Desire for Professional Development among Adjunct Business Faculty

Article excerpt

This study provides a foundation for further work about motivation for training and the world of contingent employment in higher education and beyond for adjunct faculty. This sample of adjunct business faculty shows there is much to be learned about why adjunct faculty choose to work in higher education and how they view their own professional development.

Adjunct faculty have become a staple of higher education. There are myriad reasons for this increased reliance on adjunct faculty, including the cost of doctorally trained faculty and lack of availability of full-time faculty in certain disciplines. (Chambers, 2004). These factors challenge colleges to find flexible staffing options (Wallin, 2007). Adjuncts (here defined as part-time temporary teaching faculty) have been the answer to this need for flexibility (Rasell & Appelbaum, 1998) with colleges staffing as many as 46% of their courses with adjuncts (Umbach, 2007).

As use of adjuncts increases, so does pressure for higher education to demonstrate the quality and effectiveness of their institutions (Scherer, Javalgi, Bryant & Tukel, 2005). With a growing sense of urgency about continuous improvement and student learning outcomes, colleges and universities must rely on all faculty, both full-time and adjunct, to deliver quality instruction (Beno, 2004) . Brancato (2003) notes that faculty need a variety of opportunities to learn about students, curriculum and teaching strategies. Further, a study by Burton and colleagues (2005) suggests that faculty need opportunities to increase their teaching efficacy, and in turn, the quality of their teaching. Because many adjunct faculty members are hired on the basis of their professional experience and disciplinary knowledge, it is unlikely that they have received any training in pedagogical methods or curriculum development. Hence the need for faculty development becomes even more pressing for adjunct faculty.

Despite the apparent value of faculty development in meeting desired educational outcomes, adjunct faculty are rarely afforded the chance to participate in professional development or on-the-job training (Smallwood, 2002). Professional development has been identified as a vital ingrethent in the careers of professional employees (Bartlett, 2001). The opportunity to participate in professional development activities like conferences, seminars and workshops signals to individuals that they are valued by the organization, and that the organization is helping to prepare them for future growth and new roles in the organization (Goldstein & Ford, 2002). Waiters and Weeks (1999) found that adjunct faculty felt that they would not really be part of the faculty unless they could participate in skills training and course development activities. In today's "new" psychological contract, employees have come to expect professional development and training as part of their relationship with the organization.

With the exception of a few national surveys of adjunct faculty job satisfaction (cf. National Survey of Postsecondary Faculty), there is no good source of data upon which to judge the interests, needs or desires of adjunct faculty as related to support for professional development. A review of the academic literature in the areas of adjunct faculty, employee training and professional development yields virtually nothing on this topic. This study is aimed at expanding our knowledge about adjunct faculty and their perceived need for and interest in professional development. I examine the roles of expectancy, instrumentality, valence and organizational commitment in predicting interest in professional development.

Conceptual Framework

Professional Development

Professional development focuses on acquisition of skills for future job progression and growth (Werner «Sc DeSimone, 2006). In higher education, faculty development involves fostering skills both in teaching and in research, as well as preparing faculty to manage their careers over time (Mathis, 1982). …