical concerns. Finally, the staff development effort is capped off by an evaluation component. The first course taught by a part-timer is evaluated by students and administrators; the instructor is evaluated annually from then on. The HJC staff development program, in short, focuses all personnel management efforts on the selection, development, and evaluation of a nucleus of qualified part-time instructors.


Some colleges view staff development for part-timers as an adult education process. Part-timers, it is reasoned, become aware of instructional problems as they carry out their work; with this awareness, part-timers grow more receptive to staff development interventions. The task of the staff development officer, then, is to foster this awareness and receptiveness, thus harnessing (in the jargon of adult education) the part-timer's "teachable moments."

Heelan (1980) illustrates this adult education approach in her proposed staff development model for part-time instructors at North Hennepin Community College (Minnesota). The model is similar to the personnel management approach, in that it involves all aspects of the instructor's formal relationship with the college, including the pre-hiring interview, the development of the employment contract, orientation sessions, performance evaluation, and in-service professional development activities. Each of these personnel management activities, however, is designed to foster an awareness of the need for faculty development and improvement.

During the pre-hiring interview, for example, the prospective teacher may be asked to fill out a form soliciting information on the applicant's strengths and weaknesses as a teacher. The employment contract subsequently specifies the faculty member's obligation to participate in staff development activities, and subsequent orientation sessions require new hires to list their expectations and concerns. Evaluation efforts are diagnostic in nature and are designed to make instructors aware of potential problems. Finally, these problems, along with others identified in needs assessment surveys, are addressed in in-service activities. Heelan's proposed model, then, is based on the assumption that "adults attend a learning experience because they have become aware of an interest, a problem or a need within their own life." The model is also based on the belief that "Organizations, or the groups of people comprising them, seek growth or renewal or become amenable to change because they have a growing awareness of a need or a problem to be solved" (p. 51).


As the above paragraphs indicate, staff development for part-timers has been conceptualized in many different ways: as a curriculum development problem, as a matter of peer networking, as a personnel management issue, and as an adult education problem. At a minimum, each approach seeks to instruct part-timers in pedagogical techniques and thus improve instructional quality. Another important goal is the integration of part-timers into the college community. The actual effect of these programs on part-timers and on instructional quality itself, however, remains unknown. Further research on the efficacy of various staff development interventions will be especially important as community colleges continue to depend on large cohorts of part-time faculty.


Elioff, I. H. "The Challenge of Faculty Development for Part-Timers in Noncampus Community Colleges." Paper presented at the Conference on Quality in Off-Campus Credit Programs, Atlanta, Georgia, October 31-November 2, 1983. ED 243 502.

Heelan, C. M. A PROGRAM OF STAFF DEVELOPMENT (A PROPOSED MODEL) FOR CREDIT-FREE INSTRUCTORS. Minneapolis, MN: North Hennepin Community College, 1980. ED 211 133.

Parsons, M. H. "Realizing Part-Time Faculty Potential." In M.H. Parsons (Ed.), USING PART-TIME FACULTY EFFECTIVELY. New Directions for Community Colleges, no. 30. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1980.

Pedras, M. J. "A Model for the Staff Development of Community College Part-Time Faculty." Paper presented at the Fourth International Seminar on Staff, Program, and Organizational Development, July 3-8, 1985. ED 257 514.

Rabalais, M. J., and J. E. Perritt. "Instructional Development for Part-Time Faculty." COMMUNITY COLLEGE REVIEW 11 (2) (1983): 20-22.

Williams, J. M. A STUDY OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT PRACTICES FOR PART-TIME INSTRUCTORS AT SELECTED LEAGUE FOR INNOVATION COMMUNITY COLLEGES. Laguna Hills, CA: League for Innovation in the Community College, 1985. (ED number not yet assigned)


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