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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Part-time Instruction Short in Other Ways

Two new studies reinforce previous research showing college students are less likely to continue their education if the first courses they take are taught by adjuncts or part-timers, rather than tenure-track faculty.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported one study looked at community college students taking remedial and introductory courses and found that fewer students in adjunct-taught classes moved on to the next course in the sequence. The other study examined students enrolled in STEM courses at four-year schools. More STEM majors switched to other fields after experiencing intro courses led by adjuncts.

Both papers were presented at the American Educational Research Association’s annual conference.

The reason doesn’t appear to be that adjuncts are overall less capable at instruction than full-time faculty. Instead, the findings pointed to the lack of opportunities for adjuncts to assist students individually after class, often because they don’t have time due to a larger teaching load (sometimes at multiple campuses, requiring travel) and they may not have an office. Struggling students who can’t get help from their instructors tend to drop out or shift to an easier major.

“The new papers suggest that providing better support for nontraditional faculty members could make a difference for students,” noted the Chronicle article.

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